The victims of police brutality are ordinary people who fell afoul of the law. Most of the victims are suspected or real petty or serious offenders. The victims may be charged with a whole spectrum of crimes and offenses ranging from petty theft to rape and child murder and torturers torture irrespective of the detainees race or background. Most victims Human Rights Watch spoke to were ethnic Russians; most were adult males, predominantly in their twenties and thirties, but we also found evidence, though albeit for a smaller sample of interviewees, that male minors were also subject to torture and ill-treatment with disturbing frequency. Few interviewees who alleged they were tortured were women.
Police violence against minors appears to be widespread, in particular against young men and boys accused of having committed small-scale theft or other petty crimes. According to the Committee for Civil Rights, which works with 300 minors in labor colonies, the frequency of police violence against minors increased significantly between 1994 and 1998. The group estimates that about one-third of all minors facing criminal proceedings are subjected to violence during the detention and investigation process, and that every fourth minor has been subjected to police violence on the street, unrelated to the criminal investigation process, before the age of fifteen.141
Russian criminal procedure grants some protection to minors who are criminal suspects, but it fails to obligate police to contact parents or a guardian before questioning them. Moreover, the protections guaranteed in law are routinely ignored. Article 49 of the criminal procedure code makes the participation of a lawyer obligatory in the inquiry and preliminary investigation phases of cases involving minors, from the moment the minor has been presented with the detention report.
This special obligation for lawyers to be present during interrogations of minors is routinely ignored. Minors in four cities in Russia told Human Rights Watch that police interrogated (and tortured) them in the absence of a lawyer.
Under article 397 of the criminal procedure code, police may, but are not obliged to, allow the parents or a teacher to be present when questioning minors,which appears to be a deviation from international standards on the protection of minors.142
Oleg Fetisov, Ekaterinburg
On November 21, 1996, police officers came to Fetisov's school during lunch break and told him to come to the police station. According to his account, the then fifteen-year-old Fetisov was taken to the Verkh Isetskii police station, where three police officers questioned him. When he refused to confess to stealing a jacket from another schoolboy, torture ensued. According to his account, police first beat him, kicked him, and dragged him around on the floor. Then they handcuffed him, tied him to a chair and put a gas mask over his head. They cut the oxygen supply several times for about a minute. Fetisov said he twice almost lost consciousness.
At approximately 3:00 p.m., three and a half hours after he arrived at the police station, Fetisov told his tormentors that he would write a confession. Police uncuffed his hands and gave him a pen and paper. When the officers' attention for Fetisov relented for a few moments, he got up and ran to the window. One of the police officers pulled his gun and threatened to shoot, but Fetisov jumped out.
Fetisov was taken to the hospital with a fractured skull, pelvic bone, and arm, a small cerebral hemorrhage, a damaged knee, and a concussion. Police failed to inform Fetisov's parents that they had detained the boy. In hospital Fetisov was in shock, but constantly repeated what had happened to him at the police station. Someone at the hospital obtained his parents' phone number and called them. Fetisov spent twenty-one days in the hospital and several more months at home recovering. He did not go back to jail.
Police continued to pursue the criminal case against Fetisov and his codefendants, who had both spent almost a year in detention (they were suspected of several more accounts of theft) by the time Human Rights Watch spoke toFetisov. Hearings began in March 1998 and Fetisov and his codefendants were found guilty of robbery. Fetisov received a two-year suspended sentence.
Following Fetisov's jump, the procuracy investigated the incident and instituted criminal proceedings against Fetisov's torturers. At one point, the investigator reportedly told Fetisov's mother that he considered the police officers to be guilty of torture but said that the criminal case was now in the hands of his supervisors.143 The case against the police officers was subsequently delayed several times and then handed over to the procuracy of the Chkalovsk district of Ekaterinburg, ostensibly to ensure greater objectivity. That procuracy closed the criminal investigation after Fetisov refused to undergo a psychiatric assessment as his lawyer considered such an assessment to be irrelevant to the investigation against the police officers.
Igor Afon'kin, Baikal'sk, Irkutsk province
Igor Afon'kin's first brush with police happened when he was thirteen years old, when he was detained for illegal entry. Since then, police have detained him on a regular basis, often beating him and forcing him to confess to a variety of crimes. In June 1997, when he was fourteen, Afon'kin was detained at a square during an outdoor dance on Youth Day:
We walked on the square, there was the discotheque, and they took us. Brought us to the police station in a police jeep. They took us out of the car there where they have a little concrete platform by the entrance into the station. They took us out and beat us up, first sprayed tear gas into out eyes, then took us inside.
Afon'kin said he could not remember why the police detained him that time. The police released him the following day. His mother told Human Rights Watch:
It was a nightmare when they took him out. First of all, he had a such a bruise on his head, they beat him on the head with something, a nightstick or something else.... Then I looked, he didn't tell me right away, and it turned out that they had worked on him with tear gas! Right in his eyes. Red eyes.... He was all hysterical! He had to throw up.
On his back, there were red spots, the next day bruises appeared and we photographed them on Polaroid.... There were also bruises on Igor's legs. Mostly on the hips, not round ones but stretched ones, as if they were beating with sticks.
On November 19, 1997, Afon'kin was detained again. He and some friends were standing by his house when police drove up: "They, the police came running up, beat us up, and then took us to the police jeep, threw us in and took us there [to the police station], there they beat us and beat us, they beat the codefendants as well, and then took us to the KPZ." Police did not advise Afon'kin's mother that they were taking him to the police station, although they visited her and confirmed she was unaware of the arrest:
They came by, asked where my son was and didn't tell me why [they were asking]. I asked them if anything had happened. They [told] me: "No, nothing happened. Where is your Igor?" I told him that he's outside. They left. And I had such an intuition, I immediately went outside and asked the boys: "Where's Igor?" They got scared, didn't say anything.... And then Andriushka came up, his friend: "Auntie Tania, they took Igor to the police station."
At the police station, Afon'kin said he was taken to an office and told to write "a confession": "He put a pen on the table and a piece of paper. And said: `Write!' Well, and if you don't know what to write, he took a nightstick, beat you up and said: `Write!.'... They beat, mostly, on the back. On the kidneys with their nightsticks."144 Afon'kin did not have access to a lawyer from the moment of his detention. He was kept in detention for four months and released on the personal guarantee of a local human rights organization. The case was sent back for further investigation at least twice and the trial had not started as of late March 1999.
Aleksei Alekseev, Ekaterinburg
In March 1997, fourteen-year old Aleksei Alekseev and a friend were throwing snowballs from the balcony of his parents' apartment in Ekaterinburg when they hit a car in the courtyard. The owner of the car, who had been in a shop, phoned the police claiming that the snowball had dented the car. Alekseev and his friend, who had apparently gone outside to take a look at the car, were taken to thelocal police station. Alekseev did not have access to a lawyer. Alekseev's mother told Human Rights Watch:
They were at the police station for four hours. I didn't know where they were, despite the fact that we have a phone at home and my son gave it [to the police] immediately. They [the police] didn't phone me until they had received a confession from him.
They got the confession [from him] by making him crazy, they asked the same questions over and over again, then they forced him to stand to attention so that he felt bad, then she [the female police officer] started to beat him over the head, pulled his hair so that he'd feel pain and confessed quickly. She promised to take him to the detective downstairs who would not be so nice to him. With intimidation she received a confession from him.... He just signed what she had written down for him.145
As a result of the beatings, Alekseev had sleeping problems and complained of a lack of energy. When his mother took him to the doctor, he was diagnosed with a possible concussion and bruises on his head. Police did not institute criminal proceedings against Alekseev because of his age.
Torture of women was not a primary focus of Human Rights Watch's investigations, and we received few allegations in this regard. Women constitute about 10 percent of the Russian prison population.146 The female victims of torture and ill-treatment Human Rights Watch interviewed were released fairly soon after their detention and, ultimately, were called as witnesses rather than suspects.
In April 1994, police in Usol'e-Sibirskoe, Irkutsk province, detained Igor Akhrimenko and Yury Morozov for their alleged participation in a murder. In the years after the detention, police allegedly tried to force the wives of both Akhrimenko and Morozov, as well as a former girlfriend of Akhrimenko, to signstatements against them. Zhanna Setchekiva, Akhrimenko's wife, told Human Rights Watch:
one fine day I went home from work, after a night shift, I went out to the bus stop and a police car drove up to me and they said: "We need to question you urgently." I sat down in the car and went, they took me to the police station. They didn't show any [ID], just said that they needed to question me because they knew I was Akhrimenko's wife.
We arrived at the police station and they said: "You must sign these papers." [I replied:] "Before signing, I must read them." [They said:] "No." A police officer, I don't know his name, slapped me in the face and said: "If you won't sign and won't tell us anything, we will simply `do you' beyond recognition." They poured me a full glass of vodka and he said: "Drink." "No, I won't." They started to scream at me, first one came close, then another and he threw me from the chair on the ground, I mean, a blow landed me on the floor...and they started to beat me, they beat me in the chest.
Setchikova said that when the police officers finally released her at 5:00 p.m., she was kicked in the back as she went out the door. She remembers being covered in blood and making her way to her mother-in-law's house, where she phoned an ambulance. Setchikova's chest, back, and legs were covered with bruises. These injuries were documented in writing at an emergency room.
Tatiana Popkova, Igor Akhrimenko's former girlfriend, also said she was forcibly taken to a police station in the fall of 1996 and also told to sign an interrogation report, which police refused to allow her to read.147 She told Human Rights Watch:
I asked her to [allow me to] read [it] but she categorically refused, covered the text with her hands and said: "Sign." "How can I sign, without reading? Maybe I'm signing someone's death sentence?"... A man came in...an elderly one. I understood that he had a fairly high position. He pulled my hat off me, took me by the hair and smashed my face into the wall. I got very scared, first of all, I didn't expect that that would happen because I had never come across such violence. Hesmashed me into the wall several times. I started feeling bad and started falling off the chair.
She said police officers also threatened to throw her into a "pressing room." Another police officer later intervened and released her.148141 Human Rights Watch interview with Andrei Babushkin, chair of the Committee for Civil Rights, Moscow, February 15, 1999. 142 Rule 7.1 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (hereinafter, the Beijing Rules) provides "Basic procedural safeguards such as...the right to the presence of a parent or guardian...shall be guaranteed at all stages of proceedings." Furthermore, as mentioned above, Russian law does not oblige police to immediately inform the parents or a legal guardian of the arrest of a minor. Article 40(2)(b)(ii) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child treats the child's right to be informed "promptly and directly" of charges "through his or her parents and legal guardians"; article 10.1 of the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice provides that "[u]pon the apprehension of a juvenile, his or her parents or guardian shall be immediately notified of such apprehension, and, where such immediate notification is not possible, the parents or guardian shall be notified within the shortest possible time thereafter." 143 Human Rights Watch interview with Oleg Fetisov and Nadezhda Fetisova, Ekaterinburg, August 11, 1997. 144 Human Rights Watch interview with Igor Afon'kin and his mother Tatiana Afon'kina, Baikal'sk, Irkutsk province, April 7, 1998. 145 Human Rights Watch interview with Aleksei Alekseev's mother, Ekaterinburg, August 8, 1997. "Aleksei Alekseev" is not the adolescent's real name. 146 According to statistics published by the Russian government in Prestupnost' i pravonarusheniia 1991-1995, the number of women in prison grew between 1991 and 1995 from 84,000 to 122,000, or from 9.1 percent to 11.7 percent of the prison population. 147 In 1994, police also tried to force Oksana Bykova to sign a statement without allowing her to read it. 148 Human Rights Watch interview with Tatyana Popkova, Usol'e-Sibirskoe, Irkutsk province, April 9, 1998.