24.06.2019

Speech by Sergey Smirnov, editor-in-chief of «MediaZona», on torture in modern Russia

Transcript of the speech of Sergey Smirnov at the Award ceremony of Boris Nemtsov Prize for Courage 2019. Despite the resonance around the case of Sergey Nazarov, who died in 2012 after being beaten and raped with a bottle in the Kazan police department «‎Dalny»‎, torture continues until today. Sergey quotes the persons involved in the «Network case»‎, where they talk in detail about the methods used by «‎siloviki»‎ (security officials) to knock out guilty pleas. And also cites the evidence of people who were not even suspects, but were subjected to violence.

Hello everyone. I am the Editor-in-Chief of a publication that tells about courts, human rights violations, prison, and all the problems associated with that. Today I’m wearing the t-shirt I’m/WE are Ivan Golunov. Despite the fact that yesterday the case against Ivan was closed and discontinued, and he let was free, today my colleagues journalists, who went out to the streets in these T-shirts, were detained, taken to police stations and held for hours without explaining the reasons. Now this is a story not only of Ivan Golunov, but of the entire journalistic community, I think even the entire civil society of Russia.

Nowadays in our country we see an almost non-stop attack on the rights and freedoms of citizens. This became especially noticeable after the mass rallies in 2012. The authorities decided that it was necessary to speak with people in the street in the language of repression. We can talk about human rights violations in modern Russia a lot, this is a large space for individual studies, so I’ve chosen just one topic that excites many people today and which, unfortunately, has become highly relevant in our country. I would like to talk about the torture used by the security forces, both against dissidents and against ordinary citizens. Unfortunately, the use of torture to detainees is nothing new for our country; it occurred during Stalin’s time, it did later. After the death of Stalin, this fact repeatedly caused spontaneous mass protests. The situation did not improve after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2012, the death of Sergey Nazarov in the Kazan Police department “Dalniy” caused a wide resonance. He was raped with a bottle of champagne, and beaten, in order to confess of stealing a mobile phone. Two days later, Nazarov died of rupture of internal organs, but managed to tell about torture before his death. Despite the wide resonance of this case and the punishment of the direct perpetrators of the death of Sergei Nazarov, the practice of torture has not gone anywhere.

Today in Russia, two judicial processes are being held concurrently in the case of the so-called «Network»‎ association. Among the accused there are anarchists and anti-fascists. This case can be called truly torture.

I’d like to move to the present. Today in Russia, two judicial processes are being held concurrently in the case of the so-called “Network” association. Among the accused there are anarchists and anti-fascists. This case can be called truly torture. All the accused complained of being tortured. This group of anarchists, originally from Penza, is accused of organizing a terrorist community; this is a very serious article of the Criminal Code. Young people are incriminated of trying to seize power, which they planned to realize by the terrorist attacks. According to the investigation version by the FSB, it came up like several young anarchists and anti-fascists created the organization with a charter and tried to seize power. And one of the main things which the prosecution is based on – is confessions. There is nothing else in the case, except for the fact that young people from Penza gathered and played paintball. This case became public known not even after torture in Penza, but after the detention of the second group in St. Petersburg. Viktor Filinkov, a programmer and anti-fascist was arrested first. Two days later, already had being in prison and given a confession, he was the first of the group to talk about torture. Two days later, another young man – Ilya Kapustin – was arrested.

The situation did not improve after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2012, the death of Sergey Nazarov in the Kazan Police department «Dalniy»‎ caused a wide resonance. He was raped with a bottle of champagne, and beaten, in order to confess of stealing a mobile phone.

Here is his testimony: “In the evening, when I was on my way home and not far from it, about five people in black uniforms and masks attacked me from various sides. They pushed me to the ground and, kicking with their feet, dragged me into a minivan. I tried to call for help, but it did not help. They threw me on the floor kicking all the time, searched, and tightened the handcuffs very tough around my wrists, so that it left hard etches. The car drove off and they began to interrogate me. When I didn’t know the answer to their questions or, for example, didn’t understand what they were talking about, they shocked me from a stun gun to the groin area or on the side of my stomach. They were shocking me to make me say that any friend of mine was going to arrange something dangerous. There were questions about whether I was in one or another organization, where I went, if I had been to Penza, etc. From time to time they poked me with a stun gun. At one point, one of them said that they could throw me away somewhere in the forest and break my legs. I have already begun to wait for this moment, when everything will end, because they tortured me so long that it was absolutely unbearable”.

«At one point, one of them said that they could throw me away somewhere in the forest and break my legs. I have already begun to wait for this moment, when everything will end, because they tortured me so long that it was absolutely unbearable»‎

This is the story of a man who was set free four hours later from a minibus, and even the FSB officers themselves had no complaints about him, he was not even a suspect. Other people who are accused in the case of “Network”, tortured much more purposefully. The group in Penza was so intimidated that they even were afraid to talk about it for several months.

The fact that they were tortured became known only now during the trial. Viktor Filinkov, an anti-fascist from St. Petersburg, who first told in detail about the torture, recently spoke in court. He was asked to give a voice for an examination – a special phonoscopic expertise – which was made right in the courtroom. The FSB officer, who was recording Viktor, asked him to speak for 5-10 minutes, to say anything in order to have his voice for the examination. And this is what Filinkov, who told about the torture many times before, said: “When I was tortured, it was really unexpected. It was not at all like in the movies. I have never experienced anything like this in my life. I was shocked from the usual wall plug, but being beaten with a stun gun for a while is an absolutely different feeling. They were also kicking me hard but I didn’t even feel it because of the stun gun. Only kick the head made it all white in the eyes. When they twisted my arms, I felt nothing. If you drive with handcuffs behind your back, then in an hour the shoulder joints start to hurt, by the second hour it becomes unbearable.
I was tortured for about four hours, beaten in different places: in the leg, in the chest, in the wrists, in the neck. I was also threatened. Their threats were absolutely pointless – after 10 minutes of torture, I was completely broken. I was told that they would kill me, that they would put me together with the people with tuberculosis, with special forces, that a car with two FSB officers who would torture me would take me to Penza. I was asked questions, but I was ready to confess, so I signed everything. Violence is the basis of their work”. An important detail: before torturing, the young man was specially brought to the doctor in order to get a conclusion that everything was fine with him, he is healthy and his health allows him to undergo such violence.


The testimonies of arrestees in Penza are even worse. Dmitry Pchelintsev recently told at the trial: “This October 28, the first day of my stay in the SIZO. I was taken to a cell and locked there. Two minutes later, about six, maybe seven, officers of the FSB came in. Two of them were in the form used by the FSB, I also recognized people who had escorted me before, and people in ordinary clothes, the operatives themselves, were also there. I was told: “Undress and sit down on the bench!” – I sat down on the bench and after they started to put my legs on the bench with scotch, I understood, well, as if, the game is over. They took dynamo machine out of the bag, put it on the table. All staff was in balaclava and medical gloves. My hands were wind up behind my back, I was in my underpants, and they tied my legs to the bench with scotch. The agent cleared the wires with a stationery knife and tied them to my big toes, no one asked me questions, and they began to turn the dynamo right away. Actually, with my legs up to the knee, I felt a current, this sensation seemed to rip off my skin alive, and when the flow of current ceases, as if there was nothing at all. Then there is no pain when everything stops, but to endure it is unreal. I was shocked, maybe five times without questions, to suppress my will. Then they told: you seem not to understand, you are in the hands of the FSB, we will not play, you need to answer questions now; “no”, “I don’t know”, “I don’t remember” answers, these are incorrect answers. As a result, they threw me to the floor, began to drag my underpants in order to fasten the wires to the genitals. I said, “Okay, okay, I get it. What was the last question? ”, – they say: “Did you organized the terrorist network “ Network ”?” I say: “Well, yes, I did”, – “Well, all done, sit down”.

«They took dynamo machine out of the bag, put it on the table. All staff was in balaclava and medical gloves. My hands were wind up behind my back, I was in my underpants, and they tied my legs to the bench with scotch. The agent cleared the wires with a stationery knife and tied them to my big toes, no one asked me questions, and they began to turn the dynamo right away»

The investigators of the FSB were in the cell with the operatives, who read the materials from the laptop and Pchelintsev signed them after the torture. There are testimonies of torture in other cases which are led by the FSB. Ukrainians Yevgeny Panov and Andrei Zakhtey, arrested in the case of so-called sabotage in the Crimea, complained of them, for example. We should probably talk about the motivation of those who use torture, although this may seem like an attempt to justify inhuman acts. In Russia, people mostly tortured to get confessions, and even if a person refuses to give them a trial, this does not affect the verdict. The court refuses to pay attention to the circumstances of the testimony. In Russia, they are very reluctant to start cases against security officials who used torture. With a regard to the FSB officers, there is not a single known case where, after complaints of a torture it caused a wide resonance or initiate criminal proceedings. Any checks are showing that there was either no use of force or there was, but in strict accordance to the the law.

With a regard to the FSB officers, there is not a single known case where, after complaints of a torture it caused a wide resonance or initiate criminal proceedings. Any checks are showing that there was either no use of force or there was, but in strict accordance to the the law.

It would take a long time to talk about this monstrous, medieval practice in Russia, but until a video of the beating of one of the prisoners in the Yaroslavl colony by a dozen FSIN officers (prison guards) in the Yaroslavl colony appeared in Novaya Gazeta, no case had taken place. Despite all the complaints, prior to the appearance of the videotape, investigators refused to open a criminal case.

Sometimes tortures are leading to murders. In the Ingush Center for Countering Extremism under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, torture was put on stream. Dozens of people complained about the violence, and law enforcement agencies always denied initiation of criminal cases. I personally spoke to the woman who was tortured by the staff of the «E» Center. Her name is Marem Daliyeva. They put a package on her head, forcing her to confess to a bank robbery. A few months later the real criminals were caught. Marems Husband was tortured in the next room and, putting a plastic bag on his head, an employee of the «E» center simply did not calculate the time and effort, and Magomed Daliyev choked. The employees and the head of the «E» center were ultimately convicted, but this was not due to complaints of torture, only later they were added to the prosecution.

One of the latest high-profile evidences of abusing is the case in Surgut, where torture was applied to adherents of the religious organization Jehovah’s Witnesses. This organization is recognized as extremist in Russia, its members are prosecuted only for involvement in it, and any follower can face up to ten years in prison. The detained Jehovah’s Witnesses in Surgut, among which were middle-aged people, were beaten with stun guns right in the building of the investigative committee. Despite the traces of torture, there is still no criminal case against the security officials who carried them out. One of the publications close to the law enforcement agencies published a version that they beat themselves with stun guns after interrogation in order to attract attention.

Sometimes tortures are leading to murders. In the Ingush Center for Countering Extremism under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, torture was put on stream.

It can be a long time to talk about many other cases of torture, but I’ll probably stop. I think these are always very difficult details, but this is something that exists in Russia at the present time, this is a very big problem, almost nobody is responsible for the use of violence. I am sure no one today will be held accountable for the use of violence against demonstrators in the center of Moscow. I am absolutely convinced that the beatings of peaceful demonstrators will be recognized as legal. The only thing we can do is to talk about it, cover and demand freedom to everyone who was detained today: Alexei Navalny, who faces 30 days in jail, other activists, journalist Ilya Azar, Elizabeth Nesterova, Leonid Volkov, who comes up with one thing after another, so that he remains in prison.