The case of possible torture by representatives of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization (banned in Russia. – Ed.) In Surgut does not remain without attention. Recently, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, Tatyana Moskalkova, visited Yugra, where she met with representatives of law enforcement and supervisory authorities of the region. Before this meeting, the head of the department for the protection of human rights in criminal proceedings, Lyubov Philip, met in Surgut with representatives of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization banned in Russia, who talk about torture. On the other hand, the Investigation Department of the Ugra Investigative Department has already twice refused to initiate proceedings on the possible use of violence. Now this failure is checked in the central office of the TFR. How the inspection of the actions of the Investigation Department, the work carried out by the Commissioners for Human Rights and human rights organizations, as well as the actions of the European representatives of the organization, is presented in the FederalPress article.
How it all began
On February 7 and 15 of this year, mass searches in the homes of followers of Jehovah's Witnesses were conducted in Uray and Surgut. As a result of the arrests in Surgut, three remained in jail (on March 7 he was released Arthur Severinchik, and on April 11 – Sergey Loginov and Evgeny Fedin). As members of the organization themselves stated, between interrogations in the TFR, torture could be used against detainees, including stun guns.
The Investigation Committee on the facts of detentions and searches reported that they had initiated criminal cases on the activities of an extremist organization, as well as on the inclination, recruitment and other involvement of persons in its work.
The press service of the investigation department of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug-Ugra FederalPress said that at the moment criminal cases are under consideration, so they cannot provide any information about how they are being considered.
Have you been tortured? Human rights defenders vs investigators
After the representatives of Jehovah’s Witnesses began to allege possible torture, and, in their opinion, having experienced the use of violence during searches and arrests, they were examined by the Investigation Committee. Its results were published on the website of the district administration on March 27.
“During the audit, it was established that due to active resistance before the search, several members of investigative actions were taken by law enforcement officers, within the framework of their authority, to use fighting techniques, which contributed to minor hematomas and abrasions on the legs,” official release of the Investigative Committee.
Information that members of a religious organization could resist arrest was refuted by a member of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses. Yaroslav Sivulsky at a press conference at the end of March this year. In particular, Sivulsky said that information about the resistance provided by members of the organization during the arrest cannot be true, as resistance and perjury are contrary to the faith of representatives of Jehovah's Witnesses. Therefore, in his opinion, the explanation of the investigating authorities about the beatings caused by this reason is not true.
Further, the report of the Investigative Committee refuted the information about torture with a stun gun: “The bodily injuries in the form of burn wounds allegedly received from the stun gun action, according to the findings of forensic examinations, could not be received on the day of the investigative actions under the circumstances specified in the explanations, but were formed later. At the same time, among several applicants who reported using violence against them, the forensic medical examination did not reveal any injuries at all. ”
At the end of March this year at a press conference on the possible use of torture Lev Ponomarev spoke about the history of the persecution of members of the organization since the days of the USSR, and also referred to the statement of the President of Russia Vladimir Putinmade at a meeting of the Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights in December last year, where Vladimir Putin said he did not understand the reasons for the organization’s ban.
“However, this does not mean at all that we should enroll representatives of religious communities in some destructive ones, not even in terrorist organizations. Of course, this is complete nonsense, you need to carefully deal with it, here I agree with you, ”the president’s reply to the Institute of Social Sciences under the President of the Russian Federation is quoted as saying Ekaterina Shulman on the site kremlin.ru.
Siloviki, according to Ponomarev, began to behave exactly the opposite. It all started with the detention and conviction of the Dane Dennis Christensenand then searches and detentions took place in many regions of Russia. The reason why this was allowed in Surgut was difficult to name Ponomarev.
Lev Ponomarev also reported that an independent medical research was conducted by the Chelyabinsk Scientific Research Institute “STELS”, in which the beatings and torture with a stun-gun were confirmed, the human rights activist said at a press conference in Rosbalt on March 28, 2019.
"Society gets used to torture“- commented on the lack of public response, the head of a public organization.
The preliminary investigation, according to some data, was carried out by the same group of investigators, which, presumably, could be involved in the possible torture of detainees, which Ponomarev considers wrong.
"They (SRI "STELS". – Approx. Ed.) Did a very important thing, were not afraid to make the examination and conclude that there was a stun gun"- told" FederalPress "human rights activist.
Employment of human rights ombudsmen
According to the data published on the Jehovah's Witnesses page, currently 36 representatives of the organization are in the SIZO, 76 have already been released from there, 75 are under house arrest, 25 are under house arrest. 214 people are suspected or accused of criminal cases.
Recently Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation Tatyana Moskalkova in her report to the president for 2018, she noted that more than 100 adherents of a religious organization were brought to justice.
From the appeals sent to the Ombudsman, the cessation of activities of the branches of Jehovah's Witnesses restricts their rights to religious freedom.
"Events occurring with followers of Jehovah's Witnesses make one think about the existence of a conflict between the constitutional right to manifest one’s religion individually or jointly with others and signs of extremist activity mentioned in article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation“- says the report Moskalkova.
The Russian ombudsman believes that inaccurate criteria for determining which religious materials are extremist are unacceptable. To solve the issue, Moskalkova believes, it is required to introduce legislative, rather than evaluative criteria, according to which materials or beliefs can be recognized as extremist.
On June 13, during a working visit to Khanty-Mansiysk, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation Tatyana Moskalkova met with representatives of law-enforcement and oversight bodies of Ugra. At this meeting, including, discussed appeals received by the Ombudsman.
Human Rights Ombudsman in the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug-Ugra Natalya Strebkova told “FederalPress” that before Moskalkova arrived in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, representatives of the ombudsman’s office visited Surgut and met with citizens who addressed her and Moskalkova’s address on the facts of possible use of physical violence against them. Strebkova also did not confirm the report that Moskalkova is going to appeal to the Investigation Committee on this issue. However, she noted that in all cases related to the protection of rights in criminal proceedings, it is mandatory to take further measures and, if necessary, apply to either the prosecutor's office or the Investigation Committee. "Tatyana Nikolaevna definitely does not disregard such things.", – said Natalia Strebkova.
Tatyana Moskalkova did not receive a comment at the time of publication, the relevant request was sent to the office of the ombudsman.
Natalya Strebkova also said that now the second decree on refusing to initiate a criminal case on the possible use of torture is being checked by the Investigative Committee of Russia.
According to the regional ombudsman, the first refusal to initiate a case was issued on March 25. In relation to him, an appeal was filed to the prosecutor's office. According to her objection, the investigation department for the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug-Ugra began to re-check. However, as a result of this check, the Ugra investigators decided not to initiate a criminal case. This was announced on May 13. The materials, in accordance with accepted procedures, were sent for inspection to the central office of the TFR.
"The Investigation Committee is engaged in checking the validity of the decision taken by the Investigation Department for Ugra", Said the ombudsman in Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug-Ugra.
European Court of Human Rights
A representative of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, Yaroslav Sivulsky, told FederalPress how a case of possible torture is being considered at the European Court of Human Rights.
According to him, after some media misinterpreted the message about the removal of urgent interim measures against a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization Sergei Loginov as the closure of the case, his consideration did not stop. Although so far, according to Sivulsky, he has no new data on the review process, “since the ECHR is a complex bureaucratic machine, and fast results were not expected from it". However, Sivulsky noted that the results of a medical study at the Chelyabinsk Scientific Research Institute STELS, in which the institute's experts confirmed the use of torture with a stun gun against believers, were also presented as evidence to the ECHR.
Head of the Center for the Study of Problems of Religion and Society of the Institute of Europe, RAS Roman Lunkin believes that the recognition of torture against Jehovah's Witnesses by law enforcement agencies can only be a political decision, as well as the release of journalist Ivan Golunov. "In the case of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the decision of their fate largely depends on the authorities, as well as on the consolidated opinion of human rights defenders and representatives of other religious associations of Russia.“- said the expert.
However, the problem is that so far such a joint reaction to the torment of believers in Russian society is impossible, Lunkin notes. For the authorities, everything is already clear – formally, the Jehovists are recognized as an extremist organization. For Christians or Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses are rather suspicious and isolated "sectarians", although ordinary representatives of other religions in the regions are already beginning to show pity for them, the head of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society says.
With human rights activists, everything is also quite paradoxical: even the most liberal leaders are not yet seeking to protect the rights of “sectarians”, but are ready to criticize the ROC. "In this regard, I think that the recognition of torture will not follow. The state system, which decided to liquidate the Jehovistic organizations, but did not ban their ideology, fell into the trap“- explains Lunkin.
Human Rights Ombudsman Tatiana Moskalkova has already stated that it is necessary to somehow reconsider the definition of extremism, on the basis of which members of Jehovah's Witnesses were convicted, the expert noted. “However, there will probably be no changes here. The fact is that even after Putin’s remarks at a meeting of the Human Rights Council about why the Jehovah's Witnesses pacifists were included in the list of extremist organizations, no one has done anything so far, ”Lunkin concluded.
According to the expert, the most promising will be the consideration of the cases of Jehovah's Witnesses at the ECHR.
FEDERAL PRESS, July 3, 2019