Igor Kalyapin: On Tatyana Moskalkova’s proposals to combat torture


16 April 2020

Igor Kalyapin is chair of the permanent Commission of the Human Rights Council on public participation in monitoring law enforcement agencies, head of the Committee Against Torture and laureate of the Moscow Helsinki Group prize

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights website]

Igor Kalyapin has reviewed Tatyana Moskalkova’s proposals  about the need to create a national mechanism for detecting and preventing torture. According to the expert, during the mechanism’s implementation it is necessary to include not only human rights institutes, but also a wide range of active human rights defenders and representatives of independent NGOs:

I completely agree with Tatyana Nikolaevna. However, with some reservations.

Firstly, regarding the ‘criminalisation of torture against prisoners’. The question is: why only in relation to prisoners? Is a police officer who tortures a detainee in a police station, or in a holding cell better than one who tortures a prisoner in a prison colony or a pre-trial detention centre? In my opinion, these are crimes of exactly the same gravity and public danger. Also, international law does not distinguish between employees of various government departments when defining torture. International law uses the concepts of ‘state agent’ and ‘person acting in an official capacity.’

Secondly, regarding the ‘strengthening of civilian oversight over places of detention’. This is really very important. Moreover, this is a necessary condition for the effectiveness of state mechanisms for the protection of human rights. As we’ve seen, where there is normal civilian and public oversight, the prosecutor’s office works effectively, and departmental oversight is vigilant… And if there is no civilian oversight, the Prosecutor’s supervision falters, and the departmental oversight just proclaims: ‘everything is calm in Baghdad…’. Only here it is unclear why Tatyana Nikolaevna speaks about the relevance of public oversight only in relation to ‘places of detention’? What about the ‘debriefing rooms’ and duty stations? I do not agree with the fact that torture is used only in the institutions of the Federal Penitentiary Service. This is simply not true, and I will prove it with the documents which I have in my hands. In this regard, it is probably more logical to talk about ‘places of forced detention’, regardless of what colour the guard’s hat is.

And thirdly, the creation of the long-awaited ‘national preventive mechanism’ (NPM) is welcome. But we would like to hope that this mechanism in the regions will not only be constituted by regional ombudsmen and their staff. In a number of regions, human rights ombudsmen perform only one function – to support the local authorities and law enforcement agencies. I hope that there will be a place for competent representatives of independent NGOs within the structure of the NPM being created.

Translated by James Lofthouse

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