2 December 2021
Pictured left: Eva Merkacheva, member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, Moskovsky komsomolets journalist, laureate of a Moscow Helsinki Group award for human rights
Eva Merkacheva, member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, Moskovsky komsomolets journalist, member of the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission, and Moscow Helsinki Group prize winner, announced over the radio on Ekho Moskvy that members of the Human Rights Council want to ask Vladimir Putin to change legislation in the field of combating torture.
“We would like legislative changes to be introduced which could stop torture. We would like torture to be investigated on an entirely different level, because the worst thing is impunity. People are afraid to speak of this because there is no point – all the torturers remain around them. It is very dangerous for them to complain about anything,” she said in response to a question about what reaction rights activists expect from Putin at a meeting scheduled for 9 December.
Merkacheva recalled in particular the situation at Saratov Tuberculosis Hospital No. 1. “The most important sadist-‘activists’ were removed or punished after the publication of the footage from the prison videoarchive, but their associates remain. According to the convicts, they behave rather arrogantly. Maybe they are afraid for now to fully display their strength and authority, but who knows what will be the case in two months,” she emphasized.
Merkacheva noted that convicts are tortured in pursuance of three goals. “The first is extortion. Basically, they tortured convicts who refused to pay money. And money had to be paid for everything: for medical treatment, to establish a disability group, to receive one’s pension. And pensioners had to give some percentage to these ‘activists,’ and already shared with the administration,” she said.
Merkacheva named the second goal “writing of admissions of guilt, confessions, and testimony as instructed by the investigative authorities.” According to her, as a result, many people were prosecuted on the grounds of false testimony. In addition, those convicted remain in prison even after this has been revealed.
The third goal is to suppress the complaints of convicts to various authorities. “Very often people from other colonies, who were named complainers, were brought to this Saratov hospital. They wrote appeals to the prosecutor’s office, to the ECtHR and to other authorities. And in order to punish them, they were sent to Saratov Tuberculosis Hospital. And even if they themselves did not go through torture there, they understood what was happening, and they promised never to complain anywhere again, only send them back to the colony, where they will quietly finish their sentence,” concluded Merkacheva.
Translated by Alyssa Rider