Speech of Ms. Olga Sadovskaya, vice-chairman of the Interregional Committee against Torture, at the OSCE Conference in Warsaw


02 October 2009

Human Dimension Implementation Meeting,
Warsaw, 28 September 2009 – 9 October 2009

Side-event on Torture

Olga Sadovskaya

Vice-chairman of NGO “Committee Against Torture” (Russia)

Education in the sphere of human rights

At present it is common to think that numerous human rights violations in Russia are caused by the lack of human rights knowledge among state agents – especially this concerns police officers, prosecutorial staff, officials of the Investigation Committee, court workers. Indeed, this is one of the reasons for human rights violations – not knowing international human rights standards state agents cannot implement them. Therefore, the following idea is promoted – once we teach police officers and others human rights standards and non-violent investigation techniques, human rights observance in Russia is going to improve. 

But I can definitely say that this is not true. Yes, in our country human rights education is not good enough both in higher educational institutions and in specialized schools, in Russia human rights standards are not included in the curriculum of further training for law enforcement agents, but multiple human rights violations are not caused by the low level of education of those in charge of such violations. Even if, for example, a police investigator knows human rights standards very well and is perfectly aware of investigation methods that help to solve the case without beating the suspects or witnesses up, he is not motivated to use them. To be more exact, he is even motivated to forget what he knows and thus develop a lower level mentality. Why? Just because his mate who is not that intelligent or knowledgeable can solve a similar case much faster by plainly beating a confession out of the detainee. And after doing so he will be praised, promoted and will get other bonuses available in state bodies.

It turns out that state representatives do not have an impetus either to study the issue of human rights protection, or to implement such knowledge in practice. Moreover, it is even disadvantageous and may entail disapproval of the superiors. It is much more beneficial not to spoil the statistics of disclosed crimes and quickly force a confession of the suspect without collecting and analyzing other evidence.  

The Committee against Torture, besides working with torture cases, implements educational projects for law students, police officers, prosecutorial workers. And although we have a lot of information to impart, we always face difficulties sharing this knowledge with state agents. We still manage to teach human rights to students and policemen, but when it comes to officials from the Prosecutor’s Office and Investigation Committee, we face vehement reluctance. At the beginning of this year we conducted a training for the Department of State Prosecutors in one of Russian regions, after that the Department’s head got serious problems at work. Now he is simply scared of cooperating with us in any sphere.   

I have given you just a couple of examples when, having access to all the information, state representatives either cannot or do not want to learn about human rights standards or use them because this is manifestedly criticized by higher-standing officials. Thus, until there is strong political will in favour of applying human rights guarantees, educational programmes and trainings will be of no avail. And this is basically the only recommendation of the Committee against Torture: to call upon the Russian Federation to proclaim the necessity of increasing human rights awareness and to adhere to human rights standards in practice, to encourage usage of human rights knowledge to protect human rights by state agents.

At present Russian NGOs are capable of implementing large-scale educational projects for state representatives. We would like to urge Russia to use the NGO potential for developing and organizing trainings, to support their initiatives in the sphere of education instead of opposing them.

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