Starting from 24 June, members of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture are conducting different activities dedicated to the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Public events have already been held in Pyatigorsk, Nizhny Novgorod and Orenburg. The exhibition has opened in Moscow, and on 1 July charity rock festival Music Against Torture will take place in Nizhny Novgorod.
Participants of different events share their impressions.
Konstantin Gusev, Pyatigorsk:
“On 24 July, in the wake of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture the employees of the Northern Caucasus were increasing law knowledge of the honorable citizens of this beautiful region – distributed the Constitution of the RF. In the process of this beneficent event the following interesting things were revealed:
– two thirds of the respondents are not interested in the legislation by which they live,
– those who are interested have more respectable appearance,
– there happen to such statements as “and who does live by this Constitution?” or “are THEY living by this Constitution?”,
– the Northern Caucasus youth is far from lost,
– many respondents were taking copies of the Constitution of the RF for their kids or students (university professors),
– the RF Constitution is a convenient gadget for serving munchies for accompaniment to drinks,
– people with glad facial expression are willingly and gladly communicating with the wider public and are interesting conversation partners,
– “poker face” people have no skills of communicating with the wider public and keep mumbling about the bloody regime, machinations of the US State Department and siding panels prices increase.
Tmur Rakhmatilin, Orenburg:
“On 26 June in Orenburg in the Osipenko Public Gardens a picket took place, dedicated to the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. For two hours when the picket lasted, an unprecedented number of non-indifferent people approached to us, some of them expressed their words of support, others sincerely wondered that in our quite safe area there is such a phenomenon as tortures.
Two passers-by, by the way, expressed a wish to take part in the event, having explained that although they never encountered such a phenomenon as tortures themselves, but they had acquaintances who experienced helplessness regarding law-enforcement officers. We (me, Albina Mudarisova, Vyacheslav Dyundin, Мударисова, Vyacheslav Dyundin) presented people with copies of the RF Constitution, explained to those who were interested what amounts to torture from the point of view of international law, provided specific examples based on our work, for example, the case of Guberlinskaya penal colony and the case of Vladimir Tkachuk, got the citizens acquainted with the participants of the picket – the Sukhov family, whose son Aleksey was subjected to police torture and illegal criminal prosecution.
A popular question from the people was where torture occurs most often and whether there is any positive trend in our human rights activity. To that we answered that from year to year there are coming less and less complaints against police officers, in which we see both the result of our work and the efficiency of the acting supervisors of the Ministry of the Interior of Russia for the Orenburg region regarding to struggle with this phenomenon.
Unfortunately, we could not ignore the negative moments related to the Federal Penitentiary Service of our region, where the situation is exactly the opposite, and the complaints against the violence in the penal colonies not only fail to cease but increase in number each year. Surprisingly, the young people of Orenburg asked us if we were associated with Aleksey Navalny in any way. We answered that Navalny had nothing to do with our picket and we are not “in favor of him or against him”, but we rather are against torture and in favor of observing the Constitution of the Russian Federation!”
Sergey Babinets, Nizhny Novgorod:
“Each year on 26 June our Committee for the Prevention of Torture conducts a picket. Why? Because this day is the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The day of the year dedicated to our profession. On this day in the regions where we have territorial subdivisions, we are going out in the streets and communicate with passers-by and tell them about the existence of such a medieval phenomenon as torture in our life, share information about our work, distribute leaflets, put up banners and posters.
First pickets in the beginning of 2000s gradually have become annual events and turned into a good tradition.
This year we decided to conduct a picket and an exhibition. We chose forty cases for which the culprits are punished and the victims received compensations for moral damage. We printed info on these cases on tablets which we planned to put up in the street near the Nizhny Novgorod Drama Theater.
To avoid the problems with conducting the picket I applied the notification to the city administration beforehand. Even though for many years there had been no problems with conducting pickets in the main pedestrian street of the city, the administration decided to act up and refused to approve the picket, referring to the fact that Bolshaya Pokrovskaya street was not intended for such activities (which was a lie, since in June a Town Day was celebrated there, and in spring there was a meeting of hoodwinked investors – they had no problems with approval).
All the alternative places which were offered to us, were rejected as unfit for a picket.
It was decided to turn a group picket into one-person picket.
And so, on 26 June at about 1 p.m. a one-person picket with the use of twenty tablets began. At first the wind was a bit of an obstacle, but as soon as hammer and nails were brought, we managed to fasten the tablets securely and the exhibition went on as planned.
It seemed to me that the passers-by were yearning for such events: approached with interest, asked questions, read and discussed the info amongst themselves. The stories moved people a lot. In the entire time I have not heard any bad words addressed either to me or to the torture victims depicted on the tablets. People expressed words of gratitude, asked how they could help the victims. Several people wanted to help right at the picket and were interested if there was any gathering signatures supporting the torture victims. This time we did not arrange for gathering signatures, but for the next time we will think this over and maybe will arrange such a gathering.
Almost everyone who was passing by, knew that tortures existed, some even experienced them or knew about it from acquaintances.
In about half an hour after the beginning of the exhibition I noticed a family with kids.
The man, passing by one of the tablets, stopped as if riveted to the sport:
– Look, – he told his wife, – it’s Leshka, who used to live next door, do you remember?
The woman, looking at the photograph of Aleksey Mikheev (who became disabled as a result of torture), answered:
– No, I don’t remember him.
– Come on, we used to play the guitar in the evenings sitting on a bench near our house. Excellent fellow… Poor bloke suffered a lot.
As soon as the tablets were put up a police Sergeant came up to the exhibition. He introduced himself, asked how long the picket will last, asked for a mobile phone number and went aside to report to his superiors. In five minutes, he returned and having come close to me, he whispered that someone called and complained that a picket in support of Aleksey Navalny was going on here. I suggested that Sergeant and I go together along the exhibition and look for Aleksey on the tablets. The police officer waved aside, like he was realizing perfectly well that we were here on completely different agenda. Before leaving he shook hands with me and told me we were doing the right thing.
When the picket was coming to its end I received a phone call from an unknown number. The caller introduced himself as inspector for the maintenance of order of the Department of the Interior for the Nizhny Novgorod Mr Kouritsyn. He asked me how many posters I had, whether I continue to stand in the picket and whether I was going away soon. I replied that I was going away soon. To the question “what is written on your posters, after all”, I suggested that Mr Kouritsyn went to the office of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and we would gladly show all our tablets. The inspector politely declined the invitation.
The picket went quietly, there were no obstacles for its conducting, apart from completely ungrounded refusal of the city administration. We appealed against this refusal in court already. We will definitely inform you on the progress of the proceedings”.
As we have previously reported, yesterday at the Sakharov Center, the exhibition opened, which would be open till 30 June, and on 1 July in Nizhny Novgorod a charity festival in support of torture victims Music Against Torture will take place.