9 December 2021
by Lev Ponomarev, human rights defender, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, head of the civil rights project For Human Rights
THIS MESSAGE (MATERIAL) WAS CREATED AND/OR DISSEMINATED BY A FOREIGN MASS MEDIA OUTLET PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT AND (OR) A RUSSIAN LEGAL ENTITY PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT
Terribly sorry but I’m talking about torture again.
Let me remind you briefly: in April 2020, after a mass protest by prisoners in Angarsk penal colony No. 15 in Irkutsk Oblast a criminal investigation was launched into widespread unrest and the disruption of the prison’s operations.
The case was investigated with fire and fury. According to our information, over 100 people were subjected to torture and rape.
A criminal investigation into torture and sexual violence was launched thanks to the intervention of the Human Rights Ombudsman, albeit with great difficulty. About 30 prisoners have been officially recognised as victims and a fight is underway for dozens of more victims.
And so, on the eve of the meeting between Putin and the Human Rights Council, at which torture is apparently one of the key topics, the Irkutsk Penitentiary Service gives the good news on its Instagram feed: Colonel Leonid Sagalakov, head of the regional prison service, has been promoted to the rank of Major General. This was done by presidential decree, by Putin.
We, human rights defenders, demanded that he be suspended while the investigation into mass violence at facilities under his control, just as in Saratov with the infamous video with the mop, was being carried out. It is a completely obvious demand as the rape of tens of prisoners was carried out within the parameters of an “investigation” into widespread unrest at facilities under Sagalakov’s control.
And he’s now, it would appear, a Major General. What’s next? Give him a medal?
P.S. When responding to Eva Merkacheva Putin assured her that he would closely follow the situation surrounding torture and that the head office of the Investigative Committee was running the criminal cases into the well-known torture cases.
How can he have done this when the case into torture in Irkutsk is being carried out by the Irkutsk Investigative Committee, while repeated requests to hand the case over to the Central Apparatus have come to nothing? Why was Sagalakov promoted by presidential decree and not suspended? There are only two options. Either Putin has once again been misled by the security and law enforcement officials around him because he sees them regularly, if not every day, while he hardly sees human rights defenders and even his advisers (members of the Human Rights Council) on human rights once a year. Or he is well aware of what is going on and he is perfectly happy with it. And Sagalakov has been promoted for good work.
Translated by Matthew Quigley