OVD-Info, the Russian voice of the voiceless
Weekly Bulletin No. 298: Degrading treatment on remand
OVD-Info is a Moscow-based NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests and prosecutions in Russia. Each week OVD-Info publishes a bulletin with the latest news but also a daily update about the repression (https://ovdinfo.org).
The homes of Memorial employees have been searched in connection with an investigation into the ‘rehabilitation of Nazism.’
On 21 March law enforcement officers visited nine apartments, as well as the organisation’s Moscow office on Maly Karetny Pereulok. According to the investigators, Memorial, ‘disregarding historical truth,’ had published the names of three men on its ‘List of Victims of Soviet Political Terror’ who may have participated in Nazi crimes on the territory of the Soviet Union. On these grounds, a criminal investigation has been opened against ‘unidentified employees,’ as part of which the searches were conducted. It later became known that criminal charges had been filed against Oleg Orlov, chair of Memorial’s board of directors, for repeatedly discrediting the army.
- Why is this important?The Russian state has been trying to eliminate Memorial for a long time. In 2014, the Memorial Human Rights Centre was recognized as a ‘foreign agent,’ and in 2016 the International Memorial Society was added to the registry. In December 2021, the courts ordered the liquidation of both organizations. International Memorial had existed since 1989; its staff had conducted research into political repression in the Soviet Union, and the Human Rights Centre had been working to support political prisoners and providing legal assistance to refugees and migrants. But the security forces did not think it is enough to liquidate the organizations – they continue to prosecute those who are in any way associated with them.
Convicted Crimean activist Irina Danilovich has gone on a dry hunger strike to protest against a lack of medical care.
Danilovich suffers from otitis and has almost lost her hearing. On 21 March it became known that her health had deteriorated. The disease began to develop after the activist was kept in the basement of the FSB building for more than a week, and then placed in a remand centre without heating. Danilovich was detained in April 2022 and charged with unlawful acts with explosives or explosive devices. The defendant and her defence lawyer argued that the explosives had been planted on her.
- Why do I need to know this?A hunger strike is one of the few means of protest available to prisoners, and sometimes it proves effective, especially when what is at issue are that conditions in a detention centre or penal colony are involved. In March 2021, Aleksei Navalny went on a hunger strike to protest the lack of medical treatment for back pain and leg problems. He ended his hunger strike after he was transferred to a prison hospital and doctors were allowed to see him. Sergei Komandirov, charged with justification of terrorism, went on hunger strike in June 2022 for the same reason – he was suffering from back pain because of two spinal hernias and had not received treatment for seven months. After ten days Komandirov managed to get his complaints reviewed by the head of the remand prison, after which he stopped his hunger strike.
Staff of a remand prison humiliated a person charged with attempted arson of a military enlistment office.
Solidarity Zone, a human rights project, described how the administration of the Novosibirsk detention centre has put pressure on Ilya Baburin. According to the human rights activists, in January the young man was placed in a ‘psychiatric isolation cell’ without any evidence that this was necessary, undressing him completely and not allowing him to go to the bathroom. In protest, he smashed the video camera, after which he was transferred to ‘another room of unknown purpose’ where Baburin remained for two days, still without clothes. A week later Baburin was placed in a punishment cell for 18 days, although the maximum term of punishment is 15 days. Currently, Baburin is in a punishment cell where he has been sent for 14 days, this time because he allegedly did not hold his hands behind his back when moving inside the remand prison.
- Why does it matter?Pressure put on a detainee in a remand prison is not always torture, beatings, or threats. Sometimes law enforcement officers find more sophisticated ways to break a person. In that way, they protect themselves, since nobody is likely to punish them for putting the detainee in a punishment or isolation cell, while they may be prosecuted for real violence. At the same time, such pressure can cause serious harm, such as mental health problems.
The request by the adopted son of a defendant in an ‘anti-war’ prosecution to attend her trial has been denied.
Moreover, the teenager Vladimir Alalykin has not been in touch with anyone recently – it can be presumed that the staff of the orphanage in Buryatia where he is has taken away his mobile phone. His adoptive mother, Natalia Filonova, has been held on remand since November 2022, which is why the teenager was sent to the orphanage. Filonova has been charged with violence against the police. According to the investigators, after a demonstration against military mobilization she hit one policeman with her hand, poked another in the face with a pen, and also broke the finger of another law enforcement officer.
- Why do I need to know this?The children of those who are held on remand can be taken away by children’s welfare authorities if there is no second parent or the second parent is unable to look after the child. At the same time, if the case is political, the child can be put under pressure. In this way, many fathers and mothers are deprived of the opportunity to protest – because in Russia, even peaceful protests are prosecuted, many are afraid to go into the streets, knowing they could end up behind bars and their children in bad conditions. This is what happened to Masha, the daughter of Aleksei Moskalev, charged in an ‘anti-war case’ – she has not been allowed to leave the rehabilitation centre to visit her father, who is under house arrest.
‘Z is for Russia’ with a sledgehammer.
On 17 March, law enforcement officers visited the Moscow bars Underdog and La Virgen with sledgehammers, stun guns, and police dogs. Their aim was to conduct an inspection concerning possible ‘sponsorship of the Ukrainian armed forces.’ At least 40 members of the public and restaurant staff were detained. Two days later, law enforcement officers cut short the presentation of political prisoner Sasha Skochilenko’s book at Open Space. We have written about how the bars and the cultural centre found themselves in the focus of police attention. You can read the story on our website, on Yandex.Zen and on Medium.
The European Court of Human Rights has awarded compensation to 41 defendants represented by Memorial Human Rights Centre and OVD-Info!
Each applicant was awarded 4,000 euros. The applications concerned detention of the applicants during the Moscow protests of the summer of 2019.
Photo credits: SOTA