Orenburg, St.-Petersbur, Kazan, and then everywhere and always... Let’s call a spade a spade

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19 March 2012

Open letter to Igor V. Tkachev, Orenburg Regional Prosecutor, from Vyacheslav A. Dyundin, head of the Orenburg office of INGO “Committee Against Torture”.

Dear Mr. Tkachev!

Law enforcers’ reaction towards another murder at a police station forces us to make this statement. Orenburg office of the Committee Against Torture has been operating for 9 years, however, our work resembles tilting at windmills. Following each crime committed by the police we insist not only on prosecution of perpetrators, but also demand elimination of factors facilitating the crime. However, time passes and crimes recur. The conclusion is that the reasons for offenses remain. Why?

We are perfectly aware why we get such response, and namely, why our calls for putting an end to tortures are ignored. The police are not capable of working differently and do not want to do so. The police claim that they agree with human rights defenders, but reject concrete proposals. The state sees this, but keeps silent. For instance, we ask them to develop a procedure of using video materials recorded by cameras in police departments.  The main criterion is that such records should not be erased arbitrarily and their unauthorized destruction should be severely punished. They say – no, not for all the world.  These are our records and it is up to us to decide how we are going to use them. Further attempts to persuade them are useless, as the position of police heads is clear – they do not want to change anything. Human lives do not count, and as for policemen, we will easily hire new people, taking into account the high level of unemployment and small salaries. Police officers themselves are sacrificed to this felonious system.  Once in the defendants’ dock, police officers accused of torture openly state that their superiors make them use ill-treatment. They call this “solving the crime irrespective of the suspect’s guilt”.

We state that this is a wrongful policy.  

Alexander Myasnikov, Sergey Litkevich, Andrey Shongin, Razhab Tagirov, Oleg Popov, Kanat Amirov, Vasily Lyamov, Valery Babenko, Armen Sargsyan  – these are victims of the Orenburg police, and these are just the ones we know of. By the way, none of them had convictions. I’m not going to name all victims – the Committee received more than 150 applications in the same period. According to official data, yearly Orenburg region residents lodge around 1200 crime reports alleging police abuse with the Prosecutor’s Office, only 8% of them are confirmed by the authorities. Already this final figure raises doubts about the objectiveness of those who check the allegations. It turns out that more than 1000 Orenburg residents are liars!? We believe that a different explanation is more plausible – liars are those who check.  

Double standards are a form of deceit. Each murder by the police, in case of failure to hush it up, leads to weeding out and prosecuting perpetrators.  Low rank officials are fired, higher-ranking ones are reduced to lower ranks to be promoted again in a year, when the row subsides. Tortures live on and people continue dying. Statements that traitors and “black sheep” (every family has a black sheep) infiltrate into the police are of evil. These are attempts to lead the public away from the real cause of the torture problem durability. Unfortunately, such attempts give fruit. For the time being the public is satisfied with decorative measures, but soon there appears a new reason for bewilderment  – how come? Another murder! It must be noted that after A.Sargsyan’s murder in Orenburg there was no official reaction either from the Orenburg regional prosecutor, the Orenburg Regional Ombudsman or the Public Council under the Orenburg Regional Interior Directorate. And this is just another element of the whole problem.

One more detail – Presidential Decree no.668 “On Public Councils under the Russian Ministry of the Interior and its regional bodies” gives regional police heads the right to eliminate committed human rights defenders when forming the Council.  The question is – why not give the right to select Council members to local deputies? But that’s not all, in addition to the given Decree, Interior Minister R. Nurgaliyev has also published the so-called Public Council Member Ethical Code which allows to eliminate conscientious citizens who have accidentally passed the selection process controlled by local police heads.

The Committee Against Torture possesses more than enough data to analyze all aspects of the problem and develop preventive measures against traitors and monsters in the police. We have always explicitly expressed our readiness to provide information to any state agency. We submit reports describing the current situation to prosecutorial and Investigative Committee heads on a regular basis, however the addressees do not provide any meaningful response to our criticism. Why has NOBODY paid interest to our cooperation suggestions? The answer is obvious. The authorities do not see an alternative to the torture method of crime solution. They will go on killing us, but for bigger salaries now – thanks to the president!  

The Russian Investigative Committee which has started an inspection in Kazan today also persistently maintains its position. Why wouldn’t inspectors arrive in Orenburg or Ufa? They will make an equal amount of discoveries there.

By sustaining our complaint about ineffective investigation under Orenburg resident Vladimir Prytkov’s torture application, the Promyshlenny district court of Orenburg has basically agreed that officials of the Investigative Administration of the Investigative Committee for Orenburg region have been stonewalling the investigation for 2 years.  The Oktyabrsky district court of Orsk, Orenburg region, has established the same in respect of investigation into Orsk resident Sergey Litkevich’s death, the only difference is in the period of delay – 5 years! There is a Procedural Control Department in the Orenburg Regional Investigative Administration.  What are its workers paid for? For not doing their job properly, like torturers in the police. Some people commit crimes, others cover up for them – this is already an organized crime group. Mind it, we will no longer disguise the real situation by vague descriptions. The current conditions make us call a spade a spade. 

The justice system currently expects tortures, forgery, falsification and perjury. The police is just the lowest step of this system. If the police loses an opportunity to abduct people, torture detainees, it will lose a chance to lie, which is now its main instrument. For the Russian Investigative Committee it will mean losing an instrument of crime solution they are now using.  The Prosecutor’s Office is obliged to destroy this criminal partnership.  

I can only repeat what we have many times said. To put an end to tortures one does not need budgetary expenses. Political will is required.

Therefore, I would like to express my conviction, not even an assumption – the innocent death of Sergey Nazarov and subsequent “measures” will change nothing. Just like Sargsyan’s murder in Orenburg was followed by teenager Nikita Leontyev’s murder in St-Petersburg, Nazarov’s murder in Kazan will be followed by another murder in a police department of any Russian region, not excluding Orenburg.

Our demands are the same – stop tortures by the police immediately!

Article 8 of the law “On Russian Prosecutor’s Office” vests you with powers to coordinate crime prevention. Article 9 of the same Law gives you the right to participate in legislative activities. In accordance with the given norms, we urge you:

– to bring in a bill establishing the procedure of forming the Public Council under the Orenburg Regional Directorate of the Interior and  Public Council under the Investigative Administration of the Investigative Committee for Orenburg region with a competent authority having the right of legislative  initiative  in order to involve members of human rights NGOs into the implementation of state policy in the sphere of public order maintenance, security and crime prevention;

– to bring in a bill establishing the procedure of using video records from departments subordinate to the Orenburg Regional Interior Ministry Directorate with the competent authority having the right of legislative  initiative;

– on a regular basis, at least once in 6 months, to analyze the reasons of violations committed by Interior Ministry Directorate staff on the basis of criminal proceedings which have resulted in verdicts of guilt, with the participation of NGOs, prosecutorial workers, Ombudsman for Orenburg region. The public must be notified about the findings of such analysis via mass media;

– to ensure that the head of the Investigative Administration of the Investigative Committee for Orenburg region personally supervises investigations into the allegations of police abuse;

– to oblige the head of the Investigative Administration of the Investigative Committee for Orenburg region to ensure notification of applicants alleging police abuse only by means of registered mail with a list of enclosures;

– to oblige the head of the Orenburg Regional Interior Directorate to implement an access control system in all Interior Directorate departments, which would eliminate the possibility of entering Interior Directorate departments without being registered by the duty officer;

– to oblige the head of the Orenburg Regional Interior Directorate to ensure that the duty officer registering visitors in a special log puts down the names of policemen taking individuals to police departments;

– to oblige the head of the Orenburg Regional Interior Directorate to ensure that in case actions (omissions) of Orenburg regional law enforcement staff (prosecutorial workers, investigators, policemen, judges) are found unlawful,  the public is notified about prosecution of those in charge of violations via mass media;

– to oblige the head of the Orenburg Regional Interior Directorate to ensure that contacts of an organization where individuals can apply in case they learnt about abuses committed by the police are available in a conspicuous place in every Interior Directorate department;

– to oblige the head of the Orenburg Regional Interior Directorate to ensure that every violation committed by the police and established in course of a service check by the Internal Security Department of the Interior Directorate  for Orenburg region is covered in mass media, on a monthly basis;

– to oblige the head of the Orenburg Regional Interior Directorate to ensure that in case a policeman is convicted for abuse of office, his functional head’s dismissal must be considered;

– to oblige the head of the Orenburg Regional Interior Directorate to ensure that detainees’ questioning is conducted only in special rooms of remand prisons;

– encourage the Public Council under the Orenburg Regional Interior Directorate to talk to law enforcement agents committed for abuse of office in order to establish factors facilitating crimes;

Your refusal to implement these recommendations or ignoring them will be interpreted as tolerance of police abuse.