UN Experts Accuse Russia of Widespread Practice of Torture

A U.N. watchdog committee said Friday that torture is widely practiced throughout Russia and that perpetrators of these crimes are very rarely punished.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture, which monitors states’ compliance with the U.N. Convention Against Torture, has just ended a three-week examination of several countries, including Russia.

The committee said Russia has made little progress in implementing the provisions of the anti-torture convention since it submitted its last report in 2012.

Claude Heller, a member of the committee, said the group was concerned by consistent reports that fundamental legal safeguards against torture for detained people often do not apply and are not respected from the very outset of detainees’ incarceration.

There are concerns about “the numerous reliable reports of the practice of torture and ill-treatment in the state party, including as the means to extract confessions, and many reports documenting cases of torture, such as the deaths of Valery Pshenichny in 2018 and Ruslan Sayfutdinov in 2017,” he said.

Heller said allegations of torture in Russia rarely result in criminal prosecutions, and even when prosecuted, the perpetrators are charged with simple assault or abuse of authority. The committee urged Russia to combat impunity by promptly and impartially investigating allegations of torture and ill-treatment.

The committee also took up the celebrated case of Yevgeny Makarov, whose torture by prison guards was videotaped and released by his lawyer. She subsequently fled the country after receiving death threats.

The committee expressed concerns about reported cases of harassment, abduction, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and political opponents. It said the state should investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators.

The Russian delegation told the committee it had made a lot of progress in amending legislation on the penitentiary and criminal justice systems to ensure the rights of detainees and convicted persons. It assured the committee that Russian authorities would take into account all of the comments made during the examination.

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