In the past four years, Russian human rights defenders and the media-for the first time since the end of the Soviet era-brought to the fore the issue of police torture and ill-treatment.1 Throughout the vast expanses of the Russian Federation police torture criminal suspects, routinely and deliberately inflicting severe pain and suffering with the aim of extracting confessions to criminal offenses or other information. Indeed, the practice now appears endemic to Russia's criminal justice system. These abuses range from ill-treatment to unmistakable torture. The victims of this type of police brutality have been ordinary people who are somehow caught up in the criminal justice system as petty offenders, criminal suspects, and even as witnesses who might incriminate others. There is no clear ethnic dimension as to who is subjected to torture-nor are victims likely to be political.2 Torture and ill-treatment aimed at receiving confessions or other information occur both at the time and place of detention and in the course of the three days police may keep detainees in police custody. The abuse generally stops after transfer to a pretrial detention center, though the atrocious conditions at these detention centers may constitute another form of ill-treatment.
This torture and ill-treatment occurs in the context of a half-reformed criminal justice system that has retained many of the worst aspects of its Soviet predecessor. Accountability is evaded on a large scale and impunity is the norm. Police are under great pressure to produce confessions and statistics showing high numbers of solved crimes; they operate under few constraints, as the system in law andpractice offers insufficient legal and judicial safeguards against abuse. These issues are discussed elsewhere in this report.
The Methodology of Torture
The most widespread method of police torture in Russia is prolonged beating. Asphyxiation, suspension by the arms or legs, and electroshock are also common. In addition, police use trusted prisoners in pretrial cells as proxies to beat and threaten suspects into cooperating with the investigation. Police almost always combine physical torture with threats of further physical harm and other psychological abuse. In some cases, torture has led to the victim's death or permanent disability. Most torture victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch were adult males; we interviewed five victims who were minors when they were tortured, witnesses to the torture of minors, and the parents of the five minors. We examined only four cases of female suspects who were ill-treated, although further research is required to draw significant conclusions about the treatment of women in the course of police investigations.
In a letter to then-Minister of Internal Affairs Sergei Stepashin, Russia's ombudsman, Oleg Mironov, wrote that half of the detainees he had spoken to at detention centers claimed they were tortured.3 Several judges and former judges have made observations on the endemic nature of torture in criminal cases that characterize the problem as even more severe. According to Moscow City Court Judge Sergei Pashin, an outspoken advocate of judicial reform, four out of five defendants who appear before him claim they were tortured. According to Pashin, there is evidence of torture in about half of these cases.4 One former judge told Human Rights Watch that, based on her experience as a judge, she believes up to 80 percent of defendants who persistently refuse to confess may have been subjected to torture.5
An indication of the frequency of torture is the growing number of torture complaints that almost all human rights organizations in Russia receive on a regularbasis. National and regional newspapers have printed dozens of articles about torture and other police abuses during the past four years.
The frequency of torture appears to vary among police stations. According to Sergei Pashin, torture methods are used to some extent in all police precincts in Moscow. However, he qualified about 15 percent of the Moscow police stations as "bad," primarily the new ones.6 According to some observers, a contributing factor is that officers assigned to new police stations are taken from other precincts, which are reluctant to give up their best officers and instead see an opportunity to get rid of, among others, those who are most frequently the subject of complaints. Andrei Babushkin, of the Committee for Civil Rights, believes that the frequency of torture in a particular precinct also depends on the district-what in effect amounts to a class distinction. In older districts with a more settled population made up mainly of white-collar workers and businessmen, torture is usually less frequent than in districts with a low-income population.7 The level of tolerance toward beatings and other means of coercion on the part of the police chief may play the principal role. According to Mikhail Pashkin of the Union of Police Officers of the City of Moscow, police chiefs usually know which officers torture suspects and could thus prevent it from happening.8
Human rights activists have observed an increased frequency in the use of torture to solve minor crimes, such as theft. Because torture is mainly used as a means of coercing a confession, once a satisfactory confession has been secured torture usually stops. Those who confess immediately are unlikely to be tortured, although they may be beaten when detained.
Torture begins at various times after detention. The accounts of former detainees who were arrested at home reveal a consistent pattern of police behavior. Several recounted how, while police behaved politely in homes (in the presence of relatives), their tone suddenly changed in the police car or at the station. There, suspects were no longer addressed with the polite "vy" but with the familiar "ty" and police made it clear that the detainee had nowhere to turn, that he was "a nobody," that they could "do with him whatever they want," "that nothing and no one could help him," and that he had "better cooperate, or else...." Using a combination of psychological and physical violence, police try to utterly disorient the individual, or reduce him or her to a state of shock so that he or she will provideany "necessary" information or sign any document. Igor Kaliapin of the Nizhnii Novgorod Society for Human Rights told Human Rights Watch:
The conversation [at the police station] is not one between a policeman and a citizen [but] a real settling of scores, as bandits settle scores, pulling someone into a dark place, that's exactly what happens here.
The point is not to beat someone up but to bring him into such a state of shock that he realizes that he is nobody here.... Sometimes, alarmed relatives from whom they took him three, four, five hours ago [start phoning]. It's night time. Relatives start phoning and the person who just beat you may pick up the phone in the office and say: "No, you know, we're still talking, phone back later." You hear that and understand that behind you something has slammed shut.9
In many cases, police officers first "offer" suspects the chance to sign a confession, or attempt to coerce them into doing so through threats. In others, they beat the suspect even before telling him what he has been accused of or what they want from him. For example, Boris Botvinnik told Human Rights Watch that when police rang the doorbell to his apartment, riot police, who had forced their way into his apartment from the balcony, beat him to the floor even before he was able to open fully the door.10
In most cases, police investigators (who are senior police officers with legal training) do not take part in beatings and torture, leaving this to police detectives. They are usually not present during most of the abuse but walk in from time to time to check if any "progress" is being made, encouraging their subordinates using such euphemisms as "continue to work with him," or "continue your conversation." For example, Anton Shamberov told Human Rights Watch that his case investigator, Senior Investigator Alexander Bubnov of the Nizhnii Novgorod City Procuracy, from time to time walked into the office where Shamberov was being tortured to ask about the progress of the interrogation:
The detectives told him that I am very stubborn.... They said that they were not getting any results. He [Bubnov] told them: "Continue towork." He meant to continue the beatings and all sorts of tricks so that I would give testimony.11
Numerous torture victims and several procurators told Human Rights Watch that abusive police are careful to avoid leaving visible marks of physical abuse. However, in many cases police inevitably left visible marks, claiming later that the suspect sustained the injury while resisting arrest or as a result of an accident, without police involvement.12
The most widespread method of police torture is sustained beating. Police punch, kick, and use nightsticks or other instruments, aiming for the victim's head, back, legs, kidney area, and heels.
Anton Shamberov and his brother Kirill Komlev were detained on September 5, 1996 and accused of having murdered a former police officer. According to Shamberov's testimony, once they arrived at the police station, officers immediately started beating them. Shamberov told Human Rights Watch:
Popov [a policeman] came in...and said: "I know all about you, that you killed a guy, you killed Berzman." I said that I had no clue what he was talking about. He said: "Well, if you don't, we will talk with you differently now." Seven or eight detectives came in.... They started to beat me: "Tell us, how did it happen...." I didn't know what they were talking about. Then their boss, a big one...about fifty years of age, brought in four nightsticks. They beat me, mainly, on the body, then they lay me down on a bench, took my sneakers off and beat on my heels; they beat my heels for a very long time, I couldn't walk for two days afterwards.... Sometimes they beat me on the head, lay me down on my stomach, not on a couch but on a bench.... I don't remember how long they beat me but it seemed a very long time.
[At the end of the day] they took me to the IVS13 [police holding center], I rested there overnight, you could say. In the morning...the detectives were there and the "work" continued. As I understood, therewere ten people [detectives] and they [worked] with all three or four of us [suspects].... Two young detectives were with me constantly...and from time to time others walked in, who, as I understood, were beating in other offices, but came in to me to give me a slap...I was beaten to such an extent-they have stools that are attached to the floor-that I fell over together with the stool. That day they beat mainly on the arms and legs.
On September 8, on Monday, when the detectives arrived, the same started again, only in other offices, but not constantly.... [On the 11th or 12th at around midday] Denisov, the head of the investigative department, came in. He came in and sent all the detectives out of the office, saying he would talk to me. He offered me a seat at the table, he sat down himself and talked fairly politely. He said: "You should understand that we have a serious organization and if you ended up here, you are unlikely to leave. Be a good man." I didn't say anything to him, only listened to what he told me. He said: "O.K., if you don't want to...," and left. The detectives came in again, put me against the wall, encircled me and started to beat.... These beatings continued literally until the 13th [of September].14
Police came to the apartment where Andrei Getsko was staying in Bratsk at 1:00 a.m., September 30, 1994, to detain him on suspicion of armed robbery. In a failed attempt to escape, Getsko jumped down from the balcony; he was detained after a police officer shot him in the foot. Police officers beat Getsko on the ride to the hospital, and continued to do so in the hospital elevator. He told Human Rights Watch: "They were beating me, I was on the floor, all covered in blood. The doors opened and the doctors entered the lift and said: `What are you doing here, who are you beating up? Animals!'"15 Police replied that they were carrying a "dangerous criminal" and refused to show their ID cards. The doctors took Getsko to an operating room and performed minor surgery on his foot.
Despite a doctor's instructions for Getsko to remain in the hospital, police took him to the police station immediately after the operation. Waiting for a car outside the hospital, officers kicked him in the injured foot. On arrival later that night at GOM 1, the main city police station in Bratsk,16 they reportedly resumedbeating Getsko in an office on the second floor. According to his account, they put him on his stomach on a table, laid a thin file on him, and beat him with a crowbar over the file:
They brought in the crowbar, stretched me out over the table.... One stretched my legs, another my arms, they put a thin file on my back and started to beat me with the crowbar on the back, kidneys, lungs.... Then they started to beat me with a nightstick on the back, now without any files. That was on the table too. Two held me and two beat me.17
Fearing that he would die or become crippled, Getsko said he eventually wrote a confession, which police officers dictated to him. He was subsequently sent to the prison hospital and then the SIZO (pretrial detention center) in Bratsk, where he spent three years awaiting trial hearings that were repeatedly suspended. With the help of a local human rights organization, Getsko was released on bail on September 16, 1997. In 1999, the procuracy dropped the criminal charges against Getsko.
On September 25, 1996, a group of Cheremkhovo (Irkutsk province) policemen drove then thirty-one-year-old Andrei Kol'tsov to a forest approximately two kilometers from the local IVS, where, by his account, they beat him and threatened him with being torn apart:
They pulled me out of the car and started to beat me.... The beating continued, I think, for two hours, it was during the day, right after lunch. They beat me all over my body, only not in my face. They beat me especially on the buttocks. My whole back was bruised. My hands were handcuffed behind my back. They put [me] on the ground and beat me there. The jacket of one of the detectives even ripped under the armpits.
It went so far that they attached one of my legs to a tree [with a rope], and the other to the car.... He [Chernyshev, the head of the local organized crime unit]18 said: "We will blow up and bury you." He also repeated that he had permission from the procurator to shoot me during an escape attempt.... They turned on [the engine], of course, stretchedthe rope, and he [Chernyshev] stepped on the rope, one [of the police officers] sat behind the steering wheel. What happened was that you do a split. They stopped because I agreed to their conditions [to write a confession].19
Human Rights Watch researchers viewed medical documents from the IVS and the reports of a forensic examination that corroborated the injuries Kol'tsov described, registering numerous large bruises on the chest and a broken rib.
In October 1995, an inhabitant of the city of Bratsk in Irkutsk province was, by his account, beaten both at the police station and in a forest:
They detained us and brought us in [to the police station], sat us down at a table, gave a us pen, a piece of paper and said: "Write." Write what? He walked up, he had a bottle of vodka and drank from it, he hit me with a nightstick, sat there drunk.
You sit there on a chair, they walk up and beat from two sides.... They beat [me] together or in shifts.... [The beatings continued] [a]ll night and the following morning until lunch. All night they beat without interruption. They maybe calmed down for a minute, sat down [and then started again].
The following day he [one of the detectives] ran in immediately after the roll call [in the IVS], very angry.... [H]e put me in the car and took me to a church.... The church stood some fifty meters [from the forest], close by. They attached me to a tree with handcuffs, reached for a gun and began to threaten me: "We will shoot you now! Answer our questions!" I said that I won't answer. And that was it. They beat me with [their] fists and kicked me in my chest and stomach. That continued for about an hour, then they put me in the car and brought me to the [IVS].20
In some cases, police beat detainees on the head through books or criminal case binders to avoid leaving traces. For example, Denis Iuzhnii from Ekaterinburg, who was detained on suspicion of burglary, told Human Rights Watch:
They sat me down on a chair and put a "Talmud" with [criminal] files on my head and started to beat me on top of it so as to not leave any marks.... They kept me under that file for about five hours. [Then] I told them: "O.K., guys, write down whatever you want and I'll sign it."21
Andrei Tuzikov, from Bratsk, told Human Rights Watch a similar account:
They brought me into the office from the KPZ.22 [A detective] took the handcuffs off one hand and reattached it to a radiator.... I stood [there]. He put a book on my head and hit [me]. I didn't see exactly with what, but I think it was some sort of stick and he hit me several times. The book was thick with a hard cover. I didn't loose consciousness but lost my orientation.23
"Slonik" and Plastic Bags
Why would we need to use a gas mask when there are plastic bags?
-Sasha Sidorov, a police detective, denying that police use gas masks to torture suspects.24
Torture by near asphyxiation is used less frequently than sustained beatings but almost always in combination with them. Police officers handcuff their victim to a chair and force an old-fashioned gas mask or plastic bag over the head. Subsequently, the oxygen supply is cut; at this point, in many cases, police beat the suspect, causing him to hyperventilate. Some victims reported losing consciousness; police revived them to demand they write a confession and repeated the procedure if they resisted. This type of torture is called "slonik" or elephant in Russian, a reference to the resemblance of the gas mask's hose to an elephant's trunk.25
In 1998, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mordovia convicted seven police officers for torturing several criminal suspects, using asphyxiation incombination with suspension. One of the detainees had died as a result of the torture. Presiding Judge Vasilii Martyshkin issued a statement supplementing the verdict (chastnoe opredelenie26) in which he described the torture:
Thus, as the court established, in April 1994 in an MVD building,27 in office no. 343, [police officers] Daev, Sazonov, Antonov used force during a so-called "informal questioning" before the interrogation of [criminal suspects] Derkaev A.A., Abramov V.V., Abramov N.A., and others by investigator of the Investigative Department of the MVD Ushakov V.P. In doing so, they put a gas mask on their heads, cutting the oxygen with the aim of receiving confessions from the suspects to stealing a MTZ-80 tractor from the collective farm "Kalinin" in the Bol'shebereznikovskii district of Mordovia. [The policemen] handcuffed [the brothers] Abramov, Derkaev, and the other victims, tied their legs to the floor, pulled their head toward the legs with the belt of a kimono, and beat them. One victim in the case, police major and chief of the B. Bereznikovskii GAI, Abramov N.A., lost consciousness.
As [suspect] Abramov V.V. testified in court, he was tied in the "konvertik" position and put on his back, [police officer] Antonov and the other MVD employees beat him with the strap of the gas mask on the scrotum. Derkaev, who sustained a broken rib during the "informal questioning," told the court that [police officer] Frolkin, after putting his foot on [Derkaev's] genitals, demanded a confession, saying that he will not need them [his genitals] anymore in life.
On July 25, 1995, [police officers] Daev, Sazonov, Guliaikin demanded a confession to armed robbery from minor Lavrent'ev A.S. in office no. 306 of the Lenin ROVD28 and demanded that he name accomplices.They asphyxiated the minor several times with a type RSh-4 gas mask. During the torture, which lasted for a long time, Lavrent'ev twice urinated on himself, and was beaten.
Unable to withstand the violence, the minor implicated his acquaintance Igonin O.V., assuming that the latter was serving in the army. However, Lavrent'ev was mistaken, because Igonin was a student.
During the night of July 25, 1995, [police officers] Daev, Sazonov, Kuflin, Guliaikin, on the instruction of former heads of the Lenin ROVD in Saransk-Golov Iu.I., Chekhonin V.A.-detained Igonin O.V. in the presence of his parents at his home.
Without submitting the detained Igonin O.V. to the duty officer's department [for registration], without writing a detention report, during night time-at 2:00 a.m.-Daev, Sazonov, Guliaikin, Kuflin, began to force Igonin into confessing to armed robbery...after they handcuffed him and bound his legs. To that end, they all together put a gas mask [on Igonin] and cut the oxygen. When Igonin choked, they brought him to his senses and the torture session was repeated. At around 4:00 a.m. of July 26, 1995, Igonin died, unable to stand the "informal questioning," as the defendants [the policemen] called their actions with respect to the victims.29
Although torture cases that do not result in deaths in custody are rarely prosecuted, an apparently similar case in Ekaterinburg was prosecuted in 1997, but did not result in a conviction. Procurator Evgenii Ergashev told Human Rights Watch that the deputy head of criminal investigation of the Kirov district police department, Sergei Kolosovskii, and two of his subordinates had beaten a young man by the name of Paivin for hours at the Kirov station, and had asphyxiated him by forcing a gas mask over his head and spraying alcohol or ammonia into it.30
Police reportedly used near suffocation on fifteen-year-old Oleg Fetisov from Ekaterinburg in 1996. Fetisov told Human Rights Watch:
At first they just beat [me], then they handcuffed my hands behind my back, sat me down on a chair and put a gas mask on my head and cut off the pipe. That was repeated about four times.... The first and second time I almost lost consciousness, they took off the gas mask and I sat down on the chair, they allowed me to rest. They kept me without air for about a minute, maybe a bit longer.31
Boris Botvinnik, a mathematics Ph.D. candidate studying in Moscow, told Human Rights Watch of his interrogation in September 1996:
While they were carrying out the house search there, they found a gas mask. That was still without the witnesses [who were called in for the house search] and they put the gas mask on me, closed the breathing valve, and asked me some things. Then they decided to interrupt [the session] and called in the witnesses.32
Botvinnik told Human Rights Watch that the witnesses stayed for only ten minutes, after which police took him outside and beat him in the courtyard for half an hour. He was then taken back into the building:
The riot police officer started to pick a plastic bag from my bag. He said that he wasn't going to waste his own, and methodically took bags out of my bag and blew into them. I think the third one he picked was a red LEGO bag. I had bought Sashka [Botvinnik's daughter] a present for her first half-a-year, the bag turned out to be intact. They put the bag over my head. From time to time the detective came in. As I understood, he clarified some details because the riot police did not know what was needed.... The bag on my head, they beat on my forehead and ears. Sometimes, when I held my breath for a long time, they punched my solar plexus.33
Andrei Kol'tsov, from Irkutsk province, told Human Rights Watch that after he had signed a forced confession in 1996, police demanded material evidencefrom him and torture resumed. They wanted to know what car Kol'tsov had used to take away the televisions he had allegedly stolen and where those televisions could be found. When Kol'tsov said that he did not know, police turned to the gas mask:
He [the investigator] said to me: "In what car did you take away those televisions?" I said: "I don't know about any car, I didn't touch those televisions." I continued to deny [it] after [signing] that confession. He said: "Well, maybe we shall force you to remember?" He took a gas mask out of the cupboard.... [They cut the oxygen] until I started to choke and to fall. They didn't spray anything into it, just held my breath, did that two or three times. After the gas mask they didn't do anything more, they stopped for some reason, they maybe got scared: my condition was so [bad].34
Alexander Volod'ko, who was detained and interrogated in 1996 in Aleksin (Tula province), wrote in a diary that on two occasions, police had asphyxiated him by dunking his head in a puddle, somewhere out in the forest by a river not far from Aleksin:
[T]hey grabbed my legs and put my head in the water, mud, and stones. It wasn't deep there, only my face and ears were under water, not more. I was turned over, and the water gushed into my nostrils, causing severe pain. I started to choke and twitch, swallowing the mud and water with my mouth, mentally already saying goodbye to my loved ones-the horrible moment of transition into nothing-but then they pulled me out. They didn't give me time to recover my breath and, beating me, threw me in the car...35
Human Rights Watch interviewed only three persons from three different regions who said that they were tortured by electroshock. However, human rights activists in a number of regions report that police use electroshock frequently.Andrei Babushkin, of the Committee for Civil Rights, stated that electroshock is used quite regularly in Moscow because it leaves only few marks that pass quickly.36 The Nizhnii Novgorod Society for Human Rights has also received various reports on the use of electroshock.
Igor Akhrimenko told Human Rights Watch that he was subjected to electroshock in April 1994 and described a small machine through which he said it was applied:
They took me into a room for the first time.... Immediately Veber [a detective] hit [me]from the side, nobody said anything, he punched me in the temple.... Yes, I lost consciousness for maybe two minutes. Then they put handcuffs on me and attached me to a radiator. They have an electric "cranking machine," they attached it to my ears and turned on the current. It's impossible to stand that!
It's such a small machine, with a handle. From the "cranking machine" to the ears went two electric wires with clamps, they were attached to the ear lobe. I was attached to the radiator, and one [policeman] still held me by the legs, another by the head. They asked me questions and turned the handle around. At first they turned slowly, then faster. When they turned [it] quickly, I just lost consciousness. I lost consciousness five times...37
Dmitrii Koriagin from Pereslavl'-Zalesski, a city about one hundred kilometers from Moscow, wrote a complaint to the procuracy in which he said that police officers in Pereslavl'-Zalesskii tortured him by suspension until he lost consciousness. When he came to, he reported, police subjected him to electroshock:
[After I regained consciousness] I started to scream again and demanded that they untie me and stop the torture. Suddenly I felt an electroshock and lost consciousness again. When I woke up, I felt a change in my consciousness. My whole body ached from pain. It seemed like everything was moving, as in slow motion, up-down.38
Suspension and Trussing
Russian police use a variety of positions for torture involving suspension or painful binding of a prisoner. For the "lastochka" (the swallow) position, the victim's hands may be cuffed behind his back and attached to an iron bar or pipe; he thus hangs, without his legs touching the ground, while police beat him with nightsticks.39 In a variation on "lastochka," the detainee is forced face down on the ground and his legs are tied tightly with a rope to the handcuffed hands. These positions cause grave pain in the joints, cut off blood supply to the wrists, and dislocate arms or shoulders. In the "konvertik" (the envelope) position, the detainee is forced to sit with his head between his bent knees while his hands are tied to his feet. In Nizhnii Novgorod, a detainee died in the mid-1990s after being held in this position for a long period and subjected to sustained beatings. A forensic medical examination found forty bruises on his body, which had been inflicted by nightsticks.40
Dmitrii Koriagin wrote in a complaint to the procuracy that he and his brothers, Ivan and Alexander, were detained in a state of intoxication on August 3, 1997 in Pereslavl'-Zalesskii. The three men had complained about their arrest, he said, and in response police beat them at the precinct with nightsticks and sprayed tear gas in their eyes. Dmitrii Koriagin was taken into a separate room and made to undress:
They twisted my arms behind my back, put on handcuffs so that I could not move my wrists. Then they threw me on a torture mattress head down. This is a mattress that is covered in leather. It is attached to an iron bench, the legs of which are attached to the floor. At the end of themattress my legs were tied by the ankle. Then they put a rope under the chain of the handcuffs so that it wound around it and both ends of the rope strongly stretched over my back so that, as it seemed to me, they will break my hands in the joints.41
After the brothers' administrative court hearing for public drunkenness, Dmitrii Koriagin was allowed to speak with his brother Alexander, who, he said, told him he had been hung from a roofbeam:
Alexander told me that they had hung him down from a rafter twice with his arms twisted in handcuffs [so that his feet didn't touch the ground], while they beat him up, and that he had spat blood in the face of police chief Mukhin when he [Mukhin] had lifted his head by [his] hair as he was hanging down from the rafter.42
Anatolii Koriagin, the father of the three men, told Human Rights Watch that police hung Alexander until he lost consciousness, took him down, and then put up Koriagin's eldest son, Ivan. When Alexander again complained about the treatment, police hung him from the rafter once more.43 Police charged Ivan Koriagin with extortion, and released Dmitrii and Alexander.
German Il'in of Irkutsk province told Human Rights Watch that police had suspended him from a pipe in November 1995:
Well, they handcuffed me over a pipe, the pipe's between the hands, it was a warm pipe. They lifted [me] up just a bit and I hung, my feet were just barely above the ground.... I hung there for twenty to thirty minutes, I don't remember exactly. There ten minutes seem like a century. [While I was hanging] he beat me in the liver and kidney areas unexpectedly.44
Torture by Proxy
When someone doesn't confess and the police officer thinks he is guilty, they just lock him up under article 122 of the criminal procedurecode45.... A protocol is written and he's taken to the IVS, where they put him [in a cell] with criminals and they [the criminals] not only start to beat him but possibly even torture him.
I, for example, would myself never beat someone to leave visible marks. Why would you risk yourself, your freedom? It's better to send [the person] to the SIZO and let them work on him over there.
-Sasha Sidorov, a police detective from Irkutsk, April 9, 1998.46
Police detectives use criminal suspects and defendants who are trusted and given special privileges in SIZOs and IVSs to beat, rape, or otherwise force suspects and defendants into confessing or providing needed testimony. This widespread practice is called the "pressing room" or "press hut" (press-khata in Russian) because police trustees "press" the detainee within the confines of the pretrial cell. In exchange for their services, these prisoners-who serve both as police enforcers and informers-receive privileges, such as access to narcotics and women. Elena Zheletskaia, a lawyer with regular access to the SIZO in Ekaterinburg, told Human Rights Watch:
[T]here are cells that work for the detectives, they're called "red cells." The person there is not held as everywhere else, there [they have] all privileges: a television, a tape player...and, most importantly, seven beds for seven people.... Say, the head of the criminal police or police chief tells the detectives in the prison that this or that person is on his way and that certain information needs to be received from that person, and they put him in a "red cell," and there they [the informers] extract [the information] gradually.... The cell mates organize beatings, strangling sessions, don't allow them to leave the cell, don't give them water.... They don't necessary beat, they can morally trample on them.47
Torture by proxy was highlighted in the 1994 report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nigel Rodley. The Special Rapporteur wrote that during his twelve-day visit to Russia, he received "persistent reports from reliable sources that violent inmates are intentionally placed in cells to brutalize other inmates and to break their wills by creating an atmosphere of fear and repression, with a view to securing confessions or other information."
In late 1993, Mikhail Iurochko, a man in his early twenties from Arkhangel'sk, was detained in his home town on suspicion of the murder of his two nieces, and confessed after police placed him in a "pressing room." Although courts found him guilty of the crimes on two occasions on the basis of confessions, Russia's Supreme Court overturned his own and his "accomplices" convictions-and his death sentence-on both occasions pointing to a lack of evidence. In 1999, the procuracy in Arkhangel'sk dropped the criminal charges against Iurochko and his codefendants.
In October 1993, Iurochko's cell mate in the pressing room at first put mainly psychological pressure on him, but eventually raped him to compel him to testify against his friends. At the same time, the investigator tried to force him to confess to the crime as well:
[W]hen I was in the IVS, my cell mate started to "convince" me more categorically, saying that they could beat me up, rape me.... The detectives questioned me the whole day, sometimes until 2:00 a.m.... [He] laid hands on me. He didn't beat me up but punched me, [giving] slaps on the back of the head. He disturbed the rhythm of my thoughts, so to say, so that I didn't feel comfortable.48
After three days, Iurochko confessed to the murder and police pressured him to implicate some of his friends:
They put [another] cell mate with me, one with experience [in the prison system]. He started to coach me, saying: "Let's have more people, especially those who were close, who maintained contact with you, your friends."...49
He kept leading me on and leading me on, detectives visited me, talked, threatened: "we'll show you your place, we'll rape you, we'll break you, nobody and nothing can help you." They would send me back to the cell, say horrible things about my mother, sister, and the rest was done by my cell mate, he was a direct participant, very direct.50
He, so to speak, humiliated me the entire time I was in that place. I felt like my life had come to an end. That was October 17. I had already lost my life potential and in the end my cell mate raped me.... After that, I included Evgenii and Dima [two close friends] in my testimony.51
One of the two men implicated, Dmitrii El'sakov, told Human Rights Watch how one police trustee cellmate beat him and burned him with hot water, with obvious police complicity. El'sakov said his ordeal began with police threats:
It started with threats, slaps on the head [from detectives at the police station]: "You must confess, others are testifying against you, write a confession that you participated in the crime." I said that I didn't commit the crime and wouldn't write anything. "You will write it anyway, you will confess and do what we want. Do you want to be raped? Do you want to be humiliated? With such a crime.... We'll organize that for you right away, we'll fix it."
I was thrown into a cell [at the IVS], as it became clear later, where their agent was sitting. A big one, with tattoos all over. He started to work on me, at first only with words, some sort of screams, attacks: "even if you didn't do it, they [the codefendants] are hanging it on you, you should answer and hang it on him." That went on for three days, then, as they noticed it didn't have an effect, when I came in from the investigator...he [the cell mate] told me straight out that I had to write a confession. I said that I wouldn't write anything. He punched me hard several times in the kidney area-I have problems with my kidneys-I had told him.... I fell on my knees. He choked me a little bit, hit me over the head, and put a piece of paper [in my hand] with a pen and that is how my first so-called repentance appeared, under his dictation.
El'sakov changed his testimony after he was granted access to a lawyer. He was subsequently again put in a "pressing room":
I walked down from the investigator's office. In half an hour, they literally called in that Misha [the police trustee] from his cell. The detective said that I had withdrawn my confession and that that doesn't fit their plans. Misha came in drunk, after a few minutes with a bottle of vodka, he sat down and started to drink. While he drank, he said all sorts of insults, that he will rape me now, etc.... [H]e hit me over the head and I fell back on the cot, then he threw hot water over me from a tea kettle, it fell on my hand, my back.... I had serious burns. Then they [Misha and two other prison trustees] hit me in the kidney area yet a few more times. Two of his guys were holding me, he hit [me].... 52
In May 1995, the Arkhangel'sk Province Court sentenced Mikhail Iurochko and codefendant Evgenii Mednikov to death, and Dmitrii El'sakov to fifteen years' imprisonment. On appeal, the Supreme Court overturned the sentence and sent the case back to the procuracy for further investigation. On November 5, 1997, the Arkhangel'sk Province Court once again convicted the men, sentencing Mednikov to death, and Iurochko and El'sakov to fifteen and twelve years respectively. In 1998, the Supreme Court again overturned the sentence and remanded the case to the procuracy, which finally closed the case for "insufficient evidence" on May 31, 1999.53 All three men have been released.
Threats of Violence
Police combine physical torture with psychological abuse to utterly disorient the individual. This abuse consists primarily of threats of continued physical violence, or threats to the suspect's family. As Aleksandr Turabaev from Irkutsk, himself a torture victim, told Human Rights Watch:
The term "interrogation" here does not mean that they take a police report and ask you questions. Here, an interrogation [is] when five or six people come together and start to scream insults at you: "you're a horse," "a pig," other insults; "who did you contact!?," "we'll break you," "confess!," "you drunk!"54
These insults are usually accompanied by a standard series of threats. These may include threats to "do with you whatever we like"; to kill, rape, or otherwise physically injure the person; to have the person sentenced to death, even if not charged with a crime that carries the death penalty; to throw the person into a "pressing room" where "criminals will take care of you"; and to harm the person's family. Threats against family members are particularly effective, as the individual is isolated from the outside world and has no way of knowing what is happening to them.
For example, in 1996, as described above, police in Nizhnii Novgorod used extensive psychological pressure against Anton Shamberov and his brother, Kirill Komlev, whom they accused of killing a friend of the city police department's chief detective. Shamberov told Human Rights Watch:
[The detective said:] "Berzman was my friend. Why did you [kill him]?" And to the detectives: "Don't write up a detention report yet. Why did you bring him here? He should have been taken to the forest, as I told you, to shoot him there." One detective, who had detained me, then took a pen knife, unfolded it and said: "I will cut your ears off now." He approached my ears and started to poke a bit there.55
Shamberov and Komlev were both told that Mark Berzman, the brother of the murder victim, had mafia links and that he wanted them dead. Police told them they should consider themselves lucky to be at the police station. Shamberov told Human Rights Watch: "They said that Berzman was somehow connected with the mafia, that I'd better confess so that I would go to jail because [then] they wouldn't shoot me in the street, and "you have a family, and a young child."56
Police also are said to attempt to lure suspects into escape scenarios, then threaten to kill them should they escape. In such cases, police create the circumstances for an escape, taunt the detainee about escaping, and warn that police officers will shoot him if he tries. As described above, the head of the organized crime department of a local police precinct in Irkutsk province reportedly took Andrei Kol'tsov to a forest:
They drove me into the forest, opened the door.... They told me: "We have permission to shoot you." Well, they opened the door and offeredme the chance to run, saying that the procurator gave permission to shoot me. I said: "Why should I run?" He says: "Well, if you don't want to...." They pulled me out of the car and started to beat me up.57
In July 1996, according to Alexander Volodko's published diary, police staged his mock execution near the city of Aleksin in Tula province. Volod'ko wrote:
They said that they knew everything and would shoot me under the guise of an escape attempt. They dragged me via a little path down a slope and placed me by a tree. The "goblin" [masked riot police officer] cocked the gun. "Say your last word!"- "I don't know anything, I'm not guilty of anything, you're killing an innocent person!" Instead of a bullet, [I received] a kick in the chest.58
Boris Botvinnik said he was subjected to other methods of psychological pressure, including threats to take revenge on his family if he would not confess.
In the first report I said that I didn't know anything... .Then they put me in the corridor and fastened me to a pipe and I sat there. While I was sitting there, a detective came up to me and said: "Believe me, you will go to prison anyway, you're either going to go to prison or we give you back [to the riot police, who beat Botvinnik at his apartment]. The question is where you will serve and for how long. If you start to deny it, we have "pressing rooms," and we have more, in the end we hand you over to those detectives, and, besides, we can arrange for the same thing to happen at your home in Volgograd. Whatever you want, take your pick."59
Police in Tulunsk district threatened German Il'in that as long as he refused to write a confession his wife, Lida, would be held in detention, and further threatened to put his children in an orphanage. Il'in told Human Rights Watch:
They said that they will put her in jail...for such a long time that she'll die on the potty et cetera. "The children will remain like that [without parental supervision], and by the time you are released, there won't beanyone left. So, if you sign, your wife will go home." They told me that "they'll rape her now, there are women who are good at doing whatever you want, butch and femme lesbians." That was horrible, I got sick, suffered, let them at least allow Lida to go to the children.... I will give testimony, I will give [it] against myself, as they wish. I wrote what Sveshnikov dictated and gave him the piece of paper.60
Like many others, Il'in told Human Rights Watch that police threatened to send him to a "pressing room:"
"Well, what?! Did you get it or not, farmer?! Look, you'll get the pressing room and you'll have everything, what do you think? We've broken better ones! Ones like you we'll break-when necessary.
We'll put you in a cell, there they will give it to you...they will kill you, they will hang you...."61
Police, according to her account, threatened to send Tatiana Popkova to a "pressing room" when she refused to sign a statement that she had not been allowed to read:
They told me that "if you don't sign now, we will put you in the KPZ, there are female criminals there, they will straighten things out with you quickly. They will undress you, take your good things away and they will humiliate you, because they are all hardened girls there."62
Alexander Turabaev, also from Irkutsk province, said he was told that he would be "thrown to bad people" who would strip him of his male dignity.631 A major Amnesty International report on torture in Russia contributed significantly to this raised awareness. See, Amnesty International, "Torture in Russia: `This Man-Made Hell'" (EUR 46/04/97), April 1997. 2 There is, however, a clear ethnic dimension to a pattern of abuse, including police violence, in the enforcement of residence permit requirements. See, Human Rights Watch, "Russia: Ethnic Discrimination in Southern Russia," A Human Rights Watch Report, Vol. 10, No. 8 (D) July 1998; Human Rights Watch, "Moscow: Open Season, Closed City," A Human Rights Watch Report, Vol. 9, No. 10 (D) September 1997. Also, during the 1994-1996 war in Chechnya, Russian security forces tortured Chechen men almost exclusively to coerce intelligence information. The torture took place in so-called "filtration camps" in the Northern Caucasus operated in part by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. See, The Memorial Human Rights Center, Chechnya: Tsep' oshibok i prestuplenii (Chechnya: A Chain of Mistakes and Crimes) (Moscow, 1998), pp.21-233. Human Rights Watch, "Russia: Three Months of War in Chechnya," A Human Rights Watch Report, Vol. 7, No. 6 February 1995; Human Rights Watch, "Russia/Chechnya: A Legacy of Abuse," A Human Rights Watch Report, Vol. 9, No. 2(D) January 1997. 3 Human Rights Watch interview with Oleg Mironov, Moscow, February 16, 1999. For a copy of the letter and the response of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, see appendices B and C. The office of the ombudsman was created in 1998 to defend citizens against violations of their rights. The ombudsman has far-reaching powers to do so, including unlimited access to penitentiary institutions and police stations. The ombudsman also has access to official information and officials are obliged to answer his inquiries. 4 Human Rights Watch interview with Sergei Pashin, Moscow, January 28, 1999. It should be noted that the cases Pashin hears involve particular serious crimes and not necessarily representative of all criminal cases. 5 Human Rights Watch interview with Elena Raskevich, Moscow, July 9, 1998. 6 Human Rights Watch interview with Sergei Pashin, Moscow, January 28, 1999. 7 Human Rights Watch interview with Andrei Babushkin, Moscow, February 15, 1999. The Committee for Civil Rights began publishing reports on torture in Russia in 1996. 8 Human Rights Watch interview with Mikhail Pashkin, chair of the Coordination Council of the Union of Police Officers of the City of Moscow, Moscow, February 25, 1999. 9 Human Rights Watch interview with Igor Kaliapin, Nizhnii Novgorod, October 17, 1997. 10 Human Rights Watch interview with Boris Botvinnik, Moscow, March 14, 1997. 11 Human Rights Watch interview with Anton Shamberov, Nizhnii Novgorod, October 18, 1997. 12 One of the most common among the latter is the police claim that the injured detainee fell. 13 Izoliator vremenogo soderzhaniia. These are holding cells, usually in central city police stations. 14 Human Rights Watch interview with Anton Shamberov, Nizhnii Novgorod, October 18, 1997. 15 Human Rights Watch interview with Andrei Getsko, Bratsk, April 5, 1998. 16 GOM is the Russian acronym for gorodskoe otdelenie militsiia, or city police department. 17 Human Rights Watch interview with Andrei Getsko, Bratsk, April 5, 1998. 18 In Russian, the organized crime unit is referred to by its acronym, RUOP, raionnoe upravlenie po bor'be s organizovannoi prestupnost'iu, or the district directorate for organized crime. 19 Human Rights Watch interview with Andrei Kol'tsov, Cheremkhovo, Irkutsk province, April 2, 1998. 20 Human Rights Watch interview with Sergei Sergeev, Bratsk, Irkutsk province, April 6, 1998. "Sergei Sergeev" is not the man's real name. 21 Human Rights Watch interview with Denis Iuzhnii, Ekaterinburg, August 13, 1997. 22 Kamera predvaritel'nogo zakliuchenie, or a temporary holding cell in a police precinct. 23 Human Rights Watch interview with Andrei Tuzikov, Bratsk, Irkutsk province, April 5, 1998. 24 Human Rights Watch interview with Sasha Sidorov, Irkutsk, April 9, 1998. "Sasha Sidorov" is not the man's real name. 25 The Moscow Prison Reform Center reported that police sometimes spray tear gas in the gas mask to make the victim vomit and force the victim to look at himself in the mirror as a form of humiliation. Human Rights Watch research could not confirm this practice. 26 Under article 21(2) of the Russian criminal procedure code, a judge can issue a separate statement, or chastnoe opredelenie, to state agencies, public organizations, or officials whenever he or she has established in court that violations of the law and human rights, reasons for the commission of the crime, or circumstances that promoted its commission demand appropriate measures from these agencies. See Appendix F for the full text of the separate statement. 27 MVD is the Russian acronym for Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh Del, or Ministry of Internal Affairs. 28 ROVD is the Russian acronym for raionoe otdeleniie vnutrennykh del, or district police station. 29 Chastnoe opredelenie by Judge Vasilii Martyshkin of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mordovia, case 2-4/98, February 12, 1998. 30 Human Rights Watch interview with Evgenii Ergashev, Ekaterinburg, August 12, 1997. 31 Human Rights Watch interview with Oleg Fetisov, Ekaterinburg, August 11, 1997. 32 Human Rights Watch interview with Boris Botvinnik, Moscow, March 14, 1997. In Soviet times, the civil defense (grazhdanskaia oborona) handed out gas masks to all households as a precaution for possible chemical weapons attacks. These gas masks remain in many Russian apartments. 33 Human Rights Watch interview with Boris Botvinnik, Moscow, March 14, 1997. 34 Human Rights Watch interview with Andrei Kol'tsov, Cheremkhovo, Irkutsk province, April 2, 1998. 35 Alexander Volod'ko wrote Diary of Torture about his experience in detention. The diary was smuggled out of prison and excerpts were published. See, Moscow Center for Prison Reform, Nasilie v organakh MVD (Moscow, 1998), pp. 5-18. 36 Human Rights Watch interview with Andrei Babushkin, Moscow, February 15, 1999. 37 Human Rights Watch interview with Igor Akhrimenko, Irkutsk, Sizo 1, April 8, 1998. 38 Complaint to the procuracy in Pereslavl'-Zalesskii concerning the detention of Dmitrii Koriagin on August 3, 1997, written March 3, 1998.