17 February 2020
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group
Members of various regional Public Oversight Commissions (POCs) have signed a statement issued by the Association of Independent Observers demanding an unbiased investigation into the use of torture in the Network [Set’] case, which should result in the identification and punishment of any officials found guilty of torture and, as a result, a review of the Network case itself. The list of signatures on the statement has been continuing to grow.
The appeal was signed by well-known human rights activists — members of the association who are or were members of POCs that monitor conditions in places of detention. Among them are Valery Borshchev (co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group), Andrei Babushkin, Lev Ponomarev (member of the MHG), Sergei Sorokin (member of the MHG), Zoya Svetova, Dmitry Makarov (co-chair of the MHG), Yana Teplitskaya, Evgeny Enikeev, Ernest Mezak, Igor Kalyapin, Lyudmila Alpern, Veronika Katkova, Larisa Zakharova, Alexei Sokolov, Natalia Dzyadko and others.
‘On the 10th of February, the verdict was announced in the case of the so-called terrorist group, Network (banned on the territory of the Russian Federation). A number of young people, aged from 23 to 31, were sentenced to between 6 and 18 years in prison. We have been following this case since its beginning and we have enough evidence to believe that many of the defendants were tortured, and that evidence was largely based on the evidence given under torture,’ the statement reads. Members of the St. Petersburg POC, Yana Teplitskaya and Ekaterina Kosarevskaya, visiting the defendants in this case, conducted an independent investigation in the very first days and established that torture by electric current and electrical burns had taken place. They interviewed torture victims and drew up an independent investigation under the Federal Law No. 76: ‘On Public Oversight to Ensure Human Rights in Places of Forced Detention.’ Members of the POC immediately spoke out about the torture case at a press conference in Moscow.
‘Both the case and torture itself were repeatedly reported to the President, including by members of the presidential Human Rights Council during meetings with him in 2018 and 2019. Both the President and the Russian public are informed about the absolutely absurd accusations, and also that a fully-fledged investigation into the torture is not being carried out, because they are the responsibility of the Federal Security Service (FSB),’ wrote the authors of the statement.
The statement mentions that human rights activists Lev Ponomarev, Valery Borshchev and Svetlana Gannushkina had earlier appealed to the President of the Russian Federation, saying that they were ready to present facts and show evidence that the people involved in the Network case were tortured with electric shocks and incriminated themselves under torture, and that the arguments and position of the defence were completely ignored by the court.
‘We, the members of the Association of Independent Prison and Police Observers, who, during inspections of places of enforced detention, were repeatedly presented with evidence of violence and torture of prisoners done to obtain the necessary evidence for the investigative authorities, call for the abolition of the illegal sentence, and for the investigation of torture and prosecution of the torturers as required by Russian law. The flagrant cruelty and injustice of the sentences are outrageous. We demand an objective investigation into torture in the Network case, which should end with the identification and punishment of all officials found guilty of torture and, as a result, a review of the Network case itself,’ the statement read.
Translated by Alice Lee