Saturday, November 16, 2013

Window on Eurasia: In Russia Today, Torture has Become ‘Routine,’ Rights Groups Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 16 -- Torture has become “a routine practice” in today’s Russia, according to a detailed 69-page report prepared jointly by the French Christian Association for the Abolition of Torture, the Russian Committee Against Torture, and the Russian Public Verdict Foundation.

            The report, the text of which is at, was described by in an article that has been reposted on several Russian human rights sites (  and

            According to the authors, torture and other forms of harsh treatment are now used by Russian police and security officer “at all stages of the criminal process, from the moment of detention or arrest until the end of someone’s sentence in a camp” or prison. And they thus now have a “systemic” character.

            Moreover, the report says, torture is applied regardless of what the individuals taken into the system are suspected of, a situation that puts anyone regardless of his or her behavior at risk.  Using torture thus helps the police boost their statistics on the solution of crimes, even if those solutions are based on false confessions, and helps the authorities keep the population in line.

            With regard to places of detention, the rights activists point to the “inhuman” conditions under which prisoners are kept: excessively full cells, lack of access to medical care, bad conditions of work and exercise, and in general the way in which the jailers treat their prisoners.

            In certain regions and institutions of Russia, the situation with regard to torture is especially bad. Chechens are especially ill-treated in this regard not only in their own republic but when they are arrested elsewhere.  Such treatment is typically justified by the authorities as a necessary part of the counter-terrorist struggle.

            The situation has become so bad in that North Caucasus republic, the report says, that its author have the impression that in that region, “the laws do not work in principle.”

            Those who have been tortured and seek redress often are tortured again or charged with additional crimes, especially if they are already serving time in prisons or camps, where they are cut off from “any means of legal defense.”  Outsiders who complain about this situation often encounter “threats” from the authorities.

            The report concludes that this situation reflections problems with the Russian legal code and with “the absolutely ineffective” application of legal norms to the police and penal systems.  The lack of a clear definition of torture is “an obstacle” to requiring officials not to do certain things and to bringing charges against them when they do.

            And the report concludes sadly that unfortunately, the number of people in the Russian Federation who are actively struggling against the use of torture there is small. There are a few human rights NGOs, but their activities have been further constrained by the adoption of the new Russian law on “foreign agents.”

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