Answers of the Head of the Committee for Prevention of Torture Igor Kalyapin to your questions:
Elena, a teacher, Saint Petersburg:
Igor Alexandrovich, in your statement dated 15.01.2016 you highlighted that “at that point our experiment of cooperation with the government based on openness and transparency principles can be considered as finished”. Please, could you clarify your vision of the organization’s operation (principles, directions) in the view of your statement? Are you planning to expand (change the direction), including, for example, the cases associated with medical malpractices (Dzerzhinsky Maternity Clinic case)?
We are not going to change the direction.
Investigations in medical institutions, homes for elderly people and schools that we conducted several times cannot be considered the change of direction. This is classical practice counteracting torture. Torture and inhuman treatment can be applied not only in the police or places of detention, but in any other place where a person is in the power of state officials.
Speaking about “finishing the experiment” I meant termination of work in the format of “a non-profit organization”.
I guess this is an absurd situation when we scrupulously inform numerous regulatory bodies on our each and every step, prepare heaps of reports and at the same time we are quite openly pressed and defamed. Our “cooperation” with the state looks more and more like a never-ending cartoon «Nu Pogodi!» (“Well, Just You Wait!”).
We will find the way to avoid the discrimination of the Law on Non-Profit Organizations.
Perhaps, we will be working as a commercial law agency. But this formally commercial agency will have no goal of gaining profit. We will keep on providing free legal services. There will be no changes for citizens, and we will save a lot of energy and time getting rid of obtrusive supervision of the Department of Justice.
Igor, you know the situation in Chechnya from the inside. What should we be preparing for? What will be the outcomes, in your opinion? The human rights will be long forgotten, won’t they?
Between you and me, the situation in Chechnya differs little from the situation in the central Russia.
It changes in some aspects taking some features of the central parts of Russia and at the same time the situation in the central Russia starts to remind the life in Chechnya in some other aspects. I can reveal an astonishing fact – the judicial system in Chechnya is healthier than in Moscow. The courts are more independent despite great pressure from the regional executive branch of the government. Judges in the Chechen Republic still can demonstrate independence and disobedience which is a long forgotten thing in Moscow courts. Unfortunately, the tendency is so that it is slowly starting to remind the Moscow scenario. And the situation with freedom of speech and peaceful assemblies in Moscow and other cities of the central Russia changes, obviously following the Chechnya tendencies, where each public event can only be pro-government and arranged at the initiative of officials and with their participation.
Igor, shouldn’t you stop all your work with exposing this outrageous situation particularly in Chechnya? Don’t you see that the Chechen people don’t want to know the truth about what is happening in Chechnya, they like obeying Kadyrov and follow him as rats from Andersen’s tale when he blows his pipe and leads him right into the abyss, the bosom of the sea, exactly as it happens in the fairytale?
The thing is that while working inside the Chechen Republic I know the truth about people’s attitude to Kadyrov and his followers.
Judging Chechen people by Kadyrov and howling of the media which he controls is the same as judging Russians by a person like Kiselev. Let alone the fact that Kadyrov is President Putin’s protégé. Therefore it is our (Russian people’s) responsibility to Chechen people for this General and Academician. Besides there are people in Chechnya who came to us and still ask for our help and who trust us. While such people exist we will keep on working there.
As for the pipe from the Andersen’s tale, this image is more about us, the residents of the central Russia.
For the most part Chechen people are forced to behave that way and demonstrate their loyalty to Kadyrov’s power. People in the central Russia choose to follow the pipe and fall into the abyss absolutely voluntarily.
I wonder how you control and check secret services where they most likely to use torture? Thank you.
There is quite a thick book where the methods of our work are described. I cannot give you a brief summary of it. Besides, we do not control secret services, unfortunately. We can only make the investigation, based on the claims about tortures that have already taken place, more effective. By the way, it does not mean that our work always grants positive results. 84 claims sent to the European Human Rights Court are the evidence of the fact that we could not help these people within Russian jurisdiction. The European Court will not be able to help them either. Almost certainly they will be just granted a fair pecuniary compensation. The European Court will not be able to punish the guilty party as it does not have the power to do so.
Igor Aleksandrovich, what encouraged you to become the Head of the Committee Against Torture? Was it the participation in the war? Thank you.
I have never been in the war.
Except only the war with the criminal world in the 1990s. At that time I was in charge of security affairs in one small commercial firm. And I happened to see some hot situations. At a certain period of time I even used to go to sleep with pump-action gun and a grenade under my pillow. My active participation in human rights issues at the end of the 1990s was driven by the understanding that the country is heading back to the situation with no freedom, back to the cow stall. It turned out that the absence of freedom, abuse of power from by the law enforcement bodies is quite possible without any Communist ideology. And no one felt better because of this. At that time I made up my mind that fighting for the human dignity, human rights and justice is the most important and necessary thing that a citizen can do for his country. At least it is certainly true for the present-day Russia.
Each day your work is getting more and more dangerous for you and people close to you. How do you justify the risk of being killed and mutilated, having no hope for justice or public disapproval of the crime? What is your source of moral strength that prevents you from giving up and calling it a day once and for all?
I don’t know, I love my work.
I like when scoundrels who were empowered by people and used this power against them are punished. And when some dishonest traitor is at last on the dock, I get my moral compensation for all the problems that I have to solve.
Igor, do you cooperate with other human right activists, for example, Human Rights Watch? Do you have any joint actions, appeals, claims? Have our human rights defenders got any prospects for development of their activity taking into account the increasing government pressure? Thank you!
Yes, certainly, we cooperate with all international human right organizations that work in Russia, as well as with supernational bodies – the European Human Rights Court, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, European and U.N. committees against torture, U.N. and PACE special reporters and etc.
As for the prospects, I think, there are some. On the whole, I believe that all this anti-Western Bacchanalia that is taking place currently here is sure to come to an end. It just cannot be any other way. This is the matter of surviving both for the country and for the government.
Igor, what are reasons for violating “Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” in Russia? Could you comment on the Ministry of Justice declaring the Committee Against Torture to be “a foreign agent”? What is the situation around the Committee for Prevention of Torture? Are you going to fight against the solution of the Ministry of Justice that declared CPT “a foreign agent” as well?
It is not only U.N. “Convention against Torture” that is not observed here but also our own 21-st Article of Russian Constitution.
Nor is 52-nd Article of Russian Constitution, granting protection against arbitrary rule for each human. There are plenty of reasons. One of them is the inadequate system of assessing law enforcement bodies operation — the notorious index system, the other is the sabotage by the Investigation Committee investigating authorities, they are just not interested in investigating crimes committed by policemen. Another reason is in a certain “political culture” we are living in, and traditions. Here the human serves the government, but not the government works for the human. It used to be like that in times of Tsars, then in the USSR, and we have the same situation at the present time, although, according to the Constitution, it is the human, his rights and freedoms which are the basic values.
Of course, we are going to appeal against declaring our Committee “a foreign agent”.
It is against the law. Political activity is defined in the legislation as “activity aimed at changing the national policy”. If fighting against torture is changing the national policy it means that the national policy supports torture and provides protection against its punishment. I believe this is too much. So, declaring us as agents, the Ministry of Justice and the Prosecutor’s Office cast aspersions on our government. But this is the theory. In fact, “The Law on the Agents” is used blindly to defame independent public organizations criticizing the government. I do not have much hope for the victory in court. Courts are quite “disciplined” if the case has a political overtone. And it is most likely that we will have to close the Committee for Prevention of Torture just like we already closed «The Committee Against Torture». But we are not scared of this at all. We will definitely continue our work in some other organizational-legal form.
How can an ordinary man help the Committee for Prevention of Torture in its work? Irina.
We are extremely in need of medical men, physiologists, experts, criminalists, we need accommodation areas, where we can accommodate the victims that need protection and security for 2-3 months.
We will find work for electronics and IT specialists, people who can write interesting texts discussing judicial and criminal problems. Surely, we need lawyers who are ready to work using our methods. But I have to say straightaway that you shouldn’t consider my words as an offer. We have contracts with specialists and organizations that provide paid services in all possible areas. The question is it is quite expensive and the funds are scarce. If someone is ready to provide such professional services from time to time for free or at the prices lower than market prices, we will appreciate that a lot. And, at last, we just need donations. But it is no good to do this right now. Once again «The Committee for Prevention of Torture» has just been declared “a foreign agent” and we will certainly have to pay huge fines. I don’t want the donated money transferred to us for fighting against torture be seized by the government as a fine. I think, within a month, at most, we will announce the establishing a new organization and our press secretary will inform you on our web site where the donations should be transferred.
Don’t you feel hopeless about your mission? As all undesirable non-profit organizations in Russia are haunted fiercely… just like “Red Orchestra”.
In this respect the fight against torture is no different from the fight against any other criminality.
It is not possible to stop the crime once and for all, but we have to strive to this. If the crime is not punished it encourages criminals and the criminal world. As for being haunted by the government, this is a temporary problem, I assure you. The state is sick, it has gone mad… We will help to recover and fix it.
Source: Echo of Moscow
The answers to the rest of the questions were not published on the web site of Echo of Moscow:
Question 1, Aleksey, locksmith, Krasnotouryinsk
Dear Igor! While we have such people like you in our country, we are not hopeless. But, please, tell me if there is a critical point for you after which you would say: this is enough for me, no more of that?
If people stop trusting and asking for help, I’ll turn to business again. And, well, as any person, finally I will fall ill and die.
Torture is, certainly, an atrocity, but how should we treat terrorists that committed mass murders and obtain information which is valuable for the special services? Since information is a possibility to prevent terrorist acts. What I mean to say, whether you think that torture is taboo in principle or sometimes it is justified and, probably, necessary? Thank you.
Torture is unconditionally is prohibited. It cannot be used for whatever reasons. And it is not only my opinion; this is the opinion that is shared by Russian legislation, the Russian Constitution and the international treaties of our state.
Igor Aleksandrovich, have you taken part in the second war in Chechnya? What is the attitude of the Chechens themselves to this war? Which side you were fighting for: did you support the separatists or you wanted to stay as a part of Russia? Thank you. Ilya.
As I said before, I did not take part in a war. I went to Chechnya during the first and the second war as a human rights defender. According to my observations, in 1995 the mood of the majority of Chechen population was to strive for independence from Russia. In 2000 there appeared a lot of skepticism about the idea of independence related to the fact that the Chechen authorities made a lot of managerial mistakes in the period of independence, but the majority still thought that Chechnya and Russia should be good neighbors, but not one state.
Good day to you, Igor Aleksandrovich. You are heading the Committee for Prevention of Torture. According to the data of your Committee, whether the most amount torture is performed by the law-enforcement officers or the criminal organizations? Thank you. Ilya, Yaroslavl.
Torture in legal sense can only be performed by the state authorities. The same actions but performed by criminal organizations or individual criminals, are defined differently.
Vladimir, auditor, Saint-Petersburg
Tell me, Igor! Are there any precedents of applying torture during the investigation of circumstances of applying torture? Is the system working as harshly with the representatives of the authorities who clearly abused their power in the way it routinely does to common citizens?
Yes, it happens, though very rarely.