National attention to Jehovah's Witnesses' complaints of torture


Fedotov declares the need for installing new systems of video recording in security agencies

Znak, 27 August 2019


The head of the Council on Human Rights under the Russian president, Mikhail Fedotov, stated after a trip to Khanty-Mansi autonomous region the necessity of developing modern systems of video surveillance in all places of involuntary detention, with the function of simultaneously sending information to information centers of the SKR, prosecutor general's office, MVD, and the Federal Penitentiary Service. He stated this in an interview with RIA Novosti, commenting on the problem of torture in the country. As an example, he cited Surgut.


"Without doubt it is necessary to develop a system of video surveillance in all places of involuntary detention, not only in those that are enumerated in the law but also in others. For example, reports that torture was applied in the investigation department of the Investigative Committee of Russia (SKR) for the city of Surgut could either be confirmed or refuted if there were a system of video recording in the corridor of the department. But although there are video cameras there, it turned out that they are old, without a recording function, and those servers that are there do not provide long-term storage of information. It is necessary to create a normal system of video recording with the function of long-tern recording and with the function of simultaneous transfer of information to the information centers of the SKR and the Russian prosecutor general's office. It is necessary to do the same thing in the system of the penitentiary service and the system of the Russian internal affairs ministry so that the information is simultaneously automatically sent to the regional department and the federal center, and then it will be impossible to conceal it. This should be a complex system of struggle with illegal methods of conducting investigations and search operations," the public activist said.


He also suggested introducing a special article into the Criminal Code providing for accountability for the use of torture. "Torture is a very serious problem. Unfortunately, in many instances torture is latent, and we cannot discover it. And when it makes itself known, it is difficult to prove. This is a complex problem, and consequently its solution also must be complex," he said.


We recall that in mid-August a delegation of the Council on Human Rights, led by Fedotov, visited cities in the KhMAO, including Surgut, where residents had turned in large numbers to public activists with complaints about torture on the part of security personnel. Citing the results of these meetings, a member of the council, Andrei Babushkin, declared that "Surgut is the Russian capital of torture."


Lieutenant Governor Aleksei Shipilov merely noted at the time: "I have heard a lot about Surgut, for example that it is the capital of the Russian laborer, and so forth. But you see I cannot agree with this judgment. Here it is necessary to speak carefully because many people can be offended and upset."


In February of this year, adherents of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses reported about torture and abuse, to which they said they were subjected in the building of the investigation department of the SKR. The believers described for journalists how after their arrest in the department, which is commanded by a SKR employee, Vladimir Ermolaev, they were suffocated with bags, doused with water, zapped with electric shockers in the crotch, threatened with sexual abuse, and also humiliated for their national and religious identity. At the time, lawyers demanded bringing investigators and agents who dealt with the Surgut Jehovah's Witnesses to criminal liability, but without results.


In mid-June the Russian ombudsman, Tatiana Moskalkova, turned her attention to the report of torture in Surgut. When she was in Yurga, she met with believers, promising that there case would be personally dealt with by the head of the SKR, Alexander Bastrykin. And after his trip to KhMAO, the head of the Council on Human Rights, Mikhail Fedotov, promised to include in the presidential report the account about the torture of Surgut devotees of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, which is banned in Russia, with whom he also met in Yurga. (tr. by PDS, posted 28 August 2019)

Related article:
Jehovah's Witnesses get official audience for their torture claims
August 15, 2019

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