8 December 2021
by Lev Ponomarev, human rights defender, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, head of the civil human rights project For Human Rights
THIS MESSAGE (MATERIAL) WAS CREATED AND DISSEMINATED BY A FOREIGN MEDIA OUTLET PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT AND (OR) A RUSSIAN LEGAL ENTITY PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT
Following his meetings with the Human Rights Council, Putin has issued various instructions. To investigate, verify, create a working group, and so on. These assignments have been followed up in various ways, some have been carried out, others have not been. Sometimes it has happened that at a meeting of the Human Rights Council Putin has said one thing, but actually gave instructions for something different to be done, and in the upshot what was done was neither the one nor the other.
Torture has almost always been discussed at such meetings.
What has been the result of the last 20 years? The situation of rape as a means of torture in Russian prisons has gone so far that it has crossed the border and has become well known internationally. You are reading these lines – and someone is being humiliated and tortured right now. Tomorrow there will be a meeting with the President – and during this meeting, someone will be tortured.
What other results have there been? Well, all the most prominent human rights organizations in Russia that have been talking about torture, investigating it, and defending victims over the years have been recognized in Russia as foreign agents. And who else does the work of combating torture? Almost nobody.
So the fight against torture in Russia is being conducted with foreign money. And this is a real national shame.
There is a way to save Russia from this shame.
For this to happen, a working group should be created under the president, which, in addition to members of the Human Rights Council (Kalyapin, Babushkin, Merkacheva) includes the Human Rights Ombudsman, one of the top officials of the presidential administration, and representatives of several leading human rights organizations that specialize in investigating torture, namely: Prisoners’ Rights Foundation*, Public Verdict Foundation*, and Russia Behind Bars*.
The President should instruct this group, together with the relevant commission of the Human Rights Council, to draft within one month (no more) proposals to stop and prevent torture and publicly submit them to the President.
It would be naïve to believe that torture will stop instantly. But even this first step may mean that the next conversation about torture to take place in a very different atmosphere.
* Prisoners’ Rights Foundation is an NGO recognized as a foreign agent. Public Verdict Foundation is an NGO recognized as a foreign agent. Russia Behind Bars is an NGO recognized as a foreign agent.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove