EDITORIAL: Russian Barbarism Unbound

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Russian Barbarism Unbound

We admit that we sound like a broken record when we make note of our surprise at Russia’s endless ability to surprise us with ever more horrifying incidents of barbarism.  Just when you think Russia has shown you her very worst, she does something so repugnant that you can’t remember why you thought the old stuff was bad at all.

Writing on Robert Amsterdam’s blog, hero journalist Grigori Pasko reports on an article from the official Russian state newspaper, Rossiskaya Gazeta, quoting Russian “Minister of Justice” Alexander Konovalov, who speaks about reforming the Russian prison system’s “SIZO” operations “so that punishment would not break the life for a person, but would achieve goals of bringing him to reason, when this is possible.”

You may not be outraged by this information until you are told that prisoners in SIZO have not yet been convicted of any crime.  They are merely being held without bail pending the investigation of their arrest, something that would be flatly unconstitutional and impossible in the United States.

And yet, the Kremlin still feels its appropriate to punish them with harsh conditions of confinement.  Perhaps even more outrageous, Konovalov can pass himself off as a liberal by Russian standards by declinging to embrace actual torture.

Pasko, who has personally spent time in the SIZO operation, describes the conditions found there as horrific.  Prisoners almost never see the light of day, and face desperate risks of disease and violence, even though they’ve only been accused of a crime and not convicted of anything.  In other words, it’s totally inappropriate for the Kremlin to be imposing any form of “punishment” on these inmates, much less the extreme levels of torture it is actually imposing.

What’s particularly stunning is that, despite this barbaric criminal “justice” system that treats citizens like sausage meat, Russia still has the world’s fifth-highest murder rate.  In other words, as is always the case with the KGB, Russians have received the worst of all possible worlds — a total loss of civil liberty and out-of-control crime.

23 responses to “EDITORIAL: Russian Barbarism Unbound

  1. The Russian judicial system hasn’t advanced much since Stalin. All are guilty until proven innocent or more likely the case can be fashioned to convict them.

    Any civilized country would have extended bail to Khordorkovsky and the Yukos defendants as a “white collar crime” and they would never in such a prejudicial manner be seen sitting in a cage in a courtroom. The Yukos convictions are the ultimate telephone justice, the show trials that Stalin was notorious for.

    And, most Russians don’t care about the lack of judicial principles that spill across their airwaves watching that gross miscarriage of justice. They applaud it.

    Where are the voices of Russia’s Bar Association? I don’t see where the mass of useless lawyers there are protesting these legal abominations.

  2. American prisons are certainly a nice place where people chill and sip Mojitos I guess, Guantanamo is even better, its like Varadero, only behind bars. Secret prisons of the CIA is in fact a program designed for extreme, masochist tourists who would otherwise find it imposible to find such experience in San Francisco. One can just envy the incarcerated in the US of fooking A

  3. No points for Gitmo, Funky. Terrorists captured on the battlefield don’t have the right to due process like a citizen. But, poor little FunkySpunky must know that somewhere in the back of his mind.

    You did read that somewhere after all of these years didn’t you?

    • There was a time when people captured on the battlefield were POWs. But, call it whatever you want, holding people prisoner is holding people prisoner. And didn’t YOU hear that a lot of prisoners already released by the Bush administration didn’t come off the battlefield, they were wrongly accused in the third world country they live in and taken prisoner but the US. THEN, many years later, released with not so much as a “sorry.” Yes, maybe those left in the camp are actual “enemy combatants” which is Orwellian speak for “soldiers,” but the hundreds who have been released, under Bush and Cheney, many were not “on the battlefield.” So put down the National Review and get your information from more then one source.

      • And before anyone starts talkin’ smack, I’m not defending imprisonment of any kind. I am just opposed to Penny’s cut and dry assessment of the US policy, it’s nothing to be proud of, and most Americans are not.

      • Marc,

        @”Yes, maybe those left in the camp are actual “enemy combatants” which is Orwellian speak for “soldiers,””

        “Enemy combatant” is what it says. It may be soldier, policeman (or secret policeman), guerrilla fighter, militiaman, and so on. Combat = active warfare.

        Now, combatant may be lawful (uniformed or clearly marked and all that) or unlawful (saboteur, spy, terrorist – mercenaries also have a special status with not very many rights).

        Now, for example a spy may be court-martialled and shot and it’s Geneva legal.

        @”many years later, released”

        The Russian captives didn’t want to be released (and returned to Russia to be REALLY abused):

        Russia/U.S.: Mothers Of Guantanamo Detainees Fear Sons’ Extradition

        Russian mothers plead for sons to stay in Guantanamo

        But the US governemnt betrayed them and they were “freed” – to be tortured in Russia:

        Russia abused ex-Guantanamo detainees-rights group

        Russia and US accused of abusing men freed from Guantanamo Bay

        “The US government knew that these men would likely be tortured, and sent them back to Russia anyway,” the report said.

        About the lucky one (that is, if he was not “freed” yet):

        Last Russian at Guantanamo afraid to return home

        One of them was even killed by the police:

        They were actually safe in Gitmo:

        Of all the Guantanamo detainees returned to Russia, Odizhev may have had the most to fear: his mother told Human Rights Watch that security forces kidnapped him in May 2000 and brutally tortured him in connection with a series of apartment bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk in1999. He fled Russia soon after his release. If he had stayed, his mother told Human Rights Watch, “they would have killed him.”

        • Penny said captured on the field of battle, which is just another over simplification of the situation. Secret policemen are not “on the battlefield,” that wouldn’t be very secret of them. The fact is many were wrongfully held, and only much later released, without due process. The conservative majority supreme court even said so, not a bunch of lefties, that’s for sure. What we did there was wrong.

          As for your examples of Russians who returned to Russia, I’m sure they were innocent, that’s how they ended up in Gitmo in the first place, right? Where these people terrorists or not? If you truly believe in locking people up and throwing away the key, then you should admire the fact the Russians finished the job. Instead you say the US took away their rights because they were terrorists, and the Russians took away their rights because they were innocent.

          If you like to read Human Rights Watch, read what they have to say about Gitmo :


          and stop cherry picking quotes from them their info to suit your side of an argument. I agree they are a very creditable source. They have lots to say about US human rights abuses as well.

          • A secret policeman can be captured in the war. I’m pretty sure the Russians captured many Gestapo agents, for example.

            “As for your examples of Russians who returned to Russia, I’m sure they were innocent, that’s how they ended up in Gitmo in the first place, right? Where these people terrorists or not? If you truly believe in locking people up and throwing away the key, then you should admire the fact the Russians finished the job. Instead you say the US took away their rights because they were terrorists, and the Russians took away their rights because they were innocent.”

            As the Eastern Campaign wrote:

            And it is even possible that one of these men was actually rescued from the Taliban. He claims that upon crossing the Amu Darya the Taliban captured he and his friend and accused them of being Russian spies. His friend had his throat slit and he was tortured in Kandahar for his troubles. Anyways, they all have interesting stories.

            Anyway, the fact is that for example the dead guy said he want to stay in Gitmo, his family wanted to stay in Gitmo.

            It’s like “rendition”, only here called “releasing”.

            Notice that the Chinese captives were NOT returned to China. For their safety, yes.

            • @”his family wanted to stay in Gitmo”

              His family wanted him to stay in Gitmo, of course.

              But I guess they would be happy to get an asylum in Germany too.

  4. Terrorists have no rights? How come? I thought there is rule of law and justice wherever the Americans go? Guess I should reconsider my views.

  5. What’s particularly stunning is that, despite this barbaric criminal “justice” system … Russia still has the world’s fifth-highest murder rate.

    Actually, world experience shows that there is nothing surprising in this. Remember, SIZO is the place for people that are not only not convicted, in many cases people there are not even indicted. And the easiest way to get the indictment is the confession. And Russian cops have a long history of obtaining confessions – starting with czarist sysk, and perfected by the communists. The confessions of the innocent lead to perfect results, approval and bonuses – but leave the real criminals free.

    by the way – are rts and funkypanky sock puppets? Their verbal diarrhea is just way too similar. Or they are just the students of the same politinformator that didn’t think too highly of the class’ intellectual capabilities?

    Either way, there are good places for you (whether you is singular or plural): world can wait dot com, communists dot org cpusa dot whatever. Why spend time here where you look like idiot(s)?

    • “by the way – are rts and funkypanky sock puppets?”

      Yeah, thought so too. A similar way of trolling.

  6. penny

    George Washington was a terrorist and also didn’t have the right to due process like a citizen.

    I wander if the British had the waterboarding medical treatment way back then in 1776?

    Actually there was a bunch of terrorists – Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton to name a few to be arrested and hanged.

  7. RTS. I’m sure British readers will take comfort from your description of Washington as a dangerous terrorist (though I prefer the expression ‘subversive’)
    That said, unless you have access to time travel I don’t see how we can arrest and hang the individuals you mention.
    I therefore suggest a more pragmatic approach. You read the article, which is about the disastrous prison system in your country, and you give some intelligent and relevant comment on how you think it could be fixed. And just to get you going, I have a list of names as well. Putin, Medvedev, Ivanov, Konovalov…

    • I don’t think RTS is a Russian, he seems to be a native English speaker, most likely, an American (you can always tell by his grammar). So, that prison system you’re talking about is not in “his” country. Nonetheless, he and these xenophobic Russians posting here appear to be fellow travelers judging by the inflammatory content of his musings.

      And speaking of terrorists those of them who are American (e.g., Jose Padilla) do have a right to full constitutional protections and they got that including legal assistance, jury trial, right to cross-examine witnesses, the whole enchilada. U.S. Constitution does not provide as much protection to foreigners, albeit it provides some. So, those foreign terrorists have nothing to complain about — they could have been simply summarily shot in Iraq or Afghanistan, and that would have been lawful.

      • RV,
        Agree with you, the terrorists do not have protections under the geneva convention. They would more accurately fall under the espionage umbrella, which could get one shot on site. Shamelessly hiding under their women’s burka’s for protection. Nothing but murdering scum, deserving of a bullet.

        • Hold your horses, actually it’s not that easy. The rules on spies are (Hague 1907):

          Art. 29. A person can only be considered a spy when, acting clandestinely or on false pretences, he obtains or endeavours to obtain information in the zone of operations of a belligerent, with the intention of communicating it to the hostile party.

          Art. 30. A spy taken in the act shall not be punished without previous trial.

          So, merely disguising for protection (like walking around in women clothes without gathering intel) is not spying and there has to be a trial first (not “simply summarily shot”, it’s called extrajudical killing aka murder).

          Now, Geneva 1949 has this to say (after for example the Germans executed tens of thousands of captured resistance fighters as bandits or terrorists and hundreds of commandos as spies):

          It may, nevertheless, seem rather surprising that a humanitarian Convention should tend to protect spies, saboteurs or irregular combatants. Those who take part in the struggle while not belonging to the armed forces are acting deliberately outside the laws of warfare. Surely they know the dangers to which they are exposing themselves. It might therefore have been simpler to exclude them from the benefits of the Convention, if such a course had been possible, but the terms espionage, sabotage, terrorism, banditry and intelligence with the enemy, have so often been used lightly, and applied to such trivial offences (2), that it was not advisable to leave the accused at the mercy of those detaining them.

          • So you might rather argue they’re irregular combatants, saboteurs or terrorists, not spies (unless they were captured dressed-up while gathering intelligence, that’s definition).

            And you can’t just go around shooting people out of hand, no matter what.

            Also of course everyone can be tried for war crimes or regular crimes regardless of their status.

            Remember this idiot Calley? He slept on the Geneva Convention lessons.

            And in the Russian army they don’t teach laws of war and the international humanitarian war at all.

  8. RV

    That’s why Delta Camp is outside of the US national territory. The idea of wateboarding of aliens inside the US got the US-rulers scary themselves. They seemingly remeber about the Consitution its amendments yet.

  9. As always, can’s say better than Latynina: American treatment of detainees is to torture, what calling your secretary “honey” is to rape.

    But of course, talking about mistreatment (real or fictional) of detainees by US authorities on a Russia-oriented blog is a great way to divert attention from hundreds of examples of police brutality in Russian

  10. ‘Feral’ child barks and hisses after being raised as a pet
    A “feral” five-year-old girl who hisses and barks after being forced by her family to live as one of their many pets has been rescued from a home in far eastern Russia.

    By Adrian Blomfield in Moscow
    Last Updated: 12:57PM BST 27 May 2009

    According to police, the child, who has only been identified as “Natasha”, was so neglected that she had barely developed a human vocabulary, communicating instead through animal noises.

    Although she lived with her father, grandparents and other relatives, Natasha was essentially treated like one of a large number of dogs and cats that shared a small flat in the isolated city of Chita.

    Like the other pets, she lapped at her food from a bowl on the floor and had never learned how to use cutlery.

    Welfare officers, who were led to the flat by concerned neighbours, have placed Natasha in an orphanage. Although malnourished and small for her age, she appeared to be relatively healthy considering her ordeal, a police spokesman was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

    He said the police were looking for the girl’s parents, who are believed to be divorced.

    Welfare organisations say that child abuse in Russia is worsening, particularly in the Far East where traditional problems such as alcoholism and unemployment are magnified.

    Last week a woman was sentenced to three-years probation by a court in Chita after her baby died of alcohol poisoning. Yelena Sinitsyna admitted to drinking a pint of pure ethanol before breast feeding her four-month-old son.

    The consumption of ethanol and alcoholic byproducts such as boot polish, collectively known as “samogon” in Russia, remains common in many parts of the country. Alcohol dependence is believed to be the main cause of low male life expectancy in Russia, which, at just 58, is among the lowest in the world outside Africa.

    Activists say they are concerned that domestic abuse could become an even more serious problem as a growing number of Russians lose their jobs.

    In the midst of Russia’s worst economic crisis in a decade, unemployment has soared above 10 per cent, according to figures released this week which show that over 11 million people are now out of work.


    Enough said.

  11. About the “filtration camps” and other detention centers in Chechnya:

    What is a filtration camp? In fact, the term “filtration camp” is not very accurate. In the previous war, filtration camps were places where all detainees were taken. However, there is no such term in Russian legislation. Thus they can only be considered illegal places where Russian citizens are deprived of freedom. Now, official status is occasionally assigned to these facilities.

    For example, the famous filtration camp in Chernokozovo has official status, namely as a pre-trial establishment (sledstvennyj izoljator). There are other filtration camps, which have retained their name “filtration camp” and are officially called temporary detention facilities (izoljator vremennovo soderzhaniya). They are established at district departments of interior forces in various parts of Chechnya. They have an official status and the guard consists of members of interior forces or so called “Specnaz” of the Russian Ministry of Justice. The Specnaz is ill-famed for being extremely cruel. It is used for suppressing prison revolts and it acts with extreme cruelty throughout Russia. It is quite understandable that here, in Chechnya, when it enjoys full impunity, and in the context of war, its cruelty is amplified.

    This and more by Oleg Orlov from Memorial:

    • Oh, and from the last link:

      “Now I’d like to say that despite these terrible stories, soldiers do not always behave with uniform brutality. There is usually a difference and things strongly depend on the commander. For example, General Shamanov is known as a man who cultivates cruelty in his units.”

      Shamanov was just named by Putin as the commander of all Russian paratroopers (VDV).

      About this Russian Federation’s Jurgen Stroop:

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