Human Rights Defenders Call on Dmitry Medvedev to Combat Torture

posted 22 Feb 2011, 23:18 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 Feb 2011, 23:19 ]
Source: (info), 22/02/11

· Human Rights Defenders · Prisoners’ Rights · Moscow City & Moscow Region

On 21 February 2011 the documentary Irkutsk Pre-Trial Detention: Territory of Torture was shown at the Andrei Sakharov Museum & Public Centre followed by a public discussion about the chances of eliminating the systematic torture that takes place in the prison system. The organizing committee of the Hearings addressed an appeal to the President of the Russian Federation.   

To the President of the Russian Federation

D. A. Medvedev

Appeal by the participants in the Public Hearings on the problem of torture in the law enforcement agencies and the penitentiary system.

Dear Dmitry Anatolievich!

The prevalence of torture, physical and psychological, at the stages of interrogation and investigation, and also in the conditions of imprisonment in our country, has assumed a scale typical of a totalitarian society.

In a manner characteristic of the Middle Ages, torture is very commonly used both to force people to testify against themselves and against other people, and to put moral pressure on prisoners. Despite all the changes that have taken place in the prison system and all the reforms of the law enforcement agencies, the practice of torture continues, and is becoming even more widespread.

We believe that the current situation is absolutely intolerable and demands joint steps by government and civil society.

We place our hope in you, since on more than one occasion you have declared the importance of the observance of the rule of law and you are the guarantor of constitutional rights and freedoms in our country.

We call on you to bring forward a legislative initiative to amend the Penal Procedural Code of the Russian Federation so that evidence given by those accused at the initial investigation stage maintains its force only if confirmed by the accused in court. This will make senseless any use of torture or otherwise forcing people to give testimony during interrogation or preliminary investigation.

Moreover, we call on you to initiate these changes in such a way as to deprive the administration of prisons of any motivation to apply unlawful pressure on prisoners. For this purpose, changes must be introduced into the Penal Executive Code of the Russian Federation to limit the actions of investigative officers in the penitentiary system. They must not have the authority to investigate unlawful actions by persons who are not in the given place of imprisonment, or actions beyond the confines of the verdict on the basis of which those convicted are in the given place of imprisonment. In this way, the investigating officers will only be involved in preventing and stopping those violations of the law that are prepared or committed in the given place of imprisonment.

We call on you to create a public commission to investigate instances of torture and cruel and humiliating treatment.

Such a commission should be created with the participation of government agencies, and also the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, the relevant committee of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, and appropriate human rights organizations.

We, the members of the organizing committee of the public hearings on the problem of torture in the law enforcement agencies and the penitentiary system, also believe it very important that we should take part in the work of such a commission.

We are convinced that without your immediate intervention, the problem of the proliferation of torture will once and for all destroy the standing of the Russian justice system and undermine the faith of the peoples of Russia in the rule of law.

The Organizing Committee of the Hearings:

L. M. Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Chair of the board of the Foundation for the Protection of Prisoners’ Rights
V. V. Borshchev, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
S. A. Kovalev, president of the Human Rights Institute
L. A. Ponomarev, director of the Movement For Human Rights
S. V. Belyak, lawyer
D. N. Dmitriev, lawyer

21 February 2011
Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Centre