Saturday, December 24, 2022

One Russian in Ten has had Experience with Torture by the Siloviki, New Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 23 – The Crew Against Torture and the Public Verdict Foundation, two Russian NGOs, are conducting research on how much torture there is in Russia and how Russians feel about it. Their findings are disturbing but not entirely unexpected  (

            First, their research has found that ten percent of Russians have had experience with or at least knowledge about acts of torture by the siloviki, a figure that if correct means that almost 15 million people in that country have come into contact with it, a figure that by itself damns a government that claims to be a law-based state.

            Second, they find that Russians are overwhelmingly opposed to torture in the abstract but prepared to tolerate it in particular cases as for example when a suspect knows where children who might suffer harm are located but won’t tell any other way and only a third are prepared to protest against torture, having concluded that protest won’t have any positive effect.

            And third, despite the near universal view of the population that torture is wrong, this unwillingness to protest means that those in the force structures who use torture believe they can continue to do so because there will not be any effective demand by the population that they change course and stop using such tactics.

            What is especially worrisome, analysts with the two NGOs say, is that most Russians who have not had any experience with torture assume that they never will because they are law-abiding, forgetting that almost anyone can become the victim of official violence if he or she takes part in any public activity the authorities don’t like.

            Until these attitudes change, the analysts say, torture is likely going to remain widely used in Russia. 

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