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The torture chamber of Russia

Torture has become part of everyday life in Russia.


[torture] Any schoolboy in "free Russia" knows what is meant by an "elephant tongue," a "talk to Putin," a "gas mask," or a "stool" (well-known name for the most common methods of torture). The torture takes place everywhere the public has no access. Military superiors do it for fun. The police are doing this to get the arresting officer to behave nicely. Investigators are questioning the suspect for making a candid confession. Prison officers do it to maintain peace and order. There is torture in orphanages, old age homes, homes for the disabled All who have been deprived of their freedom are sooner or later subjected to torture. In all these structures and systems, where no one but a limited number of employees are allowed to enter, there are people behind high fences being treated as slaves. The country is once again divided into two, with millions of torture victims on one side and thousands of torturers on the other.

How can you get rid of this? Where's the rescue?

The first thing you hope for is the court. The laws provide enormous opportunities. The judge is the last hope of the tortured. He looks accused with his own eyes. According to the law, all defendants must be brought to court to decide whether they should be remanded in custody. Aslan Umakhanov, a Yekaterinburg lawyer, also thought so. He hoped for a meeting with the judge.

In March, Umakhanov was jailed, accused of something he claimed he had not done. First he was tortured on the spot. Investigators brought uninsulated cables to his crotch and roared: "We'll put you in jail anyway! We have an order! 'They kept his head in a plastic bag until he lost consciousness. They hit him and tied a 35 kg heavy ticket to his hand so that he could not twist the kicks against the crotch. They burned him on the back with cigarettes.

After that, Umakhanov came to Novoselov, a judge in Kirov district court in Ekaterinburg. He could barely move. The right leg did not listen. His left hand was full of bruises and hung lifelessly along the side. The judge "marked nothing".

Judges with blindfolds are one of the peculiarities of the torture chamber Russia has become. The judges could have ensured that the period of Gulag was a laid back stage, but then not.

The other thing one hopes for is the prosecution. Only the person has the right to enter the closed areas. Sometimes it is the prosecution that conducts the investigation itself. This was the case, for example, in the Umakhanov case. An investigator arrived at the prison and beat Umakhanov. He later checked that Umakhanov, who was now lying flat with a weight on his left hand, followed the investigators' orders, ie wrote under his frank confession.

Umakhanov signed what they demanded when they threatened to rape his wife. She was eight months pregnant. When he returned to prison after the torture, Umakhanov sent a letter to State Attorney Kukushkin requesting his rescue. He received no answer.

Umakhanov's story is just one of several thousand small and medium-sized cases. The Gulag system, to which Umakhanov was sent, went to sleep under Yeltsin, but has now made a comeback. Especially in the last year, this has become clear.

When society tortures frank confessions out of people, the lie takes the place of truth. What is Umakhanov's confession worth? Nothing. The only thing we know about the great tragedies that have shaken Russia is what has been admitted under torture.

Human rights organizations no longer have access to areas that are closed to the public. This is something especially former Minister of Justice Yuri Tchaik, now Attorney General, has the credit for.

We Russians are waiting for some of the European structures to help us get rid of the torture. Russia has signed the Convention on the Prevention of Torture. But is it realistic to hope that Russia will be punished for violating it? Can we hope for the Council of Europe?

No, that's not going to happen. Neither the UN nor the Council of Europe will adopt any sanctions against Russia for violating the Convention on the Prevention of Torture. Russian gas and oil make no one dare to interrupt Putin. On the contrary, everyone is happy and satisfied with their suitcase to attend the G8 summit in St. Petersburg in July.

The only thing one can do against the Gulag system is to apply to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. However, many Russians are very skeptical of Strasbourg. But other possibilities are non-existent.

Anna Politkovskaya was a journalist at the Novaya Gazeta in Moscow and wrote exclusively for Ny Tid.

Translated by Jardar Østbø

The text was published in Ny Tid on July 7, 2006

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