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Russia Seeks to Suppress UN Secret Prisons Report

Submitted by on Friday, 19 February 2010.    2,323 views No Comment
Russia Seeks to Suppress UN Secret Prisons Report

Russia urged the U.N.’s top human rights body on 18 February to suppress a report on secret detention centers that includes interviews with unnamed Chechens alleging they were tortured in covert prisons operated by Kremlin.

The 226-page study by a group of independent U.N.-appointed human rights experts shouldn’t be published as an official document by the global body, a Russian diplomat told the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Vladimir Zheglov said the report was “confrontational” and should be removed from a U.N. web site where it has been available since last month.

U.S. and European delegates to the rights council said they want the report discussed in Geneva on March 8. The U.S. and Britain were among countries criticized in the study.

Jeremy Sarkin, a member of a U.N. panel that investigates enforced disappearances who contributed to the report, said “it would obviously be problematic if the report was not presented.” Rights groups say Russia’s actions are part of a wider effort by some countries to interfere in the work of U.N. human rights investigators.

However, Russia can only block the report if it gains the support of a majority of the council’s 47 members.

“Svobodnaya Pressa (Free Press)” website cited opinion of a board member of Human Rights Center “Memorial”, Alexander Cherkasov. He said that report listed a number of secret prisons in the North Caucasus in general and Chechnya in particular, including Tsentoroy, Gudermes, Shali, and Urus-Martan.

Cherkasov said that UN report tells about a secret prison in the village of Goity, whose existence became known in September 2007. On the eve in Grozny two young men, son and nephew of Maksharip Aushev, were abducted. Thanks to the efforts of relatives, including the Aushev himself, young people had been released, and many interesting things had been learned.

For example, that the abducted were held in a secret prison in the village of Goity, where, judging by the inscriptions in the chambers, were for some time, and many others disappeared Ingushs.

“The guys were taken already execution – as experts expressed, “execution with sneakers”, – says Cherkasov. In this case, the body covered with TNT charges and blow up in the mountains. Animals and birds take away the remains.

This story had received a great response. A criminal case was opened, the scene was examined with the participation of the occupation investigator and the abductees, who have confirmed their statements. In autumn 2007, “the case was investigated, the secret prison was closed”.

The system of “death squadrons” established by Russian occupation forces in Chechnya, an arrangement that involves kidnappings, secret prisons, extra-judicial executions, and the hidden disposal of the bodies of its victims, has claimed some 3,000 people in that North Caucasus republic over the last decade, according to a human rights expert.

U.N.’s full report on secret prisons can be downloaded at HERE.

Chechnya part of United Nations Human Rights Council:

ADVANCE UNEDITED VERSION
26 January 2010

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Thirteenth session
Agenda item 3

Joint study on global practices in relation to secret detention in the context of countering terrorism of the Special Rapporteur on the
promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances…

Russian Federation

1. The Council of Europe’s Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) stated after two visits to the North Caucasus carried out in May and September 2006, that “a considerable number of persons alleged that they had been held for some time, and in most cases ill-treated, in places which did not appear to be official detention facilities, before being transferred to a recognised law enforcement structure or released… As for places where persons may be unlawfully detained, a number of consistent allegations were received in respect of one or more places in the village of Tsentoroy, and of the ‘Vega base’ located in the outskirts of Gudermes. Several allegations were also received of unlawful detentions in the Shali and Urus-Martan areas”. In its statement, the CPT indicated that the problem of what it calls “unlawful detention” persisted in the Chechen Republic as well as other parts of the North Caucasian region. They described that they visited an unofficial place of detention in Tsentoroy, the Vega base and the Headquarters of the Vostok Battalion in Gudermes. Although no more detainees were held there, the CPT found clear signs that these places had previously been used for detention purposes. The observations of the CPT are confirmed by judgements made by the European Court of Human Rights, which has frequently established violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, some of which involved periods of secret detention. In October 2009, the Human Rights Committee expressed concern “about ongoing reports of torture and ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest, extrajudicial killing and secret detention in Chechnya and other parts of the North Caucasus committed by military, security services and other state agents, and that the authors of such violations appear to enjoy widespread impunity due to a systematic lack of effective investigation and prosecution.” The Committee was “particularly concerned that the number of disappearances and abduction cases in Chechnya has increased in the period 2008-2009.”

2. The Government of the Russian Federation, in its response to a questionnaire about this study dated 29 June 2009, stated that there were:
– No instances of secret detention in the Russian system.
– No involvement or collaboration in secret detention on the territory of another State.
– All detentions fall within the supervision of the Federal penitentiary and the Ministry of Interior.
– From 2007-2016 there is a program being undertaken to improve detention conditions.
– The office of the General Prosecutor supervises situations of detention, and if there is a violation, it is reported.
– All places of deprivation of liberty are subordinate to the Federal Service on the Execution of Punishment or the Ministry of Interior. The “Federal Action Programme on the Development of the Penitentiary System” provides for a steady improvement of the system. The Prosecutor’s office monitors that the legislation is respected.

3. In its submission to the Human Rights Committee at its 97th session, the Government of the Russian Federation further stated that criminal investigations have been opened into several cases of disappearances in the Chechen Republic. Some of these investigations were suspended due to a failure to identify the person or person to be charged or the whereabouts of the accused. The authorities have also created a comprehensive programme on preventing kidnappings and disappearances.

4. After receiving the Government’s replies to the questionnaire, the Experts have conducted interviews with several men who testified about secret detention in the Russian Federation. Because of fear of repression against themselves or their families, and due to a climate of impunity, most persons addressed did not want to be interviewed by the Experts or to be identified. The Experts agreed to preserve the confidentiality of the sources, as the interviewed persons feared that the divulgation of their indentities could cause harm to individuals involved.

5. In an interview conducted on 12 October 2009, X.Z., a Chechen who had been living in Dagestan, and is now living in exile, explained that he was held in secret detention and tortured for five days in the summer of 2005, apparently in connection with a search for a wounded man who had been brought to his house by a friend. Blindfolded throughout his detention, “he knows very little about the building where the cell was located. The cell had a toilet (water closet), which was also the only source of drinking water for the detainee. For food he received only a piece of bread irregularly. He heard a man screaming close by, indicating that other persons where detained and tortured in the same building. It had bare concrete floors (in the cell) and could not possibly be a civilian dwelling”.

6. In another interview conducted on 12 October 2009, X.X., another Chechen who had been living in Dagestan, and is now living in exile, explained that he had been subjected to “harassment and short-term detention since 1991 when he participated in a demonstration against the war”. This led to his name appearing on a “black list” and he was detained whenever there was an incident, and was usually held “for 1-2 days at a time and secretly (incommunicado and without any subsequent judicial procedure)”. In early 2004, after the Deputy Head of the local branch of Federal Security Bureau (FSB) was killed, he was briefly detained, taken to a forest, made to dig his own grave and threatened and beaten, then released. He was then seized again in early March, and held in incommunicado detention for three days in a prison where torture was used to extract false confessions. He was then put on trial with all mention of his incommunicado detention erased from the record. With help from his family he however managed to avoid conviction and to be released.

7. In a third interview, X.Y. explained how he was seized from his house in Dagestan in late 2007, and taken to “a secret facility which he called a concentration camp ‘where people do not come back from’, in Gudermes district, Chechnya”, run by the FSB, the GRU (the foreign military intelligence service of the armed forces of the Russian Federation) and the ATC (Anti-Terrorist Centre, Russian Federation). He described being held in an old concrete building, “recalled a terrible smell and walls covered in blood”, and explained that he was “severely tortured” for ten days, which included receiving electric shocks, being beaten with iron bars, and being burned with a lighter. He also explained that he “was never given food and received only one glass of water per day”, and that he “witnessed a man beaten to death whose organs were then removed”. After ten days, he was taken to a forest, where he narrowly escaped being extrajudicially executed. He also said that “several other secret facilities such as the one where he had been held exist in Chechnya, and since more recently, also in Dagestan”.

Case 22 – Biographic details

Name of interviewee: Mr. X.X.* **
Nationality/country of origin: Chechen, Russian Federation
Gender: Male
Detention Date of initial detention: March 2004
Location of initial detention: Khasavyurt, Dagestan
Grounds of initial detention: Grounds of arrest unknown, but it appears he was arrested on suspicion of involvement with a person suspected of killing a Federal Security Service (FSB) officer. The detention and arrest appears to be another in a series of previous periods of detention of this individual following his participation in a demonstration in 1991.
The authority(ies) involved in the detention: Two persons dressed in civilian clothes.
Total period of detention: One week and three days.
Duration of secret detention: First three days of detention.
Site(s) of detention, including sites of possible transit:
1. Kirovsky detention facility, operated by the FSB, for three days.
2.Transferred to a pre-trial detention facility in Bynaksk. No record was made of the initial phase of secret detention.
Conditions and treatment: During the first three days of detention, interrogated and presented with false accusations to which he should confess. During interrogation sessions, handcuffed and seated in a chair. On the final interrogation, on the third day at the Kirovsky detention facility, beaten with a wet rug, had a plastic bag placed over his head, and was punched in the stomach. Finally signed a false confession after being threatened with rape.
Judicial proceedings: After signing the confession, was formally charged and brought before a judge.
Date of release: March 2004.
As a result of his false confession, he faced charges in relation to manslaughter. He was released after a court hearing. No apology or compensation. To date, he has not filed a complaint.
* Information contained is from an interview with the interviewee and other credible sources.

** Initials used at the request of the alleged detainee.

Case 23 – Biographic details

Name of interviewee: Mr. X.Y.* **
Nationality/country of origin: Chechen, Russian Federation
Gender: Male
Detention Date of initial detention: Late 2007
Location of initial detention: Dagestan, Chechnya, Russian Federation.
Grounds of initial detention: Grounds of arrest unknown, but he appears to have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the killing of members of the armed forces.
The authority(ies) involved in the detention: Around 10 persons – some dressed in black uniforms, some dressed in civilian clothes. Some were identified as ethnic Russians, and others as members of the GRU (“Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’ noye Upravleniye” – “Главное Разведывательное Управление”), the foreign military intelligence service of the armed forces of the Russian Federation.
Total period of detention: Approximately 10 days.
Duration of secret detention: Entire duration of detention – approximately 10 days.
Site(s) of detention, including sites of possible transit: Detained at a secret facility in Gudermes district, Chechnya, Russian
Federation, which is jointly run by the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation – “Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii” – “ Федеральная служба безопасности Российской Федерации”), the GRU, and the ATC (Anti-Terrorist Centre, Russian Federation).
Conditions and treatment: He was interrogated by a group for about 10 days, accused of being a fighter and co-erced in order to obtain a confession to the killing of members of the armed forces. He received numerous electric shocks through a wire that was wrapped around his fingers, legs and feet while his hands were tied around his back. He was beaten with iron bars, and on one occasion, his captors tried to burn him with a blowtorch, but when they could not ignite it, burned him with a lighter. He was left without shoes, and made to sleep on the concrete floor in extremely cold temperatures. He was never given food and received only one glass of water per day. Finally, he was brought in a military pick-up truck into a forest in order to be executed if he did not confess. He managed to escape in the forest.
Judicial proceedings: Never formally charged, never brought before judicial proceedings.
Date of release: 10 days after initial detention.
* Information contained is from an interview with the interviewee and
other credible sources.
** Initials used at the request of the interviewee.

Case 24 – Biographic details

Name of interviewee: Mr. X.Z.* **
Nationality/country of origin: Chechen, Russian Federation
Gender: Male
Detention Date of initial detention: 10 July 2005
Location of initial detention: Dagestan, Chechnya, Russian Federation
Grounds of initial detention: Unknown.
The authority(ies) involved in the arrest: Three persons dressed in uniform and two persons dressed in civilian clothes
Total period of detention: 5 days (10 July 2005 to 15 July 2005)
Duration of secret detention: 5 days (10 July 2005 to 15 July 2005)
Site(s) of detention, including sites of possible transit: Unknown. Alleged detainee believes that, after being taken blindfolded into a vehicle, he was driven through a Dagestan checkpoint. Remained blindfolded during his detention.
Conditions and treatment: He was subjected to interrogation whilst blindfolded and accused of harboring a wounded person who had been brought to his house by a friend, two days prior to the his arrest. He was hit with a plank, a club and the butt of a gun. A gun was put against his head, and then a shot was fired passing his head. Electrical wires were put around him and he was given electric shocks. He became very weak, often losing consciousness. The interrogator threatened that he would be taken away, shot and buried. He was taken out, blindfolded, driven in a vehicle and deposited in a park in Dagestan.
Judicial proceedings: Never formally charged, never brought before a judge.
Date of release: 15 July 2005. He was released without an apology or compensation. To date, he has not filed a complaint.
* Information contained is from an interview with the interviewee and
other credible sources.
** Initials used at the request of the interviewee.

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