Physical and psychological pressure is often used against those who have fallen victim to the Russian justice system.
This most frequently happens when individuals are detained, but can also occur during the investigation, and after the sentencing. The suspects, who are not located at the pre-trial detention center, can also become victims of abuse, primarily through psychological pressure. This includes those who are not subjects in a case, for example, many opposition activists.
In places that are built to deprive others of liberty, starting with police departments, a neglectful attitude towards people prevails. This results in the humiliation of suspects. Psychological pressure on defendants and those who have been convicted involves, for example, confiscating personal belongings without any reason, or confiscating the letters which the prisoner receives or tries to send. Sometimes the prisoner may be placed in total isolation. For example, the prisoner gets put into a cramped solitary confinement cell for the smallest “misconduct,” frequently this occurs under a false pretense or, for example, after there are illegal items belonging to the prisoner found in his jail cell.
However the most serious psychological pressures the prisoner faces are threats and blackmail.
For example, the prisoner is threatened with a longer jail term, if the prisoner does not confess to the crime, regardless if they did not commit it. Frequently, people are threatened with torture, or are blackmailed through the denial of medical care. Someone can also be blackmailed by threatening the life, well-being, and freedom of their relatives: for example, after Leonid Razvozzhev was “detained” (in reality, he was kidnapped), he was tortured for two days and the lives of his wife and children were threatened. Analogues threats were used to achieve a confession of guilt from Nikolai Karpyuk.
Psychological torture against individuals who are held in detention, is tied with physical torture. The person knows that after the moral torment, physical torture is awaiting him, or vice versa: after the physical torture, when the person is already broken, it is easier to get the necessary testimony from him by using threats and blackmail.
Even if a person is not tortured for a specific testimony, the condition of the detention itself can be considered torturous. For example, those who are taken from the pre-trial restriction center to court, can spend five hours in a car, and the vehicles for transporting defendants are usually not equipped with air conditioning. The heating system in them works poorly, so in the winter they are freezing, while in the summer it is hot. During the summer months, the vehicle will contain many prisoners packed together, so they can only stand and are cramped closely together. The defendants are usually taken from the pre-trial restriction center before breakfast and brought back after dinner, meaning they end up not eating or showering all day and even missing the allotted time to go outside. If the trial takes place over a couple of days, the defendants often cannot fully participate due to their health condition. For example, people have passed out in the courtroom before.
The actual physical torture is one of the scariest techniques applied to prisoners. By all accounts, these are not isolated cases in many locations, but rather standard practice, which has been developed and is well known to all workers and prisoners.
Most likely torture is used less frequently against people sentenced for their political positions, than the ordinary prisoners. This is because those threatened for political reasons are well known in society.
However there are many examples this as well.
For example, Nikolai Karpyuk was tortured with electric shocks, sleep deprivation, and by having needles shoved under his fingernails.
In 2010 Aleksey Gaskarov got placed in a cell with three drug addicts, who began to extort money from him, after which they beat him up. A couple of days later they attacked him with “sharp objects” (the usage of actual criminal offenders to cause pressure on “political prisoners” is also a widespread practice).
Gennadiy Afanasyev, arrested in 2014, said that he was tortured by having devices attached to his genitals, which generated electric shock. He also had a gas mask placed on his head and had pepper spray injected into the breathing tube, as a result of which Afansyev would begin to vomit and choke.
Sergey Mohnatkin, a 62-year-old activist, was beat up by six employers of the colony when he laid down on the floor to protest the absence of the necessary documents in his case. As a result, Mohnatkin got two of his ribs broken, and another three were damaged. He received medical treatment. Afterwards, however, he was accused of beating up an employee of the colony, which added two more months to the length of his imprisonment. Currently, according to his lawyer, he practically never leaves the punitive confinement: during the day there is not even enough room to sit down, and when the pain in his spine causes him to lie down, he gets punished with more time in punitive confinement.
In the beginning of 2017 Ildar Dadin, who was serving his sentence in a colony in Karelia, told of tortures and threats he experienced and which, according to him, were used against the other prisoners as well. This is how he described it in a letter to his wife: “I was beaten a total of four times today, by 10-12 people at a time; they used their legs. After the third beating, they put my head in the toilet right there in the cell…then employees of the colony came, cuffed my hands behind my back, and hung me by the handcuffs. Such a suspension causes excruciating pain in the wrists, moreover the elbow ligaments get turned out, and you feel a terrible pain in your back. I hung like that for half an hour. After that, they took off my underwear and threatened that another inmate would come in to rape me, if I do not agree to end the hunger strike. After that they brought me to the office of the supervisor of the colony, where he told me, in the presence of the other employees, that “you did not even get beaten that much. If I give the order to the employees, they will hurt you in a worse way. If you try to complain – you will be killed and buried on the other side of the fence.”
The most horrendous example of such torture is the death of Sergey Magnitskiy in the Moscow pre-trial detention center “Matrosskaya Tishina” in 2009. He died because, instead of being offered medical help for his acute pancreatitis, a psychiatric team was called to the pre-trial restriction center. They treated him as a violent and mentally ill patient, tying him up and beating him.
Currently in Europe, the U.S. and a few other countries, there is an active “Magnitskiy List,” which prohibits the entrance of individuals connected with the death of the political prisoner.