Maxim Shugaley, Russian human rights activist, sociologist, president of the Foundation for National Values Protection (FNVP), 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 “Violations of the rights of prisoners and prisoners in African countries.”
Violations of the rights of prisoners and prisoners in African countries
Thank you very much that I have the opportunity to participate in this conference. The topic of my report is torture in African countries. Here, of course, I must say the following: the countries of Africa are countries in themselves, mostly with a low standard of living, and living in these countries is sometimes worse than torture itself. If we did not come as tourists, but are there living in natural conditions. And, of course, when a person is captured or imprisoned, he faces terrible problems primarily due to the fact that these countries do not have the financial capacity to ensure respect for his rights. I know many countries in Africa that don’t even provide feeding for prisoners. This is a problem of the relatives of those people who are being held there. Accordingly, if a person has no relatives or those do not have the opportunity: they are far away or there is simply no way to help him, he becomes completely dependent on those people who surround him: they will give him their food or not, and so on. Unfortunately, I had to delve into the nightmare that is happening there on my experience of imprisonment in Libya. Moreover, this is not the poorest country, which, in principle, can more or less ensure the rights of people, let’s say, at least at some approximate level. Human rights are completely absent there. You can be kept in solitary isolation cells for as long as you like, people have been in a cell for three years, one and a half meters by one and a half meters, and the door does not open to go out for a walk, it is simply littered. Food is received through a narrow slit.
After three years, a person comes out completely with a reformed psyche. You can talk for a long time about how rights are violated in many African countries, and what I saw while in prison. Here it is necessary to raise the question of how to deal with this and what to do. I think that the main points, of course, were made by those speakers who spoke to me. Of course, there should be public control, and everyone talked about public control in every country, and in the case of Africa, I think that the same with America and Russia, there should be international control. If we cannot create some kind of unified international law, but let’s start at least with the rights of prisoners. There should be some red flags, for which it is definitely impossible to cross. Financial mechanisms should be created so that it would be beneficial for countries to sign this agreement. There should be international control. Many do not even know about the prisons that exist in Africa. Some private prisons are being created, which do not even look like a prison, but like some kind of enterprise. What kind of people are there, what they are responsible for – no one knows.
First of all, the problem of legalizing prisons is relevant for Africa. A clear list of these prisons should be created. I believe that now, in the age of technology, if we can even conduct remote voting in Russia, where there are cameras at every polling station, nothing is impossible in providing all prisons in any part of the world with video surveillance. This video surveillance should not be confined to the prison itself, it should be broadcast on the network and have some kind of international center. People should see what is happening, human rights organizations must have access. Those people who are engaged in human rights activities should be able to observe how life is going on in prisons around the world. There should be some kind of international regulation, and those countries that, unfortunately, may want to, but they simply cannot economically comply with this regulation, should not be ignored. Because if we try to create conditions for prisoners that are being created in Finland or Norway, somewhere in Madagascar or somewhere else, they will just all go to prison, you know. I repeat once again that there must be some red lines that you cannot go beyond. And when we talk about humanitarian aid for countries, we must understand that many organizations provide humanitarian aid to African countries, but for some reason they do not think that there is a population there that certainly suffers the most – these are prisoners.
This is all compounded by a rather high level of crime, because the population is poor and they go to this crime, they need to somehow survive, feed their families. Crimes are being committed, the level of investigation is very low, it is primitive. There are not enough specialists, and of course, it is easiest to knock out these readings in some way. We understand that a whole huge region of our planet is in a completely equal position and something needs to be done about it.
We also see a lot of problems in developed countries. They consist in creating a mechanism that will be common to all countries. For me, let’s say the word torture itself is blurred, because for Africa many of the things we are talking about, they are not torture. This is the norm, and let’s say in developed European countries it is considered a violation of rights. Therefore, first of all, we need to make a clear classification, to understand what we want to fight against.
QUESTIONS FROM MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES:
Vladimir, “Slovo i Delo”: Maxim Anatolyevich, you say that in Africa many things that seem wrong to us are quite acceptable. And if we take the question as a whole, do residents of African countries have any other attitude to the possibility of torture? Not like we have in Russia. Won’t such international initiatives be perceived as imposed?
Maxim Shugaley: But I don’t quite understand the question. Who will be against it? People, ordinary citizens?
Vladimir, “Slovo i Delo”: Yes. The situation in Africa is complicated. Many wars. I would quite admit that in relation to some people, torture can be perceived as a restoration of social justice. What the previous speaker talked about.
Maxim Shugaley: I can say that among ordinary citizens in African countries, everyone understands that this is terrible and no one will approve. Yes, of course, there are people who deserve this punishment. We must understand that prison is isolation, deprivation. They are now coming up with some alternative things. But it is impossible, for example, to try to fine a person in Africa. He just doesn’t have the money. It will also not work to attract him to work, because normal people do not have a job and they have nothing to do. There remains only a prison sentence. We cannot build prisons there like in Europe, because they do not have the capacity to do so. People sometimes live in the open air for years, both in winter and in summer. It is impossible to give prisoners normal medical care, because there is no such thing in the country in principle. But once again, it cannot be left without international control. If the country that created these prisons controls it, then nothing will change, it will be the norm for them. If we create a system of international control, then gradually, of course, the situation will change. Please do not forget that there are many citizens from other countries with a high standard of living in these countries. They are in the same conditions that are simply unacceptable for them because they did not grow up there. And here, too, there must be some kind of issuance mechanisms. Because if we are talking about the problems of the United States, let’s say in Russia now I often encounter this. It is clear that there is a certain political component here. It was in my case too, and the ears of the USA were also growing. But many people who are being held in Africa have a purely economic situation there. I would be happy to give them to the territory of the country from which they came. To think over such mechanisms, agreements, so that a citizen who has violated their legislation, so that he can serve this sentence in his country, in conditions that are more or less acceptable to him.
Dina Karpitskaya, “Komsomolskaya Pravda”: You were talking about red flags. In the conditions that you have just described, what flags would you put?
Maxim Shugaley: Well, first of all, a person should communicate with his family. Prisoners are not allowed to call for two years, they do not know what is happening to his relatives, what day it is. At least once every six months, he has the right to this call, to communicate. You can’t break a man’s arms and legs, you can’t kill him, you know. The country that maintains these prisons never punishes a citizen of another country. As Mira correctly said, if you find yourself in such a situation, you should urgently contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, involve your own persons. This duty should fall on the institution where the arrested person is being held. That is, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, having found this person who has been staying for a year, has the right to present, for example, on the other side, the question: why is a person being held for a year if he is a citizen of our country, and you did not give him the opportunity, for example, to contact relatives and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is your duty, you have to do it. These are some mechanisms that are certainly needed. If each country creates its own mechanisms of public control, its mentality is different everywhere, its economic condition, we will still rejoice at how a person sits in Finland or how a person sits in Libya or Madagascar. There should be systems of international control, I am sure of this, and at least some red flags should be worked out, as it is fashionable to say now, for which it is impossible to go.