Russia’s human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin /
Photo: Vyacheslav Kochetkov, MN Archive
Russia’s ombudsman Vladimir Lukin
has denounced the nation’s pretrial detention system whereby a suspect
can spend months — even years — in a pre-trial detention center
before being convicted, like the former Yukos head, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
“We are categorically against special purpose police being used
instead of administrative means [in pretrial detention centers],”
Interfax quoted him as saying in an interview to the official Rossiiskaya
Gazeta. Referring to the common practice of using special police to put
down disagreements in the centers, he said that the centers’ “bad
work and lack of any system is the main reason why situations gets out
of control in the first place.”
Force is often used instead of addressing the problems directly, he
Lukin also criticized the fact that the Justice Ministry, which has
jurisdiction over the detention centers, has classified its documents
regulating riot police, whereas other riot police regulations in use in
the Interior Minister are open to the public.
He said that his agency has still not been able to obtain the document
regulating riot police in detention centers, adding that this violates
the law on the Russian human rights ombudsman’s office.
Another aspect of regulations that Lukin found suspect was the authorized
use of masks by riot police. In his words, this allows police offers to
get away with abuses.
In some cases, suspects held for years were later acquitted; in others,
a court hearing a suspect held for years in a pre-trial detention center
would hand down an equivalent sentence just to avoid the controversy of
such a case being acquitted.