Russia accused over police violence
A Council of Europe panel on Tuesday asked Russia to stop submitting suspects in police custody to ill-treatment following allegations of electric shocks, punches and other use of force that could be considered as amounting to torture.
Published after visits to several Russian "places of deprivation of liberty" in 2012, a report by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) highlighted allegations of "extensive beating and asphyxiation with a plastic bag".
"In Moscow and Saint Petersburg, most of the detained persons interviewed had no complaints about the manner in which they were treated by law enforcement officials," the CPT report said.
However, there were "some allegations of recent physical ill-treatment by members of law enforcement agencies in both cities".
The alleged ill-treatment -- consisting mainly of punches, kicks and baton blows -- mostly happened at the time of arrest by plain clothes officers, it was claimed in the report.
"In several cases, the officers apparently did not identify themselves as members of law enforcement agencies until they were inside their vehicle."
In one instance, "the severity of the ill-treatment alleged was such that it could be considered as amounting to torture (i.e. extensive beating and asphyxiation with a plastic bag)".
The report said that during its "visit, the delegation again received allegations of corrupt practices by law enforcement officials, ... asking detained persons or their relatives for money in order to arrange release".
The CPT recommended that Russian authorities continue to deliver to all law enforcement officials, including through ongoing training, the clear message that those who abuse their position in order to obtain money or other advantages from persons deprived of their liberty or their relatives will be the subject of appropriate sanctions.
It also "stressed that, in most of the regions visited, the only law enforcement agency subject of allegations of ill-treatment was the police".
The rights experts visited facilities in Moscow; Saint Petersburg; Vladimir, a city near the Russian capital; and several western Russian republics.
In the republic of Bashkortostan, and to a lesser extent in the Vladimir region, some allegations related to the Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) as well as, concerning the Republic of Bashkortostan, the Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor to the Soviet KGB.
The report was only the second to be published on Russia since Moscow joined the CPT in 1998. Until early this year Russia was the only one of the 47 Council of Europe members to bar publication of CPT findings.
About 20 reports compiled after visits to Russian detention centres and police stations between 1998 and 2010 are still classified including several on Russia's troubled Caucasus republic of Chechnya, site of two separatist wars after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Chechnya still sees regular attacks on officials and security forces often blamed on Islamist insurgents.
© 2013 AFP