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Russian government agencies are generally willing to discuss torture but fail either to acknowledge the nature and extent of the problem or to support institutional reforms required to end it. In April 1998, the Presidential Human Rights Chamber initiated some important public discussions of torture in which both the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the procuracy admitted that torture was a problem. However, none of the government agencies were willing to go beyond these initial discussions of the problem, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the procuracy even dismissed torture as an issue in subsequent discussions.

President and Presidential Structures

At the level of Russia's presidential structures, there has been a certain degree of acknowledgment that torture is a problem in Russia. In his annual speech to parliament in April 1998, President Boris Yeltsin spoke of the need to use actively the potential of human rights organizations to protect the rights of citizens and specifically mentioned the possibility of establishing a system aimed at preventing degrading and cruel treatment of defendants.

The Permanent Chamber on Human Rights of the Political Consultative Council under the president (the Presidential Human Rights Chamber), headed by State Duma deputy Valerii Borshchev, organized a special session on the problem of torture on April 7, 1998. At the meeting, officials from the Moscow police, the Procuracy General, and the Moscow city procuracy, several deputies of the State Duma, and numerous human rights organizations discussed the reasons and solutions for the torture problem, and concluded that torture was systematic in Russia.72

The Presidential Human Rights Chamber took a series of decisions aimed at ending torture. It endorsed a draft law on public oversight over places of detention and asked the State Duma to consider the draft as a matter of priority. The Chamber requested the Russian president, government, and the State Duma committee on legislation to initiate proceedings to amend the criminal code and other laws to introduce torture and cruel and degrading treatment as a separate offense. It established a working group under the Presidential Human Rights Chamber charged with drafting an anti-torture program, and extended invitations to representatives of the Ministry of Interior and the Procuracy General to participate in it. It further suggested that the Ministry of Interior discuss forms of publiccontrol possible under current legislation. Finally, it requested the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Procuracy General to draft legislation on the work of duty lawyers at police stations and IVSs, and to make it mandatory to present all detainees with a printed card listing their rights. To date, these proposals have not been implemented.

Another human rights body under the Russian president, the Presidential Human Rights Commission led by Vladimir Kartashkin, did not mention the problem of torture in its report on 1996 and 1997, which was published in late 1998. In 1998, however, the presidential administration requested the Council of Europe to conduct an expert assessment on the conformity of the draft criminal procedure code with Council of Europe standards, which will of necessity address the issue of safeguards against torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The results of this assessment were presented to the presidential administration in September 1999, but remain confidential.

Ministry of Internal Affairs

The Ministry of Internal Affairs does not acknowledge the extent of torture in police custody in Russia. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Vladimir Vorozhtsov, an aid to then-Minister of Interior Sergei Stepashin, dismissed the notion that torture was a problem:

The method of referring to torture has these days been taken up as a weapon by most representatives of the criminal world, as a means of pressure to make cases collapse. Understanding that the problems of protection of human rights are fairly pressing, this has become one of the methods of countering justice. This is mostly groundless, often during the investigation and in court they start to withdraw their earlier testimony, claiming that they were subjected to torture.73

The Ministry of Interior officials argued that torture of detainees is practically impossible, because the procuracy and court system were expected to uncover any instance of torture and the police officers would be held criminally responsible. Vladimir Alferov, deputy head of the investigative committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, maintained this emphatically:

[U]nder our procedure, established today by law, there are no obstacles, absolutely no obstacles for achieving a full and official investigation of such facts in case unlawful methods were indeed applied.

In my opinion, the attempts by some policemen to beat, roughly speaking, confessions out [of suspects or defendants] do not produce the effect at which these unlawful actions are aimed because the process doesn't end with getting testimony. There, fortunately, are too many possibilities to, first of all, expose these people's unlawful methods of investigation, and secondly, to put everything right and not be convicted unlawfully....

I don't idealize the situation, there apparently are some facts, when a defendant may confess to the commission of a crime in the context of violence, such facts exist which go to court. But in court, in any case, during a public hearing, he can say that "yes, unlawful methods of investigation were used against me, and I confessed to [the crime] but I didn't commit the crime." The court immediately sends the case back for further investigation or acquits him.

If our crime-solving statistics were built only on confessions, as one must admit that courts are an absolutely independent system today, the third power, then the courts would issue acquittals much more often than they do now.... Today, the number of acquittals confirms that there is no massive coercion into confessions.74

According to Vorozhtsov, some 2,000 police officers per year face criminal prosecution, including for common criminal offenses. Vorozhtsov said he believes that only around twenty or thirty of these cases concern torture. Of a total of 900,000 criminal cases per year, this would mean that torture led to prosecutions in less than one hundredth of a percent of all criminal cases. When Human Rights Watch countered that its research had shown that the procuracy's inquiries are often no more than a formality, Vorozhtsov replied that even if that were the case the number of cases in which torture is used would still be insignificant.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs' representative, Vladimir Alferov, told Human Rights Watch that Russia's high crime solving rates are in fact realistic:

It can be explained by the fact that the overwhelming mass of crimes are committed by people who do not try to avoid responsibility.... If 30,000 premeditated murders are committed per year here, then 28,000 murders are domestic murders on grounds of drunkenness or family fights, when everything is obvious, when the murderer, all in blood, lies next to his victim, still drunk.... Secondly, it can explained by the fact that the people who work in our law-enforcement agencies, despite, as you say, the insufficient salary and technical equipment, have kept their commitment to the work, to selfless work, to fulfilling their task as honorably as possible. Also, our crime is structured totally differently.75

At the Presidential Human Rights Chamber's session on torture in April 1998, several representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs were present but did not speak. A Ministry of Internal Affairs representative who spoke at a seminar on torture organized by the Moscow Center for Prison Reform in February 1998, in turn, had said on the one hand that there was no torture problem in Russia, while on the other that torture is a new problem for the police. Officials from the ministry's legal department are participating in the working groups on torture that were established by decision of the Presidential Human Rights Chamber.

Regional police chiefs were generally willing to meet with Human Rights Watch researchers. Most downplayed or denied outright the existence of a problem with police torture while admitting that there were occasional excesses and that common criminal offences were committed by police officers. In a departure from this tendency to minimize the problem, at the Presidential Human Rights Chamber's session on torture, Vladimir Vershkov of the Moscow city police testified that in his opinion torture had become significantly more frequent than ten to fifteen years ago.

The ministry's dismissive attitude toward torture in Russia is one of the principle causes of the lack of accountability for torture. In various cases of credible police torture, the police authorities neither fire abusive officers nor put them on desk duty. For example, in its statement to the Ministry of Interior, Judge Vasilii Martyshkinth of the Supreme Court of Mordovia stated that the failure of Mordovian police authorities to take appropriate measures against police officer Daev and several others, who were under a criminal investigation for torture in 1995, allowed them to continue torturing detainees, one of whom eventually died as a result. The St. Petersburg Times reported in July 1998 that a police officer who had been sentenced to eight years' imprisonment in 1997 for sexual and otherabuses in office, but was released under a State Duma amnesty, was allowed to resume his work at the local police precinct No. 44 following his release. The police officer was fired only after this was denounced as a scandal in the press.76 Similarly, author Maksim Glikin reported that one of the police officers implicated in the torture of Alexander Volodko was promoted from senior lieutenant to captain.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs' dismissal of torture as a problem is made easier by the absence of express definitions of torture or ill-treatment in Russian criminal law. Acts that constitute torture are parsed out in a series of articles in the criminal code, including exceeding authority and infliction of mental or physical harm (with consequences of varying seriousness) and coercion to give testimony. As a result, it is very difficult to establish how many policemen were convicted or prosecuted for torture and ill-treatment of those in their custody, in contrast to these prosecuted for other abuses of office or crimes committed as a private person. Furthermore, as Russian legislation does not contain a definition of torture, police officers may claim that they do not know exactly what acts of violence against detainees constitute torture. For example, some police officers told Human Rights Watch that they do not consider beatings to be torture.

Procuracy General

The sometimes contradictory statements by procuracy officials suggest that the procuracy does not take police torture seriously and that no official policy to deal with the problem exists. To Human Rights Watch, officials of the Procuracy General flatly denied that torture or ill-treatment is a problem. The procuracy was said not to collect specified statistics on torture complaints or the number of police officers prosecuted for ill-treating detainees.

During a meeting with several officials from the Procuracy General in Moscow in February 1999, Anatolii Korotkov, first deputy head of the investigation department, told Human Rights Watch the following about the use of unlawful methods of investigation in Russia:

There are no particular problems with respect for rule of law in Russia.... I believe that such a phenomenon exists but we do not misuse [the law] more than American police officers. In fact, trips of ourdelegation to America showed that there is even more unjustified use of violent means toward citizens there than in our police. Here, if a police officer uses his nightstick, he will spend the next month or two writing explanations: how, where, why. He will deliberate: to hit or not. In America, you can very easily get [beaten] with a nightstick.77

At the Presidential Human Rights Chamber's session on torture, Korotkov's colleagues, Iakov Pister of the Procuracy General and Yuri Sinel'shikov of the Moscow City Procuracy, expressed very different opinions. Sinel'shikov said that according to his observations, torture has become much more widespread over the last few years:

I think that five to ten years ago, police officers beat citizens much less frequently. These tendencies have become especially frequent since the events of 1993 [Yeltsin's armed attack on parliament].... We receive fairly few, in my opinion, complaints; a thousand complaints per year of course does not reflect the number of such incidents.78

Iakov Pister said:

The Procuracy General has become especially worried about the situation of respect for the law in the organs of interior. Lately, we, the Procuracy General, devote the most intent and permanent attention to this direction.79

In the statistics it gathers, the procuracy does not have a special statistical category for complaints of torture or ill-treatment, which makes it impossible for the procuracy to provide an overview even of complaints. Despite assurances that complaints of torture and ill-treatment are taken seriously and considered objectively, our research indicates that the exact opposite is the case (see "Accountability"). Furthermore, during the Presidential Human Rights Chamber's session on torture, Yuri Sinel'shikov of the Moscow City Procuracy expressed support for the introduction of public control over places of detention. However,a letter from first deputy prime minister Yuri Masliukov regarding the draft law on public control states that the Procuracy General is against the idea of this form of oversight.

The Procuracy General's publicly dismissive attitude toward measures to check torture and its unwillingness to take complaints seriously has been reflected in the promotion of procuracy officials who failed to investigate torture complaints thoroughly and objectively. For example, Arkhangel'sk province procurator Alexander Opanasenko was promoted to his current position after supervising the criminal investigations against Mikhail Iurochko and his codefendants (see above, "A Persistent Pattern of Torture and Ill-Treatment"), and Sergei Mikhailov (see above, "Torture and Confession Evidence"). All defendants in these cases alleged they confessed under torture. Charges against Iurochko and his codefendants have since been dropped, while several independent procuracy investigators have concluded that Mikhailov is not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. In 1999, Opanasenko received the honorary title of Honored Jurist of Russia.

State Duma

Several members of the State Duma have been actively involved in attempts to address the problem of torture in Russia. The above-mentioned Presidential Human Rights Chamber's session on torture in April 1998 was co-chaired by deputies Valerii Borshchev and Galina Starovoitova, who was brutally murdered later that year. Valerii Borshchev was also the initiator of the draft law on public control.

However, as a whole the State Duma has done little to resolve the problem of torture. In June 1997, the State Duma adopted a draft criminal procedure code which perpetuates the current system of criminal justice, ignoring the CIS model criminal procedure code drafted primarily by Sergei Pashin, which would bring Russia's criminal justice system in line with international standards. Some 3,000 amendments have been proposed to this draft criminal procedure code. It is unclear when the second reading of the document will take place.

72 Decision of April 7, 1998 "On gross violations of human rights in the agencies of internal affairs." See Appendix E for the full text of the decision. 73 Human Rights Watch interview with Vladimir Alferov and Vladimir Vorozhtsov of the Ministry of Interior, Moscow, March 30, 1990. 74 Ibid. 75 The acquittal rate in Russia is .5 percent. See above, "Stalled Reform." 76 Evgeniia Borisova, "Police Reinstate Convicted Molester," St. Petersburg Times, July 17, 1998; Evgeniia Borisova, "Police Say Molester To Be Fired," St. Petersburg Times, July 24, 1998; Evgeniia Borisova, "Sex Crime Policeman Sacked," St. Petersburg Times, August 3, 1998. 77 Human Rights Watch interview with Anatolii Korotkov, Liudmila Kurovskaia, Viktor Kamyshanskii and Elena Duganova of the procurator general's office, Moscow, March 1, 1999. 78 Transcript of the Human Rights Chamber's session on torture, April 7, 1998 (Human Rights Watch's translation). 79 Ibid.

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