Tuesday, October 9, 2018

In Russia, Torturers Seldom Punished Severely or Their Victims Compensated Adequately, ‘Novaya Gazeta’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 8 – On the basis of 4500 Internet reports about cases of torture in Russia between 2011 and 2017, Alesya Morokhovskaya and Irina Dolinina of Novaya gazeta conclude that Russians are being tortured “not only in the army, in prisons and in police facilities but also in educational institutions.”

            In addition, the investigative journalists found that many torturers were not punished severely and were able to return to their positions after a year or two; but their victims if they sought “compensation for moral harm” received “dozens of times less than they demanded” (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/10/08/78095-kto-podnimaet-rossiyu-na-dybu).

                Russia lacks a specific law banning torture by officials, Morokhovskaya and Dolina point out; and complicating their investigation was the fact that in most cases brought under other provisions of the law, more than one person was charged. As a result, in the 4500 cases they examined, there were a total of 7116 officials charged.

                Moreover, experts with whom they spoke suggested that prosecutors were less willing to bring charges of this kind against jailors than against other categories of officials, leading to the somewhat implausible situation that employees of the Russian penal system were charged with and found guilty of such crimes less often than others, other evidence to the contrary. 

            Significantly, the investigators found not cases of crimes brought against FSB officers, possibly for the same reason. But almost half of those sentenced – 3300 – were military officers or ordinary soldiers who mistreated or beat their subordinates, a crime that the authorities do try to punish lest more Russians seek to avoid military service.

            Employees of educational institutions, hospitals, and city and rural administrations were charged with exceeding their authority and mistreating those in their charge, the journalists found. 

            Especially horrific were the cases when mistreatment in various institutions lead to deaths, suicides, or attempted suicides.  Novaya gazeta found 111 of these, 44 in interior ministry places of confinement, 17 in the military, and eight in the penal system. 

            Victims of torture, Morokhovskaya and Dolina say, “have the right to sue for compensation of the moral harm inflicted on them.” But they seldom receive anything like what they seek, given that “there are no official standards” and how much such people get depends on “the will of the individual judge.”

            According to their calculations, the journalists say, “in 82 percent of the cases,” the amount plaintiffs received was reduced “by a factor of two to a factor of 200” of the amount they sought. The judges seldom explain their reasoning beyond saying that those who had brought suit were seeking too much. Reductions are especially large when those suing are survivors of those who have been tortured.

            In 22 percent of the cases, Novaya gazeta reports, those charged voluntarily paid their victims compensation either immediately after the crime was committed or before the court case was held.  Most of these compensatory payments were small: half of those reported involved 5,000 rubles (70 US dollars) or less.

            In many cases, however, judges viewed such payments as mitigating circumstances and reduced the punishments of those who were by making them acknowledging their crimes.

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