Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In the North Caucasus, both authorities and local militants reportedly carried out numerous extrajudicial killings (see section 1.g.).
Prison officials and police allegedly subjected inmates and suspects in custody to physical abuse that in some instances resulted in death (see section 1.c., Prison and Detention Center Conditions). On July 15, police in Ingushetia separately questioned Marem Daliyeva and her husband Magomed Daliyev for suspected involvement in a bank robbery. During the interrogation law enforcement officials insulted and threatened Daliyeva, then covered her head in a black bag, and took her to an undisclosed location for further questioning. They continued to hit her and administered electric shock to her hands and her abdomen. They returned her to the police station and held her for an additional two hours before she was released and learned that her husband had died during his questioning. As a result of complaints filed by Daliyeva, on July 19 the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case on exceeding authority and violating the rights of a citizen. As of August 12, the investigation had not yet determined responsibility for Daliyev’s death or treatment during interrogation.
Physical abuse continued to be a problem in the armed forces. While there were no clear examples of physical abuse leading to death, there were cases of suspicious deaths. In one example, commanding officers deemed the death of conscript Andrey Shlychkov in March a suicide in their official account. The family claimed that senior officers beat the conscript to death, and then hanged him to suggest a suicide. The family claimed that accounts from fellow conscripts and bruising on Shlychkov’s body supported this version. The Committee for the Social Protection of Servicemen in Bashkiriya was investigating the cause of death, and a criminal investigation into whether the case involved instigation to suicide was underway.
In February 2015 opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, deputy prime minister during the administration of Boris Yeltsin, was shot and killed on the streets of Moscow near the Kremlin. Authorities ultimately arrested five Chechens for the crime, with an additional suspect killed in an attempt to apprehend him in Chechnya. On October 3, the jury trial of the suspects began in a military court, with all five of the defendants pleading not guilty. One of the defendants, Zaur Dadayev, was formerly deputy commander of the North battalion of the Interior Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Chechnya. Reports indicated that Dadayev might have held a position within the ministry at the time of the killing. Dadayev confessed to the killing before recanting, claiming he had been tortured while in detention. He implied that he had received orders for Nemtsov’s killing from Ruslan Geremeyev, another officer who served in the North battalion. The court summoned Geremeyev to testify as a witness on December 13, but Geremeyev did not appear in court. Russian authorities were unable to identify Geremeyev’s whereabouts. In December 2015 investigators charged Dadayev, Anzor Gubashev, Khamzat Bakhayev, Shadid Gubashev, and Temirlan Eskerkhanov with committing the murder as part of an organized group and illegally purchasing, carrying, transporting, and storing firearms.
The country played a significant military role in conflicts outside of its borders, in Syria and in eastern Ukraine, where human rights organizations attributed thousands of civilian deaths as well as other human rights abuses to Russian-backed separatists and Russian occupation authorities in Crimea (see Country Reports on Human Rights for Ukraine). Since September 2015 the country has conducted military operations including airstrikes in the continuing conflict in Syria. According to human rights organizations, the country’s forces have taken actions such as bombing urban areas and humanitarian aid convoys during the conflict, including purposefully targeting civilians (see Country Reports on Human Rights for Syria).
In January a British public inquiry into the death in 2006 of Alexander Litvinenko, a former secret police (KGB) officer turned whistleblower and Putin critic, concluded that two Russian nationals, Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitriy Kuvtun, poisoned Litvinenko with a rare radioactive isotope, polonium 210, in London. The report also found it was probable that President Putin and the Federal Security Service (FSB) chief at the time, Nikolay Patrushev, had approved the killing, which was likely an FSB operation.
Enforced disappearances for both political and financial reasons continued in the North Caucasus (see section 1.g.). According to the 2016 report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, there were 480 outstanding cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances in the country.
Security forces were allegedly responsible for the kidnapping and disappearance of asylum seekers from Central Asia, particularly Uzbekistan and Tajikistan (see section 2.d.).
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Although the constitution prohibits such practices, numerous credible reports indicated that law enforcement personnel engaged in torture, abuse, and violence to coerce confessions from suspects, and authorities generally did not hold officials accountable for such actions. If law enforcement officers were prosecuted, they were typically charged with simple assault or exceeding their authority. According to human rights activists, judges often elected instead to use laws against abuse of power, because this definition, according to legal statutes, better captures the difference in authority between an officer of the law and the private individual who was abused.
There were reports of deaths as a result of torture (see section 1.a.).
Physical abuse of suspects by police officers was reportedly systemic and usually occurred within the first few days of arrest. Reports from human rights groups and former police officers indicated that police most often used electric shocks, suffocation, and stretching or applying pressure to joints and ligaments because those methods were considered less likely to leave visible marks. In the North Caucasus, local law enforcement organizations as well as federal security services reportedly committed torture (see section 1.g.).
In one example, on November 1, the independent news outlet Meduza published a letter written by jailed activist Ildar Dadin to his wife alleging that he and other inmates were being systematically tortured and threatened with death if they tried to complain. As of November 3, the head of the IK-7 prison in Segezha where Dadin was held, Sergey Kossiyev, had reportedly resigned, and the federal Investigative Committee announced that prosecutors had been sent to the prison to look into the allegations. Presidential spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said the allegations deserved “very close attention” and that President Putin would be informed about the matter. In 2015 Dadin was the first person to be convicted under a new legal provision that criminalizes repeated violations of the law on public events (see section 2.b).
Authorities reportedly tortured defendants and witnesses involved in high-profile trials. Ukrainians Mykola Karpyuk and Stanislav Klikh, convicted on May 26 for participating in military activities against Russian armed forces during the conflict in Chechnya in the 1990s, claimed that statements they made during the investigation were made under torture. According to Karpyuk authorities also threatened to kidnap and torture his son.
Arrests and court decisions related to police torture continued to come from the Republic of Tatarstan. On June 18, authorities arrested Nazilya Gainatullina, the head of the training department in the local federal penitentiary service in Tatarstan, for exceeding authority with the use of force. This arrest arose as a result of video footage released from a Kazan prison showing convicted criminals standing facing a wall while being hit by police officers.
Police and individuals operating with the tacit approval of authorities conducted attacks on political and human rights activists, critics of government policies, and persons linked to the opposition.
On March 9, a group of masked men beat two members of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and six journalists traveling with them on a reporting tour between Ingushetia and Chechnya. The journalists included a Norwegian, a Swede, and six Russians, two of whom were human rights activists. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), at least 15 men stopped the minibus carrying the eight persons and their driver. The attackers burned the group’s minibus. All were injured, and five were hospitalized. No one has been prosecuted for the attack. While a government spokesperson called the attack “unacceptable,” HRW reported that “authorities’ utter failure to hold anyone to account” gave a green light to further attacks.
On March 16 in Chechnya, a mob of unidentified individuals attacked human rights defender Igor Kalyapin, head of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture. They hit him and threw eggs, antiseptic liquid, and flour on him. Local authorities investigated the attack but never filed charges.
Reports by refugees, NGOs, and the press suggested a pattern of police carrying out beatings, arrests, and extortions of persons whose ethnic makeup was assumed to be Romani, Central Asian, African, or of a Caucasus nationality.
There were multiple reports of authorities’ detaining defendants for psychiatric evaluations for up to 30 days as a means of pressuring them or sending them for psychiatric treatment as a means of punishing them. On May 6, authorities forcibly removed Voronezh activist Dmitriy Vorobyovskiy from his home and took him to a psychiatric hospital where they tied him to a bed for three hours and injected him with unknown substances, according to his attorney. He remained in the hospital and has not yet been brought before a judge; no charges have been filed. Human rights groups called for his release, noting that his detention appeared linked to his frequent protests in Voronezh against the government and in support of political prisoners.
Nonlethal physical abuse and hazing continued to be a problem in the armed forces, although violations related to hazing in the military were fewer than in previous years. The NGO Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers confirmed that a decrease of incidents of “dedovshchina” (a pattern of hazing) in 2015 continued into 2016.
In March 2015 the St. Petersburg City Court found that military commissioners violated recruits’ rights by not taking into account their medical files. There were continued problems with recruits medically unfit for duty being forced to enter into the army. NGOs reported complaints from conscripts drafted into service despite their claims of poor health. Soldiers returning from fighting in Ukraine also complained to NGOs of obstacles in receiving health care, because medical files had not been kept. Suicide among recruits continued to be a problem.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Conditions in prisons and detention centers varied but were sometimes harsh and life threatening. Overcrowding, abuse by guards and inmates, limited access to health care, food shortages, and inadequate sanitation were common in prisons, penal colonies, and other detention facilities.
Physical Conditions: Authorities held prisoners and detainees in the following types of facilities: temporary police detention centers, pretrial detention facilities, correctional labor colonies (ITKs), prisons (including prisons for those who violate ITK rules), medical correctional facilities, and educational labor colonies for juveniles. Correctional colonies varied according to security regime, from light to maximum security. Unofficial prisons, many of which were located in the North Caucasus, reportedly continued to operate. While the penal code establishes the separation of women and men, juveniles and adults, and pretrial detainees and convicts into separate quarters, there was anecdotal evidence that not all prison facilities followed these rules.
Prison overcrowding remained a serious problem. Although the federal minimum standard of space per person in detention is 26 square feet, Presidential Human Rights Council member Andrey Babushkin reported in October 2015 that inmates were being confined to spaces far below the mandatory minimum, particularly in prison facilities in larger cities. As of the end of 2015, according to the Prosecutor General’s Office, 54 pretrial detention facilities in 24 regions of the country did not provide detainees the mandatory amount of space. The situation was particularly concerning in pretrial detention facilities in Moscow. As of December 2015, all facilities in Moscow were crowded beyond capacity and seven of them were overextended by 27 percent. The size of the country’s prison population exacerbated the overcrowding. According to the most recent data available, prisons were operating at approximately 95 percent of capacity in 2014, up from 90 percent in 2013.
Penal Reform International reported conditions were generally better in women’s colonies than in men’s but remained substandard. Thirteen women’s facilities also contained facilities for underage children of inmates who had no options for housing them with friends or relatives.
On April 27, Prosecutor General Yuriy Chayka announced that in 2015 approximately 4,000 individuals died in prison facilities and that the overwhelming majority of deaths were related to poor medical care. According to his report, 87 percent of deaths related to various diseases.
In the first six months of the year, 49 persons died in police stations, pretrial detention, or temporary detention, according to a tally maintained by the website Russian Ebola. Causes of death included medical conditions, suicide, and injuries sustained while in detention. In the second quarter of the year, 20 detainees died, nine of whom died in police stations, seven in temporary detention centers, and four in investigative detention. Of these deaths, authorities attributed nine to suicide and seven to “sudden deterioration of health.” The remaining four died from a beating, a fire, an injury sustained while committing a crime, and torture, respectively.
The majority of deaths in prison and pretrial detention were reportedly related to a lack of quality care, according to a study conducted under the auspices of a presidential grant. A member of the monitoring commission conducting the study stated that the majority of prisoners’ illnesses were associated with the detention environment, citing an example of a holding cell in a Krasnodar district court where the walls were covered in fungus and there was no ventilation.
In April a cancer-stricken female prison inmate in St. Petersburg died awaiting implementation of a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling ordering her transfer to a civil hospital. This was the second such death case in St. Petersburg. The ECHR found that the prison hospital did not provide adequate medical care, but a local district court refused to approve the transfer. At least three additional female cancer sufferers were in the prison hospital; two of them had similar ECHR transfer orders. On July 13, a 55-year-old prisoner, Nikolay Khozyashev, reportedly committed suicide in a penitentiary facility in Perm because prison officials were not providing medical assistance.
In the case of Sergey Magnitsky, a lawyer who died of medical neglect and abuse while in pretrial detention in 2009, authorities had not, as of year’s end, brought those reportedly responsible for his death to justice. The investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death remained officially closed.
Prisoner-on-prisoner violence was also a problem. In some cases prison authorities encouraged prisoners to abuse certain inmates. On August 5, four inmates beat a 29-year-old prisoner in Primorskiy Kray, Anton Li. Prison officials brought Li to the hospital only the following day, and he fell into a coma after surgery. There were reports that the inmates carried out the attack under the instruction of prison employees. There were elaborate inmate-enforced caste systems in which certain groups, including informers, gay inmates, rapists, prison rape victims, and child molesters, were considered “untouchables.” Prison authorities provided little or no protection to these groups.
Health, nutrition, ventilation, and sanitation standards varied among facilities but generally were poor. Potable water sometimes was rationed. Access to quality medical care remained a significant problem in the penal system.
Tuberculosis and HIV among the country’s prison population remained significant problems. The Federal Penitentiary Services reported in 2015 that nearly 4 percent of the country’s prison population was infected with tuberculosis, while the HIV rate among prisoners increased 6 percent compared with 2014. No new data were available for 2016. Prosecutor General Chayka stated that more than 62,000 detainees were infected with HIV. In January a local NGO filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office alleging that HIV-positive inmates in St. Petersburg, Murmansk, and Pskov Oblast had not received antiretroviral therapy since May 2015. Prison and healthcare officials acknowledged difficulties procuring the drugs but claimed that the problem was largely resolved. According to a prominent human rights advocate, suppliers were reluctant to sell the necessary drugs to prisons at the low procurement price set by the Ministry of Health. In May an HIV-infected prisoner demanded compensation for not being provided adequate medical treatment. The Ministry of Health did not order sufficient quantities of antiretroviral medicine for inmates in 2015, which, according to Prosecutor General Chayka, posed a serious threat to HIV-infected prisoners’ lives. Although all correctional facilities had medical units or health centers, only 41 treatment facilities provided treatment for tuberculosis patients, down from 58 in 2014, and only nine prisons provided medical services for drug addiction.
In a 2012 pilot judgment in the case of Ananyev v. Russia, the ECHR noted that inadequate conditions of detention were a recurrent and systemic problem in the country and ordered the government to draft a binding implementation plan to remedy the situation. In 2012 the government submitted an action plan for implementing the court’s ruling. Since release of the action plan, however, there have been no significant indications of progress. Prison conditions remained poor, as evidenced by the 44 ECHR judgments issued against the country in 2015 for inhuman and degrading prison conditions.
Administration: Both convicted inmates and inmates in pretrial detention facilities had visitation rights, but authorities could deny access to visitors depending on the circumstances. Authorities allowed prisoners serving a regular sentence four three-day visits with their spouses per year. By law those prisoners with harsher sentences are allowed fewer visitation rights. On occasion prison officials cancelled visits if the prison did not have enough space to accommodate them. The judge in a prisoner’s case could deny the prisoner visitation rights. Authorities could also prohibit relatives deemed a security risk from visiting prisoners.
While prisoners could file complaints with public oversight commissions or with the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, they were often afraid of reprisal. Prison reform activists reported that only prisoners who believed they had no other option risked the consequences of filing a complaint. Complaints that reached the oversight commissions often focused on minor personal requests.
There were no completely independent bodies to investigate credible allegations of inhuman conditions. In 2014 new members were added to public oversight commissions, but appointment and selection procedures prevented many human rights defenders from participating, decreasing the effectiveness of oversight commission observation in many regions. At the same time, authorities increased appointments of former military, police, and prison officials to oversight commissions, effectively placing them under the control of law enforcement agencies. According to activists and media reports, the independence of the oversight commissions varied by region. The newspaper Vedomosti reported that, after the selection of new members for the Moscow public oversight commission in 2013, the majority of commission members were former officers of the security services and former prison officials, rather than human rights activists who had historically made up the majority of commission members.
Independent Monitoring: There were no prison ombudsmen. The law regulating public oversight of detention centers allows public oversight commission representatives to visit facilities. According to the Russian Public Chamber, there were public oversight commissions in 81 regions with a total of 1,154 commission members. By law there should be five to 40 members on each commission. Authorities permitted only the oversight commissions to visit prisons regularly to monitor conditions. In October human rights activists expressed concern that several of the most active members of the commissions had been removed and replaced with individuals close to authorities, including many from law enforcement backgrounds. Notably, Dmitriy Komnov, who had overseen the prison where lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in 2009, was elected to the Moscow public oversight commission. According to the NGO Committee for the Prevention of Torture, public oversight commissions were legally entitled to have access to all prison and detention facilities, including psychiatric facilities, but prison authorities often prevented them from accessing these facilities. The law does not establish procedures for federal authorities to respond to oversight commission findings or recommendations, which are not legally binding.
While the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, authorities engaged in arbitrary arrest and detention with impunity.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the FSB, the Investigative Committee, the Office of the Prosecutor General, and the National Guard are responsible for law enforcement at all levels of government. The FSB is responsible for security, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism as well as for fighting organized crime and corruption. The national police force under the Ministry of Internal Affairs is organized into federal, regional, and local levels. In April, President Putin established the Russian Federal National Guard Service. This new executive body, which is under the control of the president as the commander in chief, secures borders alongside the Border Guard, administers gun control, combats terrorism and organized crime, protects public order, and guards important state facilities. The National Guard also participates in armed defense of the county’s territory together with the Ministry of Defense.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
By law authorities may arrest and hold a suspect for up to 48 hours without court approval, provided there is evidence of the crime or a witness; otherwise, an arrest warrant is required. The law requires judicial approval of arrest warrants, searches, seizures, and detentions. Officials generally honored this requirement, although bribery or political pressure sometimes subverted the process of obtaining judicial warrants. After arrest, police typically take detainees to the nearest police station, where they inform them of their rights. Police must prepare a protocol stating the grounds for the arrest, and both detainee and police officer must sign it within three hours of detention. Police must interrogate detainees within the first 24 hours of detention. Prior to interrogation, a detainee has the right to meet with an attorney for two hours. No later than 12 hours after detention, police must notify the prosecutor. They must also give an opportunity to the detainee to notify his or her relatives by telephone unless a prosecutor issues a warrant to keep the detention secret. Police are required to release a detainee after 48 hours, subject to bail conditions, unless a court decides, at a hearing, to prolong custody in response to a motion filed by police not less than eight hours before the 48-hour detention period expires. The defendant and his or her attorney must be present at the court hearing.
By law police must complete their investigation and transfer a case to a prosecutor for arraignment within two months of a suspect’s arrest, although an investigative authority may extend a criminal investigation for up to 12 months. Extensions beyond 12 months need the approval of the head federal investigative authority in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the FSB, or the Investigative Committee. According to some defense lawyers, the two-month time limit often was exceeded, especially in cases with a high degree of public interest.
A number of problems related to detainees’ ability to obtain adequate defense counsel. Federal law provides defendants the right to choose their own lawyers, but investigators generally did not respect this provision, instead designating lawyers friendly to the prosecution. These “pocket” defense attorneys agreed to the interrogation of their clients in their presence while making no effort to defend their clients’ legal rights. In many cases, especially in more remote regions, defense counsel was not available for indigent defendants. Judges usually did not suppress confessions of suspects taken without a lawyer present. Judges at times freed suspects held in excess of detention limits, although they usually granted prosecutors’ motions to extend detention periods.
Authorities generally respected the legal limitations on detention except in the North Caucasus. There were reports of occasional noncompliance with the 48-hour limit for holding a detainee. At times authorities failed to issue an official detention protocol within the required three hours after detention and held suspects longer than the legal detention limits. The practice was widespread in the North Caucasus (see section 1.g.) and unevenly applied.
Arbitrary Arrest: There were many reports of arbitrary arrest. On February 12 in Dagestan, police detained more than 30 men going to prayer at the local mosque. Witnesses told the independent online news site Caucasian Knot that the men were held until evening before being released. None of the men was charged with a crime.
Pretrial Detention: Observers noted that lengthy pretrial detention was a problem, but data on its extent was not available.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: According to the law, a detainee may challenge the lawfulness of detention before an investigator, prosecutor, or court. The challenge can take the legal form of a referral or complaint. The defense typically submits a referral to ask for a certain procedural motion, be it with the prosecution or court, and a complaint is submitted with respect to action that was already taken. Using these instruments, a detainee or his or her lawyer can cause the prosecution or court to change the type of detention used (from arrest in a detention facility to house arrest, for example) or complain that a certain type of pretrial restraint is unlawful. The investigator and the court have absolute discretion to impose limits on the type of detention used if they have sufficient grounds to believe that the defendant will escape from prosecution, continue criminal activity, threaten witnesses or other individuals connected with the criminal case, destroy evidence, or otherwise hamper the investigation.
Statistics related to the number of successful challenges to the lawfulness of detention are not available. The judge typically agrees with the investigator’s position and dismisses defense referrals or complaints on this problem.
Protracted Detention of Rejected Asylum Seekers or Stateless Persons: Authorities continued to detain asylum seekers while their cases were pending as well as all rejected asylum seekers prior to deportation or pending judicial review (see section 2.d.). Human rights NGOs reported authorities used protracted detention in such cases, including detention past the legal limit of 12 months.
Amnesty: In May, President Putin pardoned Lieutenant Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian military pilot and Rada deputy, who was released in a prisoner swap in exchange for two Russian intelligence operatives. In March a politically motivated trial had found Savchenko guilty of killing two Russian journalists in Metalist, Ukraine. Putin also pardoned Ukrainian citizens Hennadiy Afanasyev and Yuriy Soloshenko, convicted for “plotting terrorist acts” and espionage, respectively, in a swap in June, this time for two journalists (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees).
The law provides for an independent judiciary, but judges remained subject to influence from the executive branch, the armed forces, and other security forces, particularly in high-profile or politically sensitive cases. The outcomes of some trials appeared predetermined.
The human rights ombudsman received 64,189 complaints in 2015, an 18 percent increase over 2014. The largest number of complaints (30 percent) alleged violations of criminal proceedings and violations during trials.
Judges were subject to pressures that could influence the outcome of cases. Former Supreme Court judge Tamara Morshchakova, in an interview on the Moscow Helsinki Group website on August 14, indicated that judges were concerned by how their rulings would be seen by higher courts and often consulted with contacts in the higher courts to make a decision that would not cause them to lose favor or be later overturned. Morshchakova also indicated that the number of individuals instructing judges on rulings was expanding to include local officials, not just superiors.
In many cases authorities reportedly did not provide witnesses and victims adequate protection from intimidation or threats from powerful criminal defendants.
The defendant has a legal presumption of innocence. A judge typically hears trials (bench trials). Certain crimes, including terrorism, espionage, hostage taking, and inciting mass disorder, must be heard by panels of three judges. Judges acquitted less than 1 percent of defendants.
The law allows prosecutors to appeal acquittals, which they did in most cases. Prosecutors may also appeal what they regard as lenient sentences. Appellate courts reversed approximately 1 percent of sentences where the defendant had been found guilty and 37 percent where the defendant had been found not guilty and remanded them for a new trial, although these cases often ended in a second acquittal.
During trial the defense is not required to present evidence and is given an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and call defense witnesses, although judges may deny the defense this opportunity. On March 24, the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization in Tyumen appealed to the Russian Supreme Court regarding allegations of extremism against the church, in part because the lower courts refused to allow witnesses for the defense during the trial. Defendants in custody during a trial are confined to a caged area, which was replaced by glass enclosures in some courts. Defendants have the right to be present at the trial and the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants have the right of appeal. Prior to trial, defendants receive a copy of their indictment, which describes the charges against them in detail. They also have the opportunity to review their criminal file following the completion of the criminal investigation. The law provides for the appointment of an attorney free of charge if a defendant cannot afford one, although the high cost of competent legal service meant that lower-income defendants often lacked competent representation. There were few qualified defense attorneys in remote areas of the country. Defense attorneys may visit their clients in detention, although defense lawyers claimed authorities electronically monitored their conversations and did not always provide them access to their clients. Defendants also have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt.
Plea bargaining was used to settle between 62 and 66 percent of criminal cases in 2015, according to different estimates, and the law allows a defendant to receive a reduced sentence for testifying against others. Plea bargains reduced defendants’ time in pretrial detention in approximately 50 percent of cases, reduced the average prison term to no more than half of the otherwise applicable statutory maximum, and allowed courts and prosecutors to devote their resources to other cases.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were political prisoners in the country, and authorities detained and prosecuted individuals for political reasons. As of October 31, the Memorial Human Rights Center’s updated list of political prisoners included 102 names, more than double the 50 individuals the organization listed in 2015. Those added to the list during the year included Maksim Panfilov, arrested on charges of participation in a mass disturbance and use of nonlethal force against government representatives in connection with the 2012 Bolotnaya Square case. The case concerned clashes between police and protesters at a demonstration on the eve of President Putin’s inauguration in 2012. Blogger Aleksey Kungurov, who was accused of public justification of terrorism for his blog pieces criticizing Russian Aerospace Forces’ activities in Syria, was also included. In June the Chronicle of Current Events published a list of 277 alleged political prisoners that included opposition politicians, human rights activists, environmental activists, religious believers, and bloggers. From this list, approximately one-third were members of the opposition, 40 percent had been prosecuted for religious beliefs, and 8 percent were bloggers or social activists.
On May 5, a blogger from Tver, Andrey Bubeyev, who was found guilty of extremism and calling for separatism, was sentenced to two years in a minimum-security penal colony for having reposted materials on social media against the country’s involvement in Ukraine. On March 29, while Bubeyev was being held on remand, the Memorial Human Rights Center recognized him as a political prisoner.
On July 21, the Federal Penitentiary Service filed suit against opposition activist Alexey Navalny, requesting that his suspended sentence be changed to a real prison term in the Yves-Rocher case. On August 1, the Lyublinskiy District Court of Moscow declined to withdraw the suspended sentence. On November 16, the Supreme Court, referencing the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling in February that Alexey Navalny’s right to a fair trial had been violated, sent the case back to a lower court for review. Aleksey Navalny and his brother Oleg were found guilty of fraud in December 2014 in a case involving the Yves-Rocher company. Aleksey had received a suspended sentence of three and one-half years, while Oleg continued to serve a term of three and one-half years. Observers regarded both cases as politically motivated.
At least one reported political prisoner was held in a psychiatric facility. In July a district court in Chelyabinsk extended the period of mandatory treatment in a psychiatric hospital for Aleksey Moroshkin, a local activist, by six months. Authorities charged Moroshkin with public incitement to separatism via the internet for posting texts in April 2015 calling for the secession of the Ural region from the country. The Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Moroshkin as a political prisoner in July.
Once elected, many opposition politicians reported efforts by the ruling party to undermine their work or remove them from office, often through prosecution (see section 3).
After the country’s attempted “annexation” of Crimea in 2014, judicial authorities began in 2015 to transfer court cases to Russia from occupied Crimea for trial. While there were no new notable cases during the year, the son of prominent exiled Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Jemilev, Khaiser Jemilev, whom Russian authorities in 2014 transferred from the territory of occupied Crimea to Krasnodar Kray, charged with manslaughter, and sentenced in June 2015, was held in Russia until he completed his sentence in November.
On June 14, Putin pardoned Ukrainian citizens Hennadiy Afanasyev and Yuriy Soloshenko in a swap for two journalists held in Ukraine. Afanasyev was a codefendant in the case against Oleh Sentsov. In August 2015 the Northern Caucasus Military District Court sentenced Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker, to 20 years in a prison camp after convicting him on terrorism charges widely seen as politically motivated. The other defendants in the case, Hennadiy Afanasyev, Oleksiy Chirniy, and Oleksandr Kolchenko, received sentences ranging from seven to 10 years. The men were detained in 2014 on suspicion that they were plotting terrorist acts in association with the Right Sector nationalist group. Soloshenko had been sentenced to six years in a penal colony for espionage.
On March 22, Lieutenant Nadiya Savchenko, an Ukrainian military pilot and member of the Ukrainian Parliament (Rada) detained by Russian authorities since 2014, was sentenced to 22 years in prison; the verdict came into force on April 5. On May 25, President Putin pardoned Savchenko, and she was released in a prisoner swap in exchange for two Russian intelligence operatives, Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov, who had been detained in Donbas and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Savchenko returned to Ukraine upon release. Her politically motivated trial on charges of killing two Russian journalists in Metalist, Ukraine, began in Donetsk, Russia, in September 2015. Savchenko also faced charges of attempted murder and entering Russia illegally, even though she was detained in Ukraine and taken to Russia by Russian authorities. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On May 26, Ukrainians Mykola Karpyuk and Stanislav Klikh, accused of participating in military activities against Russian armed forces during the conflict in Chechnya in the 1990s, were convicted. Karpyuk was sentenced to 22.5 years’ and Klikh to 20 years’ imprisonment in a strict regime penitentiary facility.
There were continued court rulings and arrests related to the 2012 Bolotnaya Square case. Many human rights groups considered the Bolotnaya case to have been politically motivated. On April 7, Maksim Panfilov was arrested, becoming the 36th individual accused in the case. On August 29, a Moscow district court extended detention for Panfilov until January 2017. Detention of another Bolotnaya case defendant arrested in December 2015, Dmitriy Buchenkov, was extended until December 2.
There were reports that authorities filed politically motivated charges of treason and espionage against individuals, often in connection with the conflict in Ukraine. The government defines treason to include providing assistance to a foreign state or international organization directed against the country’s national security. The Judicial Department under the Russian Supreme Court reported that in 2015, the most recent year for which the data is available, authorities convicted 28 persons on such charges, nearly twice as many as in the previous year. According to the NGO Moscow Public Supervisory Commission, several dozen scientists, entrepreneurs, police officers, and even mothers of small children were convicted of treason in the previous two years on charges classified as “secret” and heard in closed court proceedings.
On July 14, the Moscow City Court sentenced a former employee of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Evgeniy Petrin, to 12 years in a strict regime prison colony for treason. Petrin, who had been stationed in Kyiv, was arrested in 2014 and has been in custody since. The trial was closed to the public, but according to his lawyer, Petrin was an employee of the FSB and had been gathering information in that capacity. He was convicted of treason for sharing secrets with a foreign country. Petrin claimed innocence and has stated he was tortured to gather evidence against him.
On July 18, the FSB detained in Russia an official translator working for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) special monitoring mission in Ukraine, Artem Shetakov, arresting him as an agent of the Ukrainian security services. He was deported to Ukraine and denied further entry into Russia.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Although the law provides mechanisms for individuals to file lawsuits against authorities for violations of civil rights, these mechanisms often did not work well. For example, the law provides that a defendant who has been acquitted after a trial has the right to compensation from the government. While this legal mechanism exists in principle, in practice it was very cumbersome to use. Persons who believed their civil rights had been violated typically sought redress in the ECHR after domestic courts had ruled against them. In 2015 the country passed a law enabling the Constitutional Court to review rulings from international human rights bodies and declare them “nonexecutable” if the court found that the ruling contradicts the constitution. In April the Constitutional Court for the first time declared a ruling by the ECHR, in which the ECHR ruled that the absolute ban on the voting rights of prisoners was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, to be nonexecutable under this law.
The law forbids officials from entering a private residence except in cases prescribed by federal law or when authorized by a judicial decision. The law also prohibits the collection, storage, utilization, and dissemination of information about a person’s private life without his or her consent. While the law previously prohibited government monitoring of correspondence, telephone conversations, and other means of communication without a warrant, the “Yarovaya package” of amendments to antiterrorism laws came into effect on July 20. These amendments grant authorities sweeping new powers and require telecommunications providers to store all electronic and telecommunication data, including telephone calls, text messages, images, and videos, for six months. Metadata on all communications must be stored for three years and provided to law enforcement authorities upon request. The telecommunications provisions were scheduled to come into effect in July 2018. There were allegations that government officials and others engaged in electronic surveillance without appropriate authorization and entered residences and other premises without warrants.
Law enforcement agencies require telecommunications service providers to grant the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB continuous remote access to client databases, including telephone and electronic communication and records, enabling police to track private communications and monitor internet activity without the provider’s knowledge. The law permits authorities to monitor telephone calls in real time, with a warrant. The Ministry of Information and Communication requires telecommunications service providers to allow the FSB to tap telephones and monitor information over the internet. The Ministry of Information and Communication maintained that authorities would not access information without a court order, although the FSB is not required to show it upon request.
Officials often singled out persons with dark complexions from the Caucasus as well as individuals who appeared to be of African or Asian origin for document checks. There were credible reports that police arbitrarily imposed fines on unregistered persons in excess of legal requirements or demanded bribes.
Violence continued in the North Caucasus republics, driven by separatism, interethnic conflict, jihadist movements, vendettas, criminality, excesses by security forces, and the activity of terrorists. Media reported that in 2015 the total number of deaths and injuries due to the conflicts in the North Caucasus decreased significantly compared with 2014 in all republics of the North Caucasus. According to human rights activists in the region, violence in Dagestan continued at a high level. Dagestan remained the most violent area in the North Caucasus, with approximately 60 percent of all casualties in the region in 2015. Local media described the level of violence in Dagestan as the result of Islamic militant insurgency tactics continuing from the Chechen conflict as well as of the high level of organized crime in the region.
Killings: Caucasian Knot reported that in 2015 at least 206 deaths and 49 injuries in the North Caucasus resulted from armed conflicts in the region. With 126 deaths from armed conflict in 2015, Dagestan was the most deadly region. Of the deaths in Dagestan, 97 were militants, 16 were civilians, and 13 were law enforcement officers. This represented a significant decrease from 2014, with the number of casualties in Dagestan down by just over half overall and by nearly 60 percent. The sharpest decrease in violent incidents took place in Chechnya, where the number of deaths decreased to 12 in 2015, compared with 52 in 2014, and the number of injuries fell from 65 to 16.
There continued to be reports that use of indiscriminate force by security forces resulted in numerous deaths or disappearances and that authorities did not prosecute the perpetrators. The Memorial Human Rights Center reported that, on January 1, the body of Khizir Yezhiyev, an economics professor at Grozny State Oil Technical University in Chechnya, was found in the woods near the village of Roshni-Chu in Urus-Martanovskiy district. The medical report stated he died from internal bleeding with six broken ribs, a pierced lung, and many visible injuries on his body. Official reports stated that he died from injuries after falling from a cliff. In December 2015 witnesses claimed to have seen security officials arrest Yezhiyev at a garage in Grozny and take him to an unknown location. According to a number of witnesses, the detainee was taken to one of Grozny’s Zavodskiy district police headquarters.
Local militants continued to engage in violent acts against local security forces, often resulting in deaths.
Abductions: Government personnel, militants, and criminal elements continued to engage in abductions in the North Caucasus. According to the prosecutor general, as of 2011 there were more than 2,000 unsolved disappearances in the North Caucasus District. According to data from Caucasian Knot, the official list of missing persons in the North Caucasus contained 7,570 names. Local activists asserted that the number of missing persons in Chechnya was much higher than officially reported, potentially up to 20,000 individuals. Amnesty International (AI) reported that law enforcement agencies continued to rely on security operations as the primary method of combating armed groups and continued to be suspected of resorting to enforced disappearances, unlawful detention, as well as torture and other mistreatment of detainees.
There were also accounts of persons being detained by police or unknown individuals. The Memorial Human Rights Center reported that, on April 1, security forces removed from their homes two journalists and authors of “historical” and “linguistic” theories affirming the exceptional nature of the Chechen ethnicity and language, the antiquity of the Chechens, and their status as God’s chosen people. On April 5, one of them posted on Facebook that he had not been abducted but was spending four days in the Oktyabrskoye District Department of Internal Affairs in Grozny, where he was detained to prevent his disappearance; the post was later removed. On April 6, the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, posted on Instagram that the authors had “apologized to the academic community and the clergy of Chechnya” for their writings.
In Chechnya the local Ministry of Public Health continued issuing genetic passports to relatives of individuals who were kidnapped or disappeared during the first and second Chechen conflicts. The genetic passport offers relatives the ability to identify remains that may belong to their family. Between January and July 2015, an estimated 32 Chechen residents received genetic passport, bringing the total to more than 300. Chechnya’s Ministry of Internal Affairs claimed to have a database containing 3,016 missing persons, but human rights activists believed the actual number of missing persons to be higher.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Armed forces and police units reportedly abused and tortured both militants and civilians in holding facilities.
The Memorial Human Rights Center reported that in October 2015 police in the Dagestani village of Gotsali detained a 43-year-old man, seizing a hunting rifle with ammunition and planting a bag of marijuana on him. For two days his relatives were unable to locate him. At a hearing three days after his arrest, the man’s relatives claimed he had to be carried into the courtroom because he could not walk on his own. Although he was supposed to be released after the hearing, the man was then charged on an administrative offense for speaking abusively and held for an additional three days. After 13 days in custody, the man reported that authorities had taken him with a bag over his head to an undisclosed location, subjected him to electric shocks, and urged him to confess to aiding insurgents.
Human rights groups noted authorities often did not act to address widespread reports of physical abuse of women.
The law requires relatives of terrorists to pay the cost of damages caused by an attack, which human rights advocates criticized as collective punishment. The Memorial Human Rights Center reported that Chechen Republic authorities have upheld the principle of collective responsibility in punishing the relatives of alleged members of illegal armed groups. In 2014 the head of the Chechen, Republic Kadyrov, posted on Instagram, “It shall no longer be said that parents are not responsible for the deeds of their sons and daughters. They will be responsible in Chechnya!” and, “If an insurgent murders a police officer or anyone else in Chechnya, his family will be immediately thrown out of Chechnya and banned from returning, and their home will be destroyed down to its very foundations.”
The Memorial Human Rights Center and Caucasian Knot reported that, following an armed attack by two militants on a checkpoint in the village of Alkhan-Kala in Grozny’s rural district in May, the homes of the attackers’ families were set on fire. Local security officials arrested a journalist who photographed the burnt-out remains of one of the houses, allegedly on suspicion of collusion with Da’esh.