Ivan Melnikov’s speech at the International Conference of the Foundation to Battle Injustice with a report on «International legal problems in the systematization of various forms of torture and bringing guilty to justice»

Ivan Melnikov, human rights defender, Vice-President of the Russian division of the International Committee for the Protection of Human Rights, took part in the International Conference of the Foundation to Battle Injustice and the Patriot media Group “The Problem of Tortures and Its Undermining of the Criminal Justice Systems of the Modern Countries of the World. Searching for Solutions“, making a report on “International legal problems in the systematization of various forms of torture and bringing guilty to justice.”

Ivan Melnikov

Hello again, colleagues, who stayed with us at such a late time on this very important topic in my opinion. I would like to devote my report to systemic problems and ways to resolve them. Well, to focus a number of those stories today on specific cases that I happened to encounter. In particular, a colleague talked about stories related to prisons in Latin America. For example, in Asian countries, in fact, we also have a very catastrophic situation. Maxim talked about Africa today, about the terrible conditions. I would like to focus on the Asian countries and the problems that exist. For example, the case of our Russian scientists Alexander Ignatenko, Nikolai Kilafyan and Artem Ryabov, who have been in Sri Lanka for almost two years. They spent a long time in custody, they spent several months in jail in terrible conditions.

Sketch from prison

This is a sketch, something that one of our guys drew. That is what a prison looks like. To understand, there are about a hundred people in a small cell. There is one such litter for two people, it’s not even a mattress. And, accordingly, the food is of terrible quality. Our citizens have acquired a large number of chronic diseases and health problems after this case. At the same time, they continue to be held in jail. They managed to get out. We wrote to everyone, we wrote to the presidents, the Russian Foreign Ministry was actively involved, and at the level of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who personally took control of this case. There were negotiations at the highest level, it was possible to change the measure of restraint. But many foreigners, including citizens, are in this prison for many months. At the same time, they are there without any charges, real evidence of their guilt. They have been there for many years. So that you understand, our guys have been there for actually 2 years. Only two of the 13 prosecution witnesses were questioned. They were told: guys, please, you have to admit guilt, otherwise you will be sitting on the island without medical care. In Sri Lanka, they cannot receive the necessary medical care. At the same time, they cannot earn money, they do not have the right to do so. They are under house arrest, in fact. Please sit down, but we will interrogate you until about 6 years old. And here is the question: the problem that exists, a systemic problem in most countries, is a question of justice. Torture often exists because it is very difficult to prove it. Because the courts often have a bias towards the investigation.

We don’t believe these criminals, as many judges believe, and you and I get what we get. Although a person who is in jail, he is not at all according to the norms of any law of any state, is not yet officially guilty. Catastrophic pressure is happening in the US. I would draw attention to the fact that there are cases just related to the protection of the rights of our citizens. A very important case of our citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko, in respect of whom my colleagues and I have prepared appropriate appeals after our previous conference. And today, a resolution is being prepared, where we ask and call on the US authorities to investigate torture against Konstantin Yaroshenko, signed by a number of human rights defenders. I hope that following the results of today’s conference we will receive additional signatures, including I will draw attention to the fact that Konstantin Yaroshenko was abducted in one of the African countries, really abducted. That is, there was no decision on his extradition, he was simply captured, he was tortured. An independent investigation was conducted by American detectives, they came there and received evidence of the testimony of a number of mercenaries who reported that by order of the DEA, the so-called, this is an American law enforcement agency engaged in the fight against drugs. They tortured Konstantin Yaroshenko. These evidences were submitted to the court, but the judge did not accept the application a few months ago, refused to review the case. I think this is unacceptable, because, of course, if there are such obvious violations, then there must be a review of the case.

I hope that the US authorities, including, will pay attention to why we are starting to review cases against a number of African Americans, but for some reason not with regard to Russians in the presence of circumstances. Maybe this is also a form of discrimination? I support, I believe that it doesn’t matter what nation a person is. Everyone should have an equal right to the appropriate correction of justice, and then we will be able to overcome torture. Then those law enforcement officers will be brought to the necessary responsibility. Of course, I would like to draw special attention to, among other things, a number of violations of the rights of our citizens in the United States. In particular, Mira went through this, Oleg Nikitin, who recently returned from the United States, and a number of other our citizens who, after serving their sentences officially, no matter what the charges, mostly they are almost always far-fetched. But at the same time, I will pay attention, that is, you imagine that your term is over, but at the same time you are put in a deportation prison for a long period of time. Mira spent almost 4 months in a deportation prison, Oleg Nikitin more than two and a half months after serving her sentence. You are not provided with the necessary medical care, you are sitting just like a prisoner, but it is not clear why you are sitting. And American taxpayers are paying for it, and a lot of money. And you and I have a violation of the rights of citizens and bullying at the expense of American taxpayers. I think that they would not always be happy in this context.

I think yes, we discussed this issue in one of the interviews and talked about the same with American citizens, with the families of the victims. They said that if American citizens knew what was going on and how much money was being spent on all this, they would certainly try to prevent it in some way.

At the same time, according to some sources, this is several hundred dollars for each prisoner allocated for all together. That is, several hundred dollars are allocated from the state budget for the maintenance of one prisoner in a deportation prison. At the same time, only a few dollars out of these many hundreds goes to feed the same prisoners. Therefore, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that, of course, such a question may still be related to corruption. A separate topic is torture and the fight against torture in Russia today, in my opinion. After all, I have a very extensive experience of visiting, many hundreds of visits, maybe 500 in total. I visited various places of detention, not only pre-trial detention centers and prisons, but also police departments, including. I have an understanding of what is happening here and how to deal with it. Of course, this is a systemic, serious problem. I believe that we, as participants of the conference, should welcome today’s adoption of this law, it is a very important law. It is very important that torture is now classified as a particularly serious crime. Because there used to be a statute of limitations on crimes. We see with you that often these crimes come out only after many years, we receive certain videos, some questions, problems. In Russia today, this situation may change. The fact that United Russia announced this today, I think, given the majority in parliament, we can say in principle that this law has already been adopted today, despite the fact that it has not yet been officially signed. I think it is unlikely that anyone will oppose the adoption of this law, this is very good. A very large and important work of independent human rights defenders in this direction was carried out in order for the topic to be noticed, so that this law would come.

And I hope that additional amendments and improvements will take place at the site of the State Duma, including with the participation of independent human rights defenders. Independent public control will be strengthened. This is not only a topic of Russia, it is a topic of the whole world. We have realized that only independent public control, the attention of journalists, the attention of law enforcement agencies, independent supervisory agencies are the pillars on which the fight against torture can really be maintained today, this is very important. Of course, I really hope that this situation is the same in the USA, and I wish my colleagues this in every possible way in land and in Latin America. There will be a system of independent control everywhere, and, indeed, at the previous conference we also pointed out the need to create an independent public institution, an institution of independent public control. Maxim expanded it all in more detail today. I think that following the results of today’s conference, we should adopt an appropriate statement, I think that it is unlikely that anyone will have objections, everyone has talked about this today.

An international group should be established, possibly at the United Nations site. To understand that today the world community is not coping with the problem of torture and it must be fought. Naturally, international legal institutions should be included in the process. It looks especially scary in a number of countries. What Maxim, Artemiy, and Mira talked about, for example, today. In general, people who have experienced all this, who know firsthand about the problems that exist. They understand how these problems should really be resolved. And, mind you, there are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of such people. Those whose rights are being violated in prisons today. Hundreds of thousands of people go through this every day in a number of countries, and if you sum it all up, I think it’s millions, millions and millions of people. Of course, it is important for Russia to take appropriate measures to combat torture. For our part, we are open to cooperation with our colleagues in every possible way, and I hope that the relevant relevant executive authorities will also take this into account. They will not arrange an inter-party, as we often, unfortunately, happens when everyone somehow agrees with each other. We listened, we’ll call someone loyal. This is a big problem, which, as we see, has been veiled for many years by these problems related to the development of the penitentiary system in the Russian Federation and the protection of citizens’ rights. We will be able to achieve many things.

Today we are in the city of St. Petersburg, and I would like to draw attention to the fact that a few years ago I drew the attention of the Presidential Commissioner for the Protection of the Rights of Entrepreneurs in the Russian Federation to this story. The dead businessman and engineer Valery Pshenichny was found in one of the St. Petersburg pre-trial detention centers with traces of torture. This case has not yet been fully investigated. I really hope that an investigation will be carried out. In my opinion, this is a very important signal for countering torture, including. Because I’m sorry, a person has traces of a boiler in his mouth, some other things. Initially, they tried to present it as suicide. Probably, hardly anyone will believe that it was suicide. I see the desire of the investigative committee, dozens of criminal cases of torture against Russian citizens have already been initiated. I hope that this case will also be taken over by the chairman of the investigative committee and the central office of the IC, as indeed people who understand this topic. All tortures will be investigated and all perpetrators will be punished. Russia, for its part, is making a lot of efforts in this direction and there is already a certain result, as we heard today from Andrei Vladimirovich Babushkin, who visits hundreds of colonies throughout Russia and he knows what he is talking about. Thank you so much for the performance.


Artemy Semenovsky: Here’s my first question. This problem is typical primarily for prisons in Southeast Asia and Latin America. Everyone knows that there are periodic riots with mass slaughter. It’s just that in Ecuador, about a month ago, 100 people at a time. I was in prison from which I miraculously got out before 62 people were beheaded. This is the second largest massacre after Carandiru in Brazil. Where do these victims belong? Where will the statistics take them? What human rights organizations will say is not torture, it is not murder.

Ivan Melnikov: This is murder.

Artemy Semenovsky: I believe that the penitentiary institution is responsible for them.

Ivan Melnikov: Of course, I also think that this state should be responsible for such things. When they inaction create a hotbed of criminality in certain countries. Let’s be honest. 

Artemy Semenovsky: Who is responsible for these riots?

Ivan Melnikov: Often, as you understand, it is not properly organized. Let’s be honest, it’s not really riots, it’s often a showdown. What you’re talking about is a showdown. A riot is another thing, a riot is when they struggle with the lawlessness of one administration or another, often. This is not a prison riot, it’s just a showdown between criminals with one another. Because the state did not monitor properly. Indeed, stabbings, murders, mass failure to provide medical care. I will draw the attention of all our viewers and colleagues today to the fact that this is a huge, serious problem. Every day, every hour, hundreds of people die in prisons because they are killed, they do not need medical care.

Artemy Semenovsky: Let’s not forget, thanks to whom they receive weapons and means of communication for coordination. Who brings them phones, who gives them weapons? According to Brazil, all this is done by the police themselves.

Ivan Melnikov: I will pay attention, not only this in Brazil. In Russia, we have an absolute majority of prohibited items — this is corruption among the Federal Penitentiary Service, in any country this is the case. You see, nothing like this will happen without the permission of the administration. I am now giving an example from personal experience. In Russia now we have more and more FSIN officers arrested for illegal actions of this nature. But in many countries this does not happen. “Let the prisoners take care of themselves. We just get paid for bringing them drugs, phones and some other things.” This is especially developed in Latin American countries. The largest, most populous prison in the world is in Mexico, as far as I remember. So that you understand, they say that every day 10-20 people can be killed there in one prison alone. Prisoners look after themselves in fact, for the most part. The things that Maxim experienced in this context, again, I will pay attention to. There’s a whole separate story there. In African countries, of course, these are terrible things. There are bullying and overseers, some moments, of course, are not told. I just remember when my colleagues and I went to a rally, a single picket in support of Maxim, there was a man who had already been released, who, just like Maxim, was kept in prison. When he was there, the staff of the administration of the institution just came in and picked out the eye of the cellmate with a spoon. This is just one of the moments so that you understand roughly what kind of legal state we live in. At the same time, the United States, by the way, at that time controlling Libya, did nothing to fix some kind of situation in prisons. Let the criminals figure it out for themselves. Everyone grabbed who they wanted, roughly speaking. Whoever got the power, he grabbed him and threw him into prison, tortured, bullied. 

Maxim Shugaley: I can say that in fact, oddly enough, this prison of Mitiga is a former military base. Before that it was just a base, then they left there and the militants occupied this base, they made a prison there. By the way, there were 4,500 people there, everyone knew the date when they were taken and for what, but no one could answer the date when he would be released. Someone clever said: a man is immortal because he does not know the date of his death. Even when you are ill with something or, let’s say, you have been sentenced to it, you still hope that it will happen tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, no one knows the exact date. People do not know when they will get out, even if they have been given two years, and they have already been here for 6 years. And for asking why I’m here, you can get a bullet in the back of the head. That’s why no one asks. Therefore, it turns out that this is for life. This is also a kind of torture, of course, the lack of information, the absence of any investigation, and so on.

Ivan Melnikov: So is the state, what Artemy is talking about, the state does not bear any responsibility at the same time.

Maxim Shugaley: There is no state there.

Ivan Melnikov: I’m talking about something else. Here, it turns out, in fact, some kind of disassembly inside the chamber, some bandits, some seized someone, imprisoned, tortured, kept him without charges. We have a citizen of the Russian Federation, Ekaterina, who has been held in Mitiga prison for more than 10 years without official charges, so that you understand. A citizen of the Russian Federation, a woman who has been sitting in a pre-trial detention center in Mitiga for more than 10 years without official charges, on some suspicion of alleged murder, it is not known what really happened there. This is another matter that should be investigated. She is sitting without an official charge. That is, that’s how it is. These things happen. Right here, too, I have a feeling that bandits are really working.

Artemy Semenovsky: State terrorism. Do not forget that there is a declaration of the 87th year. By the way, who invented it, who wrote the text? This is Libya, no matter how ironic it sounds. It clearly defines the term arbitrary mass arrest, and so on, and the role of the media in this case, how they should cover. The 1987 Geneva Declaration on State Terrorism. I urge everyone to be guided and use the term State terrorism more often.