At dawn on 8 September 2007, 37-year-old Mourad Bogatyrev, a married man with three young daughters, was arrested in his home in a small villlage in Ingushetia by masked policemen. Several hours later, his naked body was removed from the district police station in front of his family, who had rushed there to find out what was happening. His wife was informed that he had just suffered a heart attack. The multiple injuries and fractures found on his body left no doubt as to the kind of treatment to which he had been subjected.
For several years now, measures have been taken in Russia to eliminate recourse to torture and abuse, and the new Criminal Code contains provisions aimed at protecting people in detention from being abused by law enforcement officials. For example, illegally obtained evidence is no longer admissible in judicial proceedings and there has been a slight increase in the number of visitors’ passes issued to mediators and associations in places of detention.
However, while acknowledging these positive steps forward, the United Nations Committee against Torture, which examined Russia’s record in November 2006, stated its profound concern regarding the frequency of acts of torture and abuse in detention and on remand, and the State’s failure to provide an adequate response to these violations.
According to many victims’ testimonies, the policemen in charge of the investigations have an array of materials at police stations which can be used as instruments of torture : rope, electric cables, batons, handcuffs, sacks, blankets and gas masks. The mediator for the Russian Federation, Vladimir Loukine, notes in his report that "Most of the victims of police violence are under the influence of alcohol, young people and adolescents and people of ’non-slavic appearance’". As regards detention on remand, reports indicate that torture is usually inflicted when the victims are at their most vulnerable : at night, during the period of quarantine before a cell is allocated, in transit, or upon arrival at a new place of detention.
Russian society has a high crime rate which is still rising - a real challenge for a police force which is not equipped to deal with it and operates within a climate of widespread corruption. Moreover, promotions are linked to the number of cases resolved, rather than better prevention or the reduction of criminality. This explains the refusal to register complaints and the practice of torture to obtain "confessions", which serve to swiftly wrap up a case. The Russian authorities themselves recognise these problems, but the use of torture is so deeply entrenched in the practices of the Russian police that radical change is required.
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture underlines the importance of three fundamental guarantees against the abuse of people in detention : their right to inform a relative or friend as soon as they are arrested, their right of access to a lawyer and their right to a medical examination by the doctor of their choice - rights which, in Russia, are often denied.