Russia: Police mistreat hundreds of detained peaceful protesters

Hundreds of peaceful anti-corruption protesters in Russia’s two largest cities have been subjected to cruel and degrading treatment in police detention over the past 48 hours as authorities continue their crackdown on participants of mass rallies that took place across the country on 12 June.

“The Russian authorities have used mass detentions as a tactic to crush peaceful protests. But the reprisals haven’t stopped there. Hundreds of peaceful protesters in Moscow and St Petersburg were locked up in police stations overnight, in plainly degrading conditions, crowded cells with little or no food, bedding or easy access to sanitation,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

“We have received numerous reports of people piled on top of one another in police stations, where police dealing with extreme backlogs in processing cases forced them to stay overnight on the floor or even on the street while in police custody. It is an outrage for anybody to be detained and subjected to these inhumane conditions, let alone detained simply for peacefully expressing their views.”

Thousands of protesters locked up

According to OVD-Info monitoring group, Russia’s police forces detained at least 1,721 peaceful protesters on 12 June, smashing its already atrocious record when more than a thousand people were detained during a previous wave of peaceful demonstrations in March.

The latest wave of arrests saw around 800 peaceful demonstrators detained in Moscow alone, and a similar number in St Petersburg, with dozens more locked up in cities and towns across Russia. While most of them were released shortly after police processed their individual administrative detention reports, the backlog forced hundreds to wait overnight for their reports and, in many cases, their trials.

In one example, 10 peaceful protesters were huddled together in a cramped room with only three chairs and no beds in a police station in St Petersburg’s Kalininsky district. They spent two nights in these conditions as they awaited trials in courts overwhelmed by the caseload.

They could hardly breathe

Six detainees at another police station in the same district complained about appalling conditions of detention. Police transported them from the court packed together in a very tight car, where, in their words, they could hardly breathe. According to the detainees, they have not slept for the past two days and were forced to serve their “administrative arrest” for up to five days in a cell with no bedding as the remaining cells were overcrowded.

At least three people were forced to spend the night in the open air outside Moscow’s Alekseevsky police station due to the lack of free cells.

“It appears the authorities in Russia wanted to send a further message by making these detentions slow, humiliating and painful. The Russian authorities must stop detaining peaceful protesters, whose only ‘crime’ was to irk those in power. If there are any case where protesters are arrested for an internationally recognizable offence, they must be treated in a humane manner” said Denis Krivosheev.

Amnesty International reiterates its call on Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all peaceful protesters detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly during anti-corruption rallies.