Monday, June 29, 2020

Pandemic has Reduced Reports of Torture in North Caucasus but Not Its Amount, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 27 – Many have been encouraged by the fact that there have been fewer reports about torture in the North Caucasus during the first half of this year; but experts say the number of cases is unlikely to have gone down. Instead, officials have exploited the closing off of institutions the coronavirus has forced to act at least as boldly as in the past.

            That is the conclusion offered by Natalya Taubina, the director of the Public Verdict human rights foundation; but she and other experts say conditions in the North Caucasus have kept victims of torture from reporting what has been done to them and allowed officials to claim things are not bad or improving (

            If victims of torture do not report them, she continues, “that usually indicates not the absence of tortures but the lack of knowledge among victims” as to where they should send reports and fears about what may happen to them if they try to complain. “This factor plays a bigger role in the Caucasus than in other Russian regions.”

            Despite official statements about a decline in the number of reports of torture in the North Caucasus, Dmitry Piskunov of the Committee Against Torture says that the number of reports his organization has received this year is up, to 19 compared to 12 in the first half of 2019. Nine of these are from residents of Chechnya.

            The Chechen government has not initiated a single case against siloviki for engaging in terrorism, he says. The only times when a Chechen official has been charged with this crime has been when it has occurred on the territory of another republic or involving the resident of another republic such as Daghestan.

            According to Sergey Romanov of the Committee, the biggest factor keeping reports of torture low in the North Caucasus is not so much the coronavirus but the fear victims have of what will happen to them if they make such a complaint, especially given that they are at risk throughout the entire time their case is being adjudicated. And that can take up to five years.

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