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Monday, January 29, 2007

Status Report on Human Rights in Russia: Prisoners' Skin Stripped with Pliers, Russians Spied on Everywhere

Prima News Agency, a leading source of information about human rights abuses in Russia, reports:

Prisoners Skin Stripped with Pliers

FRANCE, Strasbourg. On January 18, the European Court for Human Rights found Russia guilty of torture in Chechnya, reported the organization "Legal Initiative on Russia", which represented the complainants - brothers Adam and Arbi Chitayev. Russia must pay them 35 thousand Euros each for moral damage and 7629,90 Euros for judicial expenses.

The court established that the Chitayevs were subjected to torture and that the Russian authorities did not properly investigate their statement about this. “I am satisfied by the decision, but I worry, that what happened to me can happen to my relatives who still live in Russia,” stated the Arbi Chitayev, who now lives in Germany.

On April 12, 2000, Russian soldiers detained the brothers in their house in the village of Achkhoy-Martan in Chechnya and took them to the police, where they were accused of being rebel- separatists and subjected to severe torture. Later they were to taken to the SIZO (remand prison) in Chernokozov in the northwest of Chechnya, where they were also subjected to torture and brutal treatment.

They handcuffed the brothers to chairs and beat them; they used electric shock on different parts of their bodies; they made them stand at attention for long periods of time; they twisted their hands; they beat them with rubber batons and plastic bottles filled with water; they suffocated them with cellophane packets, Scotch tape, and gas masks; they set dogs on them; they stripped pieces of their skin with pliers.

The brothers were freed on October 5, 2000, after almost six months in prison. The criminal case against was dropped on January 20, 2001, but then renewed. In the end, they were not charged.

The Strasbourg Court did not examine the brothers' compliant of poor conditions in prison, since their application was too late. The court also did not examine statements about intrusion and the illegal seizure of their property during searches of their house, since they did not complain about this to Russian authorities.

The application of torture in the Chernokozov SIZO is documented by the human rights organization "Human Rights Watch" and the European Committee Against Torture. INJuly 2001, the Committee expressed deep regret in connection with the absence of investigations of complaints about torture and brutal treatment in Chernokozov.

«We have received numerous appeals for judicial help from victims of torture in Chechnya; Russian and Chechen authorities are now obligated to relate to this problem and to make a serious decision to put an end to this monstrous practice,» stated the chairman of the administration of "Legal Initiative on Russia" Jan Ter Laak.

In conclusions and the recommendations made at a its 37th UN session in November 2006, the UN Committee Against Torture expressed concern in connection with "accounts of unofficial prisons in the North Caucasus and the information that prisoners there undergo torture and severe, inhuman or degrading treatment".

To date, Russian authorities have refused to register "Legal Initiative on Russia". The director of "Legal Initiative" in Nazran, Arsen Sakalov reported to a correspondent of PRIMA-News that this week the organization again presented its documents for registration in Russia and should receive an answer in two weeks from the Federal Registration Service.

If Slavs in Russia proper think they are safe from the Kremlin's abuses during the neo-Soviet crackdown, they should think again. Prima reports:

The Revival of Political Monitoring

One of the good intentions of Perestroika, the liquidation of political monitoring in Russia, has disappeared into oblivion. In 1991, when the "great powerful Soviet Union" began to tear at the seams, and the fate of the KGB was uncertain, leaders of Perestroika and chiefs of state security hurried to assure Russian society and political activists that state security services would no longer conduct political monitoring. At first it seemed that this would be so. Although even then it was explained that even with former dissidents by no means everything was at an end - some investigations remained in operational development.

For a long time "work" on political opposition, if it was being conducted, was sufficiently unnoticeable. The Administration of Constitutional Safety of the FSB of Russia, created in 1998, did not advertise its activities. Data about political organizations and their activists did not become a weapon for suppression of the opposition, which acted and still acts by legal methods within the framework of the Constitution.

Today, the situation has changed considerably. Collection of information about the opposition is conducted no longer only in the interests of judicial- investigation organs and not only for reports about their position in the country. Information is now assembled and analyzed for urgent operational measures. And these measures concern not only combating terrorism, but also "political extremism", as colleagues of the Special Services understand it. The UFSB in Moscow is combating terrorism and fighting political extremism.

The traditions and methods of the 5th Administration of the KGB, created in the USSR for dealing with dissidents, are being revived before our eyes. Early on the morning of December 5, colleagues of the KGB, with the support of police and Komsomol officers blocked in the apartments of dissidents, who according to data available to State Security Agents, were planning to go to the Pushkinskaya area at 6:00pm to participate in a silent demonstration of solidarity with political prisoners. Those who were not found at home were snatched from the crowd as they approached the Pushkinskaya area. On December 16 of this year, some demonstrators approaching Triumfalnaya Ploshad for the "March of Disagreement", were stopped and taken away by police based on absurd and fabricated charges.

Who precisely, what "law-enforcement" service, could know the potential participants in an oppositional meeting? Who tracks the movement of buses headed to Moscow for participation in such a meeting? Who manages information throughout the entire country and operationally makes absolutely unlawful decisions about detentions? There is no doubt that it is not the police, who would never have sufficient opportunity, coordination, or determination to so roughly and publicly act in spite of the law. No. It is the service which stands above the law and which does not doubt its impunity that is occupied in such actions. There are no doubts whatsoever about the fact that the heirs to the 5th Administration of the KGB work in today’s FSB.

It goes without saying that political monitoring in one form or another always existed in Russia. However, today the relation of the authorities to such monitoring has changed; shadowing political organizations has ceased to threaten scandal. It has become distinctly evident that the methods which the Soviet regime used to punish dissidents have been adapted now for the suppression of opposition. It is shameless, it is demonstrable, and it is happening on a large scale.

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