20.10.2014 | Halya Coynash

Nadiya Savchenko’s treatment amounts to torture, lawyers say


Nadiya Savchenko is being deprived of sleep, is watched 24 hours a day, and not allowed to speak in private to her lawyer.  She also reports that the Russian prosecution is trying to foist their own lawyer on her.

Nikolai Polozov, one of the lawyers representing Ukrainian officer Nadiya Savchenko reports that the conditions she is held in at the Serbski Institute in Moscow breach international law.   Savchenko, who was taken against her will to Russia after being captured by Kremlin-backed militants in the Luhansk oblast in Ukraine is being deprived of sleep, he says, and believes that this can be considered a form  of torture.  She is effectively watched around the clock with the light in her cell / room never turned off.  Polozov also reports that in breach of international conventions, he is unable to speak privately with his client.  Instead he speaks through glass in the presence of 5 Russian Penitentiary Service people, one of whom is a colonel. 

Savchenko is also prevented from writing anything – either letters or preparing documents for the court.

She told Polozov that her mother had been pressured into pushing Nadiya to accept the lawyer the prosecution wants.

Polozov and Savchenko’s other lawyer, Mark Feygin, say that they are preparing the relevant complaints.  Feygin writes that they had believed “that the Investigative Committee would confine itself to isolating Nadiya, and would definitely not resort to depriving her of sleep. We thought too well of them. Now it’s ECHR [the European Court of Human Rights].”

Memorial, the renowned human rights organization which Russia’s justice ministry is currently trying to get dissolved, last week declared Nadiya Savchenko a political prisoner.  Her release has been demanded by John Kerry, US Secretary of State and many other high-ranking foreign officials.

Nadiya Savchenko is being subjected to a so-called psychiatric examination at the Serbski Institute, notorious in Soviet times for punitive psychiatry.  The examination is taking place despite the appeal against it lodged on Savchenko’s behalf.  The hearings into that appeal have been consistently deferred, and the next is due only after Savchenko will have been held in Serbski Institute, surrounded by Penitentiary Service officers, for over a month.  With supreme cynicism, the date was fixed because it was alleged that the ‘examination” should not be interrupted. 

Savchenko has stated that she will not cooperate with the Serbsky Institute staff and considers the forced ‘assessment’ to be illegal.

Nadiya Savchenko was taken prisoner in the Luhansk oblast by militants from the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic on June 17 or 18.  Two days later a video appeared of her being interrogated by the militants. She demonstrated courage during the interrogation and refused to provide the information the militants demanded.

It then transpired that she was being held in a Russian SIZO.  She was first remanded in custody by a Voronezh court on July 2, then on July 9 Russia’s Investigative Committee announced  that she was being charged with alleged  “complicity in the group killing of two or more people carrying out official activities in a publicly hazardous manner for motives of political hatred”.

The investigators claimed that in June, as a member of the Aidar Battalion, Savchenko found out the whereabouts of a group of TV Rossiya journalists and other civilians outside Luhansk, and passed these to fighters who carried out a mortar attack which killed TV Rossiya employees Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin.

They also asserted that Savchenko had crossed the Russian border, without any documents, pretending to be a refugee.  They alleged that she had been initially detained to establish her identity.

This story is totally denied by Savchenko who says she was forcibly taken across the border with a bag over her head and in handcuffs.   The Russian investigators’ version is also wildly implausible.  More details about the holes in the case, and the use of Russian TV to try to conceal them here.

The defence have provided compelling evidence showing that Savchenko had been captured before the Russian journalists were killed. Neither this, nor the discrepancies in the investigators’ story has had any impact on the courts and it seems likely that they are simply handing down the rulings demanded of them.  The political nature of the detention and court proceedings is made abundantly clear by the court order from July 3 (and the investigators’ documents).  This order refers to the Donbas region of Ukraine as the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics,

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