Russia evades specific answers at UN committee on Torture meeting
13.11.12 16:36 By Aleksei Zaitsev, edited by Robert Gally
In Geneva late Monday evening, the UN Committee against Torture concluded its review of the 5th Russian report on compliance to UN conventions. At the first meeting on Friday, committee experts asked Russian representatives questions about the content of the report. The Russian representatives had to respond to dozens of awkward questions and comments made by the Committee against torture. In particular, the Committee was interested in the absence of any mention of "torture" in the Russian Criminal Code. The UN committee also highlighted that complaints of torture were much more numerous than actual criminal cases covering violations detainee rights. At the end, the UN expressed concern about the unclear oversight mechanisms for violations by the state itself.
Russia's response was full of statistics. For three hours on Monday, the committee was showered with figures. But UN Committee was particularly interested in the issue of the Russian standards for prison cells. Committee members held up the figure of 1.6 square meters per prisoner, which, according to the Russian report, was allotted for each prisoner in a cell in 1999.
However, the Russian representatives reassured the Committee against torture that, according to Russia's new standards, the minimum area for a prisoner is now 4 square meters.
Yet no one said that Russia currently has or is using cells of 4 square meters per prisoner.
The Committee asked a considerable number of the questions applying to specific cases, for example, the mysterious disappearance of Leonid Razvozzhaev in Kiev, followed by his appearance in the office of Moscow investigators. Or the detention of blinding of "Bolotnaya prisoners " by Vladimir Akimenkova
According to the head of the research program "Public Verdict," Asmik Novikova, Russia's answer to the UN Committee questions were meaningful, but not always specific: "It is clear that the members of our delegation appealed to colleagues in Moscow to update statistics and official data concerning the situation in closed institutions, the Ministry of Interior, and in other detention centers. Looking from this point of view, Russia tried to give sufficiently complete and detailed answers, which are based on official statistics and official documents, regulations, and measures. " Novikov said in a conversation with Gazeta.ru. Novikov also praised the Russian delegation's desire to answer questions about specific cases that interested UN experts: "This case Razvozzhaev, Drozdov, Nazarov, and Kalyapin ... They did not ignore these specific questions." But at the same time, when asked "very directly" about specific cases, Russia "did not give concrete answers," says Novikova.
"By including the statistics and official measures showing the amount of work that has been done. [The delegation] was lacking in specifics," Novikova said.
Based on the Russian answers and upon further analysis of information from Russia, and using data from alternative sources on the human rights situation in Russia, the committee will formulate recommendations, which will be sent to the Russian Federation. In accordance with the procedures, Russia will have a year to report on how it is implementing these recommendations.
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