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Anastasia Zotova: ‘And then they’ll come for you, and no one will notice that either’ [Ekho Moskvy]

posted 16 Feb 2017, 08:47 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Feb 2017, 11:01 ]
6 February 2017

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Ekho Moskvy]

By Anastasia Zotova, journalist and human rights advocate

This past summer, less than ten thousand people gathered to protest the ‘Yarovaya package’. This was in Moscow, where more than sixteen million people live. Only a tiny, marginal group opposed the law, and, of course, the Yarovaya package was made into law.

Yesterday, it emerged that wireless service providers may stop offering unlimited data because of the Yarovaya package. And so people began complaining en masse—but where had they been when the law was passed?

I think this is also the case with torture.

Everyone seems to know about the use of torture in penal colonies, but they don’t feel strongly about it. After all, they’re not being tortured, so it’s fine.

And when misfortune finally comes, the relatives of prisoners start calling human rights advocates, hysterically screaming into the telephone, ‘Help! It’s a torture camp! They’re killing them!’

Even the prisoners admit, with shame, that until they themselves were beaten, they remained unshaken. And when they are no longer beaten, they are no longer shaken. Don’t meddle, as it is said, in affairs that are not your own.

According to this logic, I, too, should no longer be worried about torture, since Ildar Dadin’s story of torture has ended.

After Ildar Dadin, my husband, wrote a letter describing the use of torture in Karelian penal colony no. 7, he was removed from the torture colony. Of course, to transfer him to the Moscow oblast would have been ‘too good’, and so he was sent, as per tradition, to Siberia. We’re not allowed to meet, but this is a triviality, since he isn’t being beaten.

But there are dozens of people other than Ildar who have confirmed the use of torture, not only in penal colony no. 7, but in others as well (such as penal colony no. 1, psychiatric institution no. 4).

The Federal Penitentiary Service is already retaliating against those who spoke out about the torture, with prison guards threatening to 'make invalids of them' and promising to torture them once prison inspections have finished.

A criminal case has already been opened against Khazbulat Gabzaev, who is accused of attacking a prison guard. The review of the case will be quite interesting, since the footage [of the attack] has most likely not been preserved. The case was opened only after we objected to the beating of Gabzaev on 20 and 21 December 2016, apparently, in order to justify the use of force against the prisoner.

For some reason, his fate worries me, as do those of dozens of other prisoners who are now uncertain of what consequences their complaints may hold.

It’s too bad that I’m the only one worried.

Having seen that the scandal has gone quiet, and that the problem of torture is no longer interesting, the Federal Penitentiary Service has made serious moves, in particular, refusing to allow members of the Presidential Human Rights Council to visit torture colonies. This emerged on Friday evening, when most Russians were not paying attention (it’s Friday evening, fellas, what colonies? what are you on about?).

The Human Rights Council, which had planned to visit Karelia anyway, will now hold a meeting in which lawyers will pass on prisoners’ accounts (since human rights advocates are no longer able to meet prisoners anyway).

That’ll take place on 8 February.

It’s too bad that the verdict in the Kirovles case against Alexei Navalny is due to be read that same day. Because of this, our event will most likely take place unnoticed. And the Federal Penitentiary Service will have a greater chance of victory.

And then they’ll come for you, and no one will notice that, either.

Translated by Lincoln Pigman