COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE HEARS REPLIES OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
12 November 2012
The Committee against Torture this afternoon heard the replies of the Russian Federation to questions raised by Committee Experts on the fifth periodic report of that country on how it is implementing the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Responding to questions raised by Committee members on Friday, 9 November, the delegation of the Russian Federation, led by Georgy Matyushkin, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, said that guaranteeing human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens was a priority, and a whole set of measures were being carried out to make the police more transparent and open and to introduce new monitoring institutions. The principle of responsibility of leadership on all levels for cases of violence against detainees was fully recognized, and places of detention were regularly visited by monitoring bodies, including by the human rights ombudsmen.
Mr. Matyushkin, in closing remarks, said that the authorities were taking decisive steps to remove such scourges as torture and ill treatment and there was zero tolerance to their use in the country. The responsibility for acts of torture was carried not only by the person committing it but also by his or her supervisor who allowed such acts to happen. Reforms carried by the authorities were carried out in cooperation with civil society organizations, and one such example was the institution of public watchdogs which ensured independent monitoring of places of detention.
Xuexian Wang, Committee Vice-Chairperson, in preliminary concluding remarks, said that this was a very fruitful and constructive dialogue which would inform the Committee’s concluding observations.
The delegation of the Russian Federation consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Investigative Committee, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense, the Federal Migration Service, the Federal Penitentiary Service, the Office of the Prosecutor General, and the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the report of the Russian Federation will be issued towards the end of the session, which concludes on 23 November.
The Committee’s next public meeting will be at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 13 November, when the Committee will hear the responses of Togo to questions raised by Committee members this morning.
Response of the Delegation of the Russian Federation
In response to questions raised by Committee members on Friday, 9 November, the delegation said the Russian Federation had adopted in 2007 new legislation to respect the rights of citizens declared legally incapable by courts, including their access to free legal aid. In 2011, the law on health of citizens had expanded the protection for persons in psychiatric hospitals, including through more frequent visits by monitoring bodies. The number of incidents of violence in the armed forces had been on the constant decrease; the changes introduced by the authorities had had a positive impact on the morale in the army, particularly the reduction of time of service from 24 to 12 months.
According to the recent changes in the criminal proceedings, procurators did not have the authority to carry out investigations, but could monitor investigative bodies. Guarantees of security of detainees and protection from torture were contained in the criminal procedure legislation, which also protected individuals from false allegations, and by the supremacy of international instruments that Russia was part to over domestic law. Any official who had placed someone in detention must inform the relatives within 12 hours, or provide the detainee with a possibility to do that independently. Suspects must be provided with a lawyer and have a possibility to meet with him or her confidentially before the first interrogation. Placing someone in custody was possible only through a court order, which was issued only for offences that carried more than two years imprisonment; economic crimes were the exception.
Turning to extradition procedures, the delegation said that the decision on extradition was made by the procurator or his deputy and was transmitted in writing to the person concerned, together with the information on how to appeal that decision. The extradition could only happen to States which offered guarantees of no torture and guarantees of respect of human rights of the deportee.
Forced sterilization of women did take place in the Russian Federation, but not in places of detention; the director of the psychiatric institution in Permsko who gave orders for medical sterilization of three legally incapable women under his care in 2004, 2005 and 2007, had been tried and sentenced to prison.
The Russian Federation had prepared databases on abducted persons in the Chechen Republic for the period 2000-2012. Since the beginning of addressing the issue of missing or disappeared persons, 2,042 criminal cases related to abduction had been initiated in the Chechen Republic.
The Russian Federation was preparing the new bill on refugees, and the Working Group in charge of its drafting was now making finishing touches before presenting it for adoption. The Russian Federation was an attractive country for migrants and some 14 million foreigners had recently arrived in the country. There were two forms of removal of foreign citizens from the territory of the Russian Federation: enforced removal, which was a measure of last resort of administrative enforcement when no other measure was proven to be effective, and deportation. Overall, the legislation provided for court procedures on expulsion, including administrative expulsion, and ensured that the rights of foreign citizens were fully protected. The Foreign Ministry was informed of all expulsions and it then informed the country concerned. The statistics on expulsions showed a decrease in the number of persons expelled: in the first nine months of 2012, a total of 21,423 foreigners had been expelled, representing only 0.2 per cent of all foreigners who entered the country.
The notion of deportation was spelled out in the law on immigration and was carried out when the further presence of a foreigner in the Russian Federation territory was no longer possible or advisable. The decision on refugee status was provided for a period of three years and the Russian Federation ensured the principle of non-refoulement of refugees to countries where their lives might be in danger. Temporary asylum was provided to those foreign citizens who did not fulfill conditions for refugees but could not be returned to their countries of origins for fear of torture or ill or degrading treatment.
Guaranteeing human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens was a priority for the Ministry of Interior which had carried out a whole set of measures to create conditions for making the police more transparent and open and introducing new institutions for monitoring of the police. Thanks to the principle of the “single window”, citizens could now file a complaint to any police unit regardless of where an incident took place. Hotlines were put in place as well to ensure direct communication between citizens and the police. The Russian Federation citizens themselves had noticed the higher level of activity of the police to protect their safety and security. The Russian Federation fully applied the principle of responsibility of leadership on all levels for cases of violence against detainees.
Places of detention were regularly visited by monitoring bodies, including by the human rights ombudsmen: in 2011, human rights organizations had implemented 4,833 visits to places of detention and found 447 human rights violations, which was an improvement from the previous year, where 488 violations had been identified in the course of 2,542 visits. There had been a significant number in deaths in detention and a number of suicides among detainees. The number of persons placed in solitary detention was on the decrease as well. In accordance with international standards, The Russian Federation was taking significant steps to develop mechanisms to protect victims and witnesses; some 10 million persons were either victims or witnesses every year and sometimes they were under serious pressure to change their statement or testimony.
The police was actively working on cases of missing or abducted persons, including in the Chechen Republic, where the cases of abduction had declined four-fold thanks to the measures undertaken.
To reduce prison overcrowding, the Russian Federation had introduced alternative measures to detention and imprisonment and had removed detention for economic crimes, to mention some and this had created improved conditions for the 111,000 people held in pre-trial detention in the Russian Federation today and for over 750,000 prisoners.
Questions from Experts
FELICE GAER, Committee Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, noted in a follow-up series of questions and comments that there had been many reports of abuses in the Russian Federation and that very few investigations had been opened. Also, there was a pattern of intimidation and even killings of independent human rights monitors, and the incidents were extensive. Ms. Gaer asked the delegation to provide further clarifications on cases of Mr. Razvazayev and Mr. Sokolov who claimed to have been tortured; what was being done about attacks on gay clubs in the country; and what was the status of prosecution for cases in North Caucasus. The Committee was concerned about the insufficient number of investigations and criminal procedures; one case that was indicative of this situation was that of Mr. Magnitsky, who had died in police custody.
ALESSIO BRUNI, Committee Co-Rapporteur for the report of the Russian Federation, asked about the structures foreseen for numerous victims of torture in the army and recommended strict prosecution for perpetrators. Could the delegation comment on the intentional ill treatment to break the spirit of prisoners in the Mordovia camp? Death in custody was on the decrease according to the delegation since 2009 and Mr. Bruni asked what factors were at play for a reduction in deaths, including suicides. What was the State’s relationship with the European Committee against Torture, publication of their reports on Russia and their public statements concerning the situation on torture and ill treatment in Russia?
A Committee Expert noted enforced disappearances in the Northern Caucasus and asked whether enforced disappearance was criminalized in Russia. Was the status of refugee, which was accorded for a period of three years, automatically renewed and if not, what was the complaint mechanism available to refugees?
The next speaker asked about violence against women and what was being done to address crimes such as rape and under-reporting of domestic violence. Drug and drug abuses was a big problem in Russia, and zero-tolerance strategy applied by authorities led to marginalization and stigmatization of the group of drug users; what was being done to investigate violence against drug users in police custody?
Another Expert took up the dysfunction in the judiciary and the scale of violations on the territory and noted that 20 per cent of applications to the European Court of Human Rights came from the Russian Federation and were in relation to fundamental safeguards such as access to a lawyer.
The delegation was also asked about the plans to strengthen Public Monitoring Commissions and ensure they had sufficient resources to function; whether the conversations between a lawyer and detainee were covered by confidentiality clauses; and the compensation to detained women and minors who were victims of harsh treatment and sexual violence?
Response from the Delegation
The relevant State bodies were currently carrying out the investigation into allegations of mental pressure by Mr. Razvazayev and would inform the public accordingly, the delegation said. Public watchdog commissions must comply with the legislation when carrying out their activities and did not have the right to carry out monitoring in places of detention if any of their close relatives were detained there; this was to ensure they carried out their functions with impartiality. Mr. Sokolov had been convicted of robbery which was not an economic crime under the Russian legislation. Concerning the attack of hooligans on two clubs for sexual minorities in Moscow, the delegation said that criminal procedures had been brought forward against the attackers and the decision in the matter would be taken on 18 November.
Turning to questions about investigation into disappearances in the Northern Caucasus, the delegation said that those related to the so-called active phase of the terrorist activities there and that because of military activities it was hard to undertake proper investigations. The efforts to investigate could not be related to the effectiveness of investigative means and because of time lapsed it was now difficult to get proper information.
The public official working in the SIZO (pre-trial detention centres) where Mr. Magnitsky had died in custody had been brought to justice; circumstances of his death were also investigated by an independent body and it was hard to talk about conflict of interest in this particular case.
In 2011, more than 9,500 citizens’ petitions and complaints had been registered for acts of violence or any other form of illegal activity by the police. Upon examination, only a number of cases had received confirmation and criminal proceedings had been initiated against police officers for abuse of their powers. For all other cases, the information in the petition was either not confirmed or the action by the police was found to be legally justified.
The decision had been taken to publish the report of the visit by the European Committee against Torture to Russia, as soon as a way was found to protect identities in accordance with the legislation. The Russian Federation was not party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Preventing domestic violence in Russia was being carried out on a comprehensive level and included cooperation between many agencies and regional bodies. Programmes existed in all of the regions and measures that had been adopted had been rather successful as seen in the decrease in the number of registered cases of domestic violence, which had dropped by about 60 per cent since 2006.
GEORGY MATYUSHKIN, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, in his closing remarks thanked the Committee Experts and said that the authorities were taking decisive steps to remove such scourges as torture and ill treatment and there was zero tolerance to their use in the country. The responsibility for acts of torture was carried not only by the person committing it but also by his or her supervisor who allowed such acts to happen. Reforms carried by the authorities were carried out in cooperation with civil society organizations, and one such example was the institution of public watchdogs which ensured independent monitoring of places of detention.
XUEXIAN WANG, Committee Vice-Chairperson, in concluding observations said that this was a very fruitful and constructive dialogue which would inform the Committee’s concluding observations.
For use of the information media; not an official record