Russians have mixed feelings about torture. They condemn it, but not ready to demand that law-enforcement officers completely abandon violence


26 June 2019

Every tenth respondent was subjected to torture by law-enforcement officers, “Levada” analytical center learned. The study, carried out at the request of human rights organization “The Committee Against Torture”, is timed with the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (26 June). Human rights defenders learned that the society is not ready to demand that power authorities abandon torture completely: the significant number of Russians are sure that the fight with violence will negatively impact the clear-up rate of crimes, and one-third permits its use.

26th of June is celebrated as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (established in 1997 by the United Nations General Assembly. — “Kommersant”). In Russia the problem of violence by law-enforcement authorities is very relevant, “Levada-Center” found, having questioned 3400 people from 53 regions at the request of human rights organization “The Committee Against Torture”. Violence starts from the conflict, and, according to the survey, a quarter of the Russians argued with law-enforcement officers. “The entry threshold” for the conflict is very low, and the threat of violence is building up in the very beginning of interaction with the police. The risk group involves men of age groups 25–39 and 40–55. Muscovites often mentioned clashes with the police: apparently, they know their rights better and are ready to stand up for them, the researches assume. But the highest chance of causing the police discontent belongs to the men with medium level of education and lower, dwelling in small towns.

Every third conflict with law-enforcement officers was followed with either violence of threats of violence. Most often the ones who are permanently in the police’s field of view, run into this.

At the same time, one third of those who only once came into conflict with law-enforcement officers, also report of violence. “These figures are the scaring confirmation of the fact that law-enforcement officers apply violence against the apprehended and they do it on a regular basis”, — “Levada-Center” emphasized. The majority of the respondents who mentioned violence, found themselves in the victim role during apprehension, personality identification and interrogation.
One tenth of the respondents claimed to have been tortured. 75% of those who reported torture explained that violence was used for humiliation and intimidation. In addition, in half of cases the law-enforcement officers tortured aiming at obtaining confession or other information from the apprehended. In one third of cases the apprehended think that they were subjected to torture for punishment. Some respondents pointed out that law-enforcement officers also affected their close people. In every fourth conflict with law-enforcement officers some influence was exerted upon the respondents’ relatives, and in almost half of the cases, when people were subjected to torture, the same violence was applied against their close people, too. “This widens the scope of persons who suffered from lawlessness”, — the researchers point out.

Lawyer with the Committee Against Toeture Dmitry Kazakov points out the responds showing the citizens’ attitude to torture. On the one hand, about 60% of the respondents consider torture to be unacceptable, but only one third is ready to stand up for their rights. On the other hand, quite a large percentage of the questioned (almost 30%) people accept applying torture in exceptional cases for the sake of saving other people’s lives and against the ones who committed a grave violent crime, and 39% think that fighting torture will negatively impact the clear-up rate of crimes. “These results is a wakener”,— Mr Kazakov comments. He points out that almost half of the questioned people consider torture to be exceptional phenomenon: “In reality it is more of a common practice than separate incidents”.

In 2007, the survey, conducted by the Institute of the Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, conducted jointly with the Committee Against Torture, demonstrated that every fifth Russian citizen faced torture by the representatives of law-enforcement authorities. In 2017, the Committee Against Torture received 153 applications, in 2018 — 147, but for the first six months of 2019 122 applications have been received already. In Mr Kazakov’s opinion, a complete eradication of violence is a utopia, but minimizing it is quite a realistic task. “In order to do this effective official investigation of all torture complaints is required, as well as inevitability of the punishment for the guilty party, resentment of tortures in the society, improvement of the level of the citizens’ legal consciousness, their active stance in standing up for their rights”, — the lawyer explains.

Russia regularly reports to the UN Committee Against Torture on what was done in the country in order to eradicate this practice. Last time the UN Committee Against Torture gave Russia a list of recommendations in July of last year (see “Kommersant” dated 27 July 2018). They involve the necessity to introduce in the Criminal Code a separate article on torture so that the Russian authorities are able to learn how widely the law-enforcement officers’ violence is spread. Now, in the Criminal Code of Russia there is a definition of torture (Art. 117 of the Criminal Code of Russia; torment), but the number of torture cases is impossible to single out from the total statistics. Russia’s human-rights ombudsman, Tatyana Moskalkova and head of the Human Rights Council under the President of Russia Mikhail Fedotov supported the idea of introducing a new article “Torture” in the Criminal Code of Russia. In her report to the President of Russia for 2018, Ms Moskalkova also suggested to allow civil servants and public assistants to attend penitentiary institutions and to check that the human rights are observed. Head of Chief Directorate for Supervision of Investigation, Inquest and Investigative Activity of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation Valery Maksimenko claimed that in Russia everything is performed within the limits of the law – he claimed this during the UN Committee Against Torture meeting in July 2018. In particular, according to him, the Prosecutor’s Office check of the death of Valery Pshenichny (died at the Pre-Trial Detention Center in 2018) did not confirm the theory about the preceding tortures and rape of the victim, although “there were some injuries on the body”.

Source: Kommersant

Anastasia Kurilova 

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