2003 Report by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Theo van Boven


Urgent appeals

778. On 15 March 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent a joint urgent appeal with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on behalf of Mikhail Vershinin, a Russian citizen member of the Jehova’s Witness Community in Almaty, who was reportedly arrested by plainclothes police officers at his home in Almaty on 2 August 1999. He and two former work colleagues arrested at the same time, his half-brother Jevgeny Turochnik and a former police officer Kopaï (who was said to have been arrested on 31 July 1999) were reportedly beaten, suffocated with a plastic bag and detained in a metal box during the first three days of their detention. They were said to have been deprived of food, water and reportedly had no access to sanitary facilities. It is alleged that Kopaï had two fingernails ripped out. As a result of the treatment they were allegedly subjected to, the three above-named reportedly confessed that they had killed 42 young prostitutes. He was reportedly detained in a communal 12–person cell in prison with about 36 detainees who had to take turns sleeping. The cell is said not to have had any natural light nor ventilation. Mikhail Vershinin was reportedly sentenced to death on 28 September 2001. During court appearances, his face was covered with bruises allegedly as a result of severe beating. He is said to have been convicted solely on the basis of his confessions extracted during his pre-trial detention. As a result of the treatment he was allegedly subjected to during his pre-trial detention and the prison conditions, Mikhail Vershinin is said to have developed diabetes with neuro-dermatological complications. The penitentiary administration is said to refuse to provide him with medical treatment. In the summer 2000, he reportedly tried to commit suicide, but was reportedly not given any medical assistance. Since he was sentenced to death, he has reportedly been transferred to a wing for death row prisoners and detained in a small metal cell (box), measuring 2 m3, without light. His family has reportedly been denied access to him since his arrest, and has been barred from providing him with medication, food and books. He is said to have been and to continue to be subjected to severe beatings on a regular basis.


779. The Special Rapporteur considers it appropriate to draw the attention of the Commission to the relevant finding of the Committee against Torture in its consideration of the initial periodic report of the Kazakhstan in May 2001 under the Convention against Torture, in which the Committee expressed its concern that “[t]he allegations of acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment committed by law-enforcement officials of the State party or with their acquiescence, including beatings and other actions in breach of the Convention against political opponents of the Government. (…) The pattern of failure of officials, including the procuracy, to provide in every instance prompt, impartial and full investigations into allegations of torture reported to the authorities, as well as a failure to prosecute alleged perpetrators, as required by articles 12 and 13 of the Convention. The Committee appreciates, but expresses concern, over the Government's acknowledgement of superficial investigations, destruction of evidence, intimidation of victims, and forced repudiation of testimony by investigators and personnel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs; (h) The overcrowding and lack of access to adequate medical care in prisons and pre-trial detention centres, and particularly in juvenile detention centres, where there are reports of incidents of self-mutilation by detainees.” (A/56/44. para. 128 (b), (d) and (h))

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small logo   This report has been published by Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights on August 2, 2005.