Общественное расследование

"Russia’s torture lab" (HRHN, 2006 год)

-In Chechnya, Russian policemen get accustomed to doing anything they want to prisoners, says anti-torture-campaigner Igor Kalyapin, right. -These impulses they then bring back into the Russian police and court system where torture is already a well established method. (14-OCT-06)

This article, by Geir Ole Bjartvik, was first published in the Norwegian newspaper Vårt Land 4 October. It is republished here with the journalist’s and paper’s permission. The article has been translated and adjusted for republication here by HRH / Niels Jacob Harbitz.

Kalyapin, who normally works for the Committee Against Torture in the Russian province town Nizhny Novgorod, came to Norway recently on invitation from Amnesty International. His committee, which has specialized in uncovering particular cases of torture carried out by Russian prosecution authorities, has also in recent years expanded its activities and set up an office working solely to document torture in Chechnya.

A laboratory
The war ravaged republic in Caucasus has become “kind of a laboratory” for the Russian police, explains Kalyapin. With the help of a translator, he expresses his opinion that European countries to far too little extent hold Putin and Russia responsible for their abuse against the people. Kalyapin tells about a Chechen teacher who, during a 20 days’ detention, was held chained to a radiator, hit and pierced through his hands with red-hot glowing iron rods. The European Court of Justice has now agreed to investigate the case, in which one of the man’s ears was also clipped off.
-All parts of the Russian penal system are represented in Chechnya. Staff from Russia take turns working there. They are there for some time and get used to what is being practiced there, Kalyapin explains.

Kalyapin believes that policemen with experience from Chechnya “get used to doing whatever they want,” something that is extremely unfortunate, especially since torture is already a significant problem in the Russian police and prosecution authorities. He further describes how serious investigators struggle to keep apace when their colleagues, with the help of violence and torture, can extract confessions at will. After the political turmoil of the 90s, a particular shortage of serious investigators emerged, and bringing about change within the police forces has thus proven difficult.
-At the same time, Russian prosecution authorities have some kind of a monopoly to monitor what the police does. It accepts complaints, but the answer is usually that nothing wrong has been found, says Kalyapin.

Investigates himself
To bring about change, Kalyapin and his fellow lawyers in the turture committee has started carrying out their own investigations. -For example, we now have a case before the courts to do with a person who was strangled by the police five years ago. The police staged the strangling as suicide. However, we have investigated all the evidence the prosecution had, and found that it could not have happened that way.
-So where does the case stand?
-It is with the court after the prosecution has tried to close it eleven times. We have found that one of the four policemen involved strangled the man with the leg of a chair. This policeman is now charged with murder, and to have gone beyond his instructions as a state official. The three others are charged with giving false explanations.
The torture committee, however, is not yet satisfied.
-Our opinion is that not only the policemen should be punished, but also the prosecution authorities’ people, for not wanting to investigate and having allowed the case to drag on for five years.

After several years as independent investigators, Kalyapin and his colleagues are beginning to get a measure of attention in Russia. Victims of torture and friends and relatives come with cases. Journalists follow suit, and give their support through providing publicity.
-I have great hopes for this cooperation. It helps both us and the journalists, says the human rights activist.
-What does Putin say?
-The President has never said anything about our work, but I don’t think we can expect anything positive if he were to say anything. The only reaction we have had from the federal government is that our committee has been included on a list of spy organisations.
Kalyapin says that although Russia may qualify as a democracy, it is not a civilised state for as long as torture is part of its system. His experience, however, is that the efforts to investigate and focus ion individual cases bear fruit: Today, policemen are serving in prison for violations uncovered by Kalyapin and his colleagues.