UN lashes out at Russia over alleged torture

The UN Committee Against Torture has strongly criticised Russia for failing to investigate widespread allegations of torture and stepping up intimidation and reprisals against human rights advocates and journalists.

In a report issued at the end of a four-week session in Geneva which included two meetings on Russia, the panel of 10 independent experts expressed concern at the discrepancy between the high number of complaints of torture and ill treatment that it received from detainees and the relatively low number of criminal cases opened by authorities in response leading to prosecution.

The committee urged the repeal of a new law backed by President Vladimir Putin that expands the definition of treason so broadly that critics say it could be used to call anyone who opposes the government a traitor.

It called for another new Putin-backed law requiring human rights organisations that receive foreign funding to register as "foreign agents" to be amended, saying the term "seems negative and threatening to human rights defenders."

‘Acts of torture’

The report on Russia's compliance with a 1987 treaty against torture and other degrading punishments also expressed serious concern about numerous allegations that detainees have been tortured to extract confessions which were then used as evidence in court,

It also voiced concern at Moscow's failure to ensure all detainees the right to a lawyer.

The committee called on Russia to take "immediate and effective measures to prevent all acts of torture and ill-treatment throughout the country and to eliminate impunity of those allegedly responsible."

It pointed to the increasing intimidation, harassment and attacks against people and organisations monitoring and reporting on human rights.