Russia

Situation in the North Caucasus: Russian authorities release observations by Council of Europe Anti-Torture Committee delegation

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STRASBOURG, .03.04.2000. - The Russian authorities have authorised the publication of observations made by the delegation of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) which visited the North Caucasian region from 26 February to 4 March 2000.
The CPT's task is to examine the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty. For this purpose, it is entitled to visit any place where such persons are held by a public authority. The Committee may formulate recommendations to strengthen, if necessary, their protection against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The delegation which visited the North Caucasian region focused its attention on the treatment of persons who have been deprived of their liberty because they are suspected of having committed offences in the Chechen Republic1.

The delegation's observations to the Russian authorities at the end of its visit are appended.

Under Article 11 of the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the information gathered by the CPT in relation to a visit and its consultations with the State concerned are confidential. However, the State may decide to lift the rule of confidentiality.

Note:

1 Cf. also Press Release No. 161a00 of 6 March 2000.

The CPT was set up under the 1987 European Convention for the prevention of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 40 of the 41 member States of the Council of Europe are bound by the Convention: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. The remaining State - Georgia - signed the Convention on 16 February 2000.

Further information may be obtained from:

- the CPT's Internet Site: www.cpt.coe.int

- the Council of Europe Press Department:
Dmitri MARCHENKOV, tel. +33/(0)3.88.41.38.44;
Sabine ZIMMER, tel. +33/(0)3.88.41.25 97;
Fax: +33/(0)3.88.41.27.90; e-mail pressunit@coe.int

- the CPT's Secretariat:
tel. +33/(0)3.88.41.23.88; fax: +33/(0)3.88.41.27.72; e-mail cptdoc@coe.int

APPENDIX

Statement made on 4 March 2000 by Mr Zdenek HÁJEK (Head of delegation) to the Deputy Minister of Justice, Mr Yuriy KALININ, and other senior Russian officials, at the end of the visit of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) to the North Caucasian region of the Russian Federation

Dear Deputy Minister, Gentlemen,

Allow me at the outset to thank you most sincerely for the very good co-operation provided to the delegation by the Russian authorities during its visit to the North Caucasian region. As a result of that co-operation, the delegation has been able to carry out its mandate in the manner foreseen by the CPT's Convention, despite the highly unfavourable security situation in parts of the region.

The delegation would like at this stage to make the following remarks on matters of substance. I shall begin by the situation in SIZO N° 2 in Chernokozovo1.

The delegation is satisfied that, at present, persons detained in this establishment are not being physically ill-treated. Further, although conditions of detention in the SIZO leave much to be desired, the delegation has noted that genuine efforts have been made in recent times - and continue to be made - to improve those conditions.

However, the information gathered by the delegation strongly indicates that many persons detained at Chernokozovo were physically ill-treated in the establishment during the period December 1999 to early February 2000. In different locations, the delegation has interviewed individually and in private a considerable number of persons who were held at Chernokozovo during that period. A clear pattern of physical ill-treatment of prisoners by custodial staff emerged. The ill-treatment alleged consisted essentially of kicks, punches and truncheon blows to various parts of the body (excluding the face). The ill-treatment was said to have been inflicted principally in the central corridor of the detention facility, usually when prisoners were taken to an investigator's room for questioning or when they were returned to their cells after such questioning; apparently, prisoners were also on occasion physically ill-treated in the investigators' rooms. Investigators were said to have been fully aware of the ill treatment being inflicted, and some prisoners affirmed that it was inflicted at their instigation. In certain cases, the delegation has gathered medical evidence which is consistent with the allegations of ill-treatment made by the prisoners concerned.

It is also noteworthy that practically all the prisoners interviewed who had been held at the establishment in Chernokozovo during the period January to February 2000 stressed that there had been a distinct change for the better in early February, at the same time as a changeover of staff began to occur. The beatings stopped; further, other improvements had been made, in particular as regards food. Moreover, no allegations of physical ill-treatment were made by prisoners interviewed who had arrived in the establishment after the first week of February 2000.

The delegation welcomes the improvement in the situation at Chernokozovo. However, it is also of crucial importance, in the interests of the prevention of ill-treatment, for what happened in the establishment during the period December 1999 to early February 2000 to be the subject of a thorough and independent inquiry and for appropriate sanctions to be imposed on those responsible for ill-treatment. In application of Article 8, paragraph 5, of the Convention, the delegation requests that such an inquiry be carried out without delay and that the Russian authorities inform the CPT of its outcome within three months. Further, the delegation calls upon the Russian authorities to remain particularly vigilant with regard to the manner in which prisoners are treated at Chernokozovo.

The delegation would also like to be informed within three months of the steps taken to repair the heating system at SIZO N° 2 in Chernokozovo. It would add that it welcomes the prompt action taken to remedy the unacceptable conditions of detention in cell N° 12 and the adjacent disciplinary cell.

Of course, the delegation did not limit its attention to the situation at Chernokozovo. It has gathered a considerable amount of information concerning other aspects of the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in the Chechen Republic in recent months. When assessing that information, the delegation will take fully into account the extremely difficult and perilous circumstances faced by the Russian authorities as a result of the armed conflict in the region. The delegation must nevertheless stress that no circumstances whatsoever can justify the infliction of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment upon persons who are in the custody of State authorities. In the light of all the information gathered in the course of its visit, the delegation recommends that members of the Russian military forces and law enforcement agencies involved in the operation in the North Caucasus be reminded of their duty to respect this fundamental principle.

The delegation must also refer to the existing IVS facility at Chervlyonnaya Station2. As you are aware, conditions of detention in this facility are extremely poor. In application of Article 8, paragraph 5, of the Convention, the delegation requests the Russian authorities:

- to take immediate steps to increase the amount of food and water provided to persons held in the IVS at Chervlyonnaya Station;

- to close this facility as soon as possible, and no later than mid-April 2000.

The delegation would like to receive within three months an account of the steps taken in response to this immediate observation.

The observations I have just made will be forwarded to you in writing in the course of next week. The information provided by the Russian authorities in response to those observations will be taken fully into account when the visit report is drafted. In the meantime, the CPT will continue to follow closely developments in the North Caucasian region of the Russian Federation and may, if it considers it necessary, carry out further visits to the region.

Notes:

1 Explanatory note: A SIZO is a pre-trial establishment under the authority of the Ministry of Justice.

2 Explanatory note: An IVS is a facility for temporary detention under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.