Yesterday, on 11 December 2018, a meeting of the Council under Russia’s President on Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights under the chairmanship of Vladimir Putin was held in the Kremlin. Head of the interregional non-governmental organization “The Committee Against Torture”, member of the Council under Russia’s President on Civil Society Institutions Igor Kalyapin made a speech:
“The subject of my report is the problem of torture, to be more exact, the problem of impunity of tortures. In his introductory word Mikhail Aleksandrovich announced my report a little bit, so I’ll try not to repeat.
I’m managing a small group of lawyers, which in the past eighteen years has been representing the interests of victims during criminal proceedings related to abuse of office. That’s how this crime is called in our Criminal Code.
Firstly, almost all of these criminal cases started from refusals of the Investigative Committee to open a criminal case. But even this is not the saddest part. The saddest thing is that these refusals were issued repeatedly: five, ten, twenty times. In my native city of Nizhny Novgorod, recently the court dismissed a criminal case which reached the court and charges were brought and two police officers were brought to the defendants’ bench but the court dismissed the case due to expiry of the period of limitations. Ten years passed. For ten years our law-enforcement system (the Investigative Committee) failed to administer justice.
And this, unfortunately, is not an isolated case; we have lots of such examples. Although, certainly, most commonly the victims’ patience wears thin and they just come to us after the fifth or tenth refusal and say: “You know what, guys? We just don’t want to do it anymore – we want to forget all about it, we don’t believe in justice anymore, we don’t believe that the state really is willing to and is able to protect us, what we see is the opposite”.
With regard to this I want to point out a very high-profile case which happened in 2012, when in Kazan, in Dalniy police department citizen Nazarov was killed, tortured to death during interrogation; he was apprehended for some small theft in a shop. At that time it created a huge stir among the public, and, Aleksandr Ivanonich Bastrykin with a full commission came to Kazan, in order to, among other things, perform the check of the Investigative Committee worked. And numerous facts of concealing the crimes that police officers committed in this specific Dalniy police department were revealed. These concealments were done by the Investigative Committee officers.
At that time, Aleksandr Ivanonich Bastrykin made a very appropriate, wise and weighted decision – at that time Order No.20 was signed on creation a special unit in the structure of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, which would specialize on solving these specific crimes – the crimes, committed by law-enforcement officials.
Creation of such special unit removed the conflict of interests which lower rank investigators of the Investigative Committee usually face during checking and investigating the reports on crimes related to police torture and tortures at detention facilities.
Unfortunately, at the present time there are only thirty-six investigators for the whole country, for the whole Russian Federation: eight investigators work in Moscow, eight –in St. Petersburg, and two investigators in each federal district. Which means that in my native Volga Federal District there are two investigators for the whole territory on which fourteen million people live.
Less than one percent of the total number of criminal cases of this category is taken by these special units. All of the rest is investigated by common investigative departments locally, “on site”. And I already reported on how it is investigated there…
I don’t think that in any other profession things that happen in our Investigative Committee are possible. A doctor, a baker, a fitter… Probably, none of us would be given an opportunity to pass illegal procedural rulings year after year. In a row. If a fitter in a plant spoils his work piece six, eight, ten times, it will never happen – he would not be granted an opportunity to do so. For some reason it is possible only in our Investigative Committee. This can be done by people wearing uniform.
It’s not human rights organizations, it’s the Prosecutor’s Office, the court, which declare their procedural rulings to be illegal. And they pass similar ones time after time.
Vladimir Vladimirovich. I think that in order to improve this situation it is necessary to implement this idea by Aleksandr Ivanovich Bastrykin; I think that this special unit can indeed significantly improve the situation, I think that if the law-enforcement officers understand that tortures are punished, they will also understand that they cannot torture. They will find ways to work legally. They know how to get things done, and those who can’t – they, probably, will simply have to quit.
At the moment, in fact, the torture prohibition is absolutely declarative, as a rule, no punishment follows after this prohibition is violated. In the majority of the cases it is so. And the same is happening in the Federal Penitentiary Service, and in the police, and, unfortunately, now the reports appear that torture is now applied by the Federal Security Service (FSB) officers, too.
It should be checked. Of course. Of course, it should be checked. The only problem is that the quality of such checks not only leaves room for improvement, but rather, does not stand up to any criticism, at all.
Secondly. I think that we, at last, should criminalize torture, we need to introduce it to our Criminal Code, as a separate element of crime called “Torture”. Now there is responsibility for this crime, but this responsibility is distributed, spread for three articles of the Criminal Code, and in different sections of this Criminal Code.
As a result, we don’t have either credible statistics (“we” – society, including the Prosecutor’s Office), this year Russia reported in the UN, and our official delegation failed to provide the official statistics to the UN Committee Against Torture. When we are asked, “how many criminal cases are initiated in the Russian Federation for tortures?”, normally the answer is “well, for Article 302 we have about a couple of criminal cases opened per year”. “Why so few?” the question is. – “Because, as a rule, the responsibility is taken under 286 Article – “abuse of office”.
But this article provides responsibility for a lot of other things, not only torture. And, as a result, we don’t understand ourselves what is going on with this phenomenon: how many reports are received, how many cases are opened, how many officers are hold liable… It has been about twenty years that we keep getting criticism from the UN Committee Against Torture, which reminds us that we once ratified the Convention that provides for criminalization of torture as an independent element of crime.
In my view, in this case this is a reasonable criticism, and I don’t understand why we are not doing it. We have enough of essential antagonisms with international organizations as it is, and here, in my opinion, it is absolutely artificially created problem, concocted out of thin air.
And nevermind the UN Committee – it’s us, our law enforcers who need this article and this criminalization.
In the explanatory note there are some specific proposals from me and my colleagues on how we see this element of crime in our Criminal Code.
And the third thing. Most often tortures are applied in so called “closed institutions”, as the saying goes: far from the Prosecutor’s Office supervision, in detention facilities, in penal colonies. And, as practice shows, neither departmental control by the Federal Penitentiary Service, nor the Prosecutor’s Office supervision manages to cope with this problem.
The proposals which were put forward by the superiors of the Federal Penitentiary Service, involve, among other things, the buildup of the means of objective control, increasing the number of video surveillance cameras and etc., which are, of course, good steps. And I don’t know whether sixteen bullion is a lot or not, whether this sum is available or not – but if it is, then, for sure, the funds should be assigned for this purpose, but, in my view, these measures are not sufficient. Because what matters is not only the quantity of the cameras but also who is watching these video records, who is using these video cameras.
You see, this “Yaroslavl story”– it is very indicative in this sense. Because there was a video record. These video recorders worked. The other thing is that neither the supervising prosecutor, nor the head of the institution, nor the investigator who checked the record made the lawful ruling and initiated the criminal proceedings timely… Can it be considered a normal response when we learn about it from “Novaya Gazeta”?
Vladimir Vladimirovich, with regard to this, I just would like to say that probably we need to revisit the issue of restoring the human rights functions of public monitoring committees – right now there are almost no human rights defenders.
The Public Chamber, The Public Chamber Council, which forms the monitoring committees, unfortunately, in my opinion, is out of the subject, so to say: its members don’t take interest in the problem of human rights observance at the detention facilities, they don’t know the situation there, they don’t know human rights community, they don’t understand who is working there and how, they are not interested.
With regard to this I have a proposal to introduce changes in Federal law 76 in the part of the forming of the Public Monitoring Committees and provide for their forming jointly, for example, with the ombudsman. Tatyana Nikolayevna Moskalkova, she’s dealing with this problem, she receives these complaints from various detention facilities. Let the Public Chamber does it together with her.
Besides, I think that the preventive mechanism should be created at the national level in Russia, headed by the ombudsman, at the same time, I don’t think we have to blindly copy the Western experience: our country is big, we have lots of regions, a lot of closed institutions, which are scattered in the woods, in hard-to-reach places, and I think that our preventive mechanism should not only involve the ombudsman, but the ombudsman should be there in the first place, and maybe, together with these public monitoring committees which the ombudsman would be able to coordinate and which would provide him with independent information. This is, probably, would be really optimal and very effective means of control.
Thank you. That’s all from me”.