Please push for an end to torture in Russia!

An appeal to Chancellor Merkel:

Tilman Zülch, president of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), appealed to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Tuesday to add her voice to the current debate in Russia on the subject of torture at police stations and in prisons, and to urge Russia's leaders to put a stop to this inhumane practice. In a letter to the chancellor, the human rights organization gave accounts of four exceptionally drastic cases of torture in the North Caucasus region. The victims - among them a student - were so mercilessly tormented that some of them might not survive. According to the STP, imprisoned Chechens are treated particularly badly.

In Russia there are currently hundreds of torture victims making their mistreatments known, ever since one young man died in mid-March of injuries inflicted during torture. "Many had kept silent for years, out of fear. Now, there is so much indignation in the country that there is hope of actual change," wrote Zülch. "Please support the human rights organizations, victims' groups and democrats in Russia are calling for strict adherence to anti-torture laws."

The STP further reports that physical violence is often inflicted by police immediately following an arrest. In the North Caucasus region in particular, torture is systematically used during interrogations and in detention to force the victims to confess to crimes. The forced confessions then form the basis for imprisonment. In prison, Chechens are then exposed to the cruelties especially of those guards who had been sent to Chechnya as soldiers. Chechen prisoners are additionally mistreated by fellow prisoners who are hostile toward Chechens and other North Caucasians.

At least 20,000 Chechens and an unknown number of Ingush people, as well as members of other North Caucasian ethnic groups, are said to be locked up in Russian prison facilities. With approximately 900,000 prisoners, the prisons are severely overfilled. According to the Russian attorney general, 90 percent of prisoners are ill; at least 40,000 suffer from tuberculosis and about 55,000 have HIV/AIDS.

The STP strongly criticizes the Russian system of requiring the police to make a certain number of arrests each month. This quota is seen as one reason that so many false confessions are extorted through torture. "That is why it is so important to abolish this "quota" system," continues the letter to Merkel.