No matter who you are, you will never be safe from torture in Russia
The Homo Homini human rights award for 2016 goes to the Russian non-governmental organization Committee for the Prevention of Torture.
Prague, 16 February 2017 - People in Need is proud to announce that the Homo Homini award for 2016 will be granted to the Russian non-governmental organization Committee for the Prevention of Torture. They are being awarded the prize for the courage and stamina they maintain in order to assist those who are victims of torture, police harassment and violence and impunity, while also defending their rights not only before Russian authorities, but also on the international level.
“The Committee for the Prevention of Torture engages in highly complex activities under very challenging conditions. They document various cases of torture and subsequently help the victims, knowing that they are risking their own safety,” says Šimon Pánek, the director of the organization People in Need. “The space is shrinking for the activities of civil society and non-governmental organizations in the post-Soviet region, especially in Russia. In times such as these, we feel it is only logical to celebrate such a collective endeavor and to grant the Homo Homini award to this organization,” adds Pánek.
As is the case every year, the prize will be awarded during the opening ceremony of the One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, which will be on March 6th this year. The event will take place in the Prague Crossroads (Pražská křižovatka) and starts at 7PM. The award will be accepted in person by Igor Kalyapin, the founder and current director of the organization, together with Olga Sadovskaya, the Deputy Director and Sergey Romanov, who conducts investigations into individual torture cases.
“No matter who you are, you will never be safe from torture in Russia,” says the founder of the organization, Igor Kalyapin, who entered the fight for human rights after he himself became a victim of police brutality. The achievements of his organization include for example the cancellation of 793 unlawful decisions, the conviction of 127 perpetrators, and the securing of 51 million rubles in compensation for a number of torture victims through court hearings.
The organization and its members face mounting pressure from the state apparatus, including physical threats. The Committee's Chechen office has been looted several times, and in 2016, local workers and a group of journalists invited to the region by the organization were violently assaulted. This included the director Igor Kalyapin, too. Despite these events, they have not succumbed to intimidation and have continued to document torture cases. “We are aiming for two things: for torture to become unacceptable for Russian society and for the investigation of human rights violations to become more effective. That's all,” says Kalyapin. Only after that would the organization consider ending its activities.
“Receiving the Homo Homini award gives us hope that the human rights situation in Russia is of interest to the international community. It also symbolizes an important form of support for those who are victims of torture,” adds Kalyapin.
People in Need has bestowed the Homo Homini award annually on personalities or groups who have significantly contributed to the promotion of human rights and democracy and nonviolent solutions to political conflicts since 1994. The laureates from previous years include the Syrian school teacher and activist Souad Nawfal, the Azerbaijani lawyer Intigam Aliyev, Kyrgyz defender of those unjustly prosecuted Azimjan Askarov and the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo (who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize). Regretfully, a number of the laureates continue to be kept behind bars in their home countries for political reasons.
For additional information, contact Adela Pospichalova, cell: +420 777 787 968, firstname.lastname@example.org
Committee for the Prevention of Torture
The Russian organization Committee for the Prevention of Torture was founded in the year 2000. It represents the interests of torture victims in court and in front of other investigative bodies, while also providing assistance on issues pertaining to obtaining compensation and medical rehabilitation. The Committee’s lawyers conduct their own independent self-contained investigation, which serve as a means for providing admissible evidence in the courtroom. The Committee also represents Russian citizens before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The Committee mostly focuses on cases of torture in custody, police violence, disappearances and on cases of extrajudicial executions. A large portion of its work is being done in Chechnya, where human rights have been and continue to be systematically repressed. The Committee also constantly deals with the inadequate political attention given to the topic of torture in general.
To deliver justice and force the authorities to assume responsibility, the Committee’s lawyers make use of the existing Russian legal system, as well as of other international tools and instruments available due to Russia's membership in international bodies. They do this knowing they are risking their own personal safety. Since its founding, the Committee has managed to achieve the cancellation of 793 unlawful decisions, the conviction of 127 perpetrators, and the securing of 51 million rubles in compensation for a number of torture victims through court hearings.
Those working for the organization are constantly harassed, detained and brought in for questioning, and at times have even been physically assaulted.
Russian "foreign agent" law
A law was passed by the Russian parliament in July 2012 which designates non-governmental organizations that receive foreign donations and engage in "political activities" as “foreign agents”, without defining what such political activities are. Being placed on the list of foreign agents, which is held by the Ministry of Justice, means a lot of psychological pressure for the organizations as well as an increased level of attention, harassment and discrimination from the state institutions.