Monitoring state violence in Russia
OVD-Info, meaning Police Info, is an independent human rights site doggedly providing data on extra-judicial political detentions in Russia.
Brutality and excessive use of force when putting down peaceful public protest is a huge and growing phenomenon in Russia, with targeted beatings using truncheons and tasers commonplace. There are regular stories of detainees being taken straight from the police station to the hospital, and charges frequently shifting from straightforward administrative infringements to criminal offences that carry heavy sentences of 10 years.
OVD-Info seeks to raise the visibility of this phenomenon, and by investigating and describing the system as it stands, provide evidence that will necessitate the reform of the police, judiciary and prison system in the future.
The group has investigated and shared information on the nature and number of political arrests, trials and imprisonments, since mass arrests of protesters took place in Moscow in December 2011. It gathered data on 5,000 arrests in its first year alone (with 250 people arrested on a single day in demonstrations over elections in March 2012).
The site charts individuals’ stories post-arrest, carrying first-person accounts of trials (in closed courts, lasting minutes, without any case for the defence or access to lawyers). It also logs fictitious police and detention reports alongside hard photo or video evidence, or eyewitness accounts for the defence, deemed inadmissible by courts.
There are few acquittals in political trials, with 95% of appeals turned down. ‘My colleagues and I are still optimistic,’ says co-founder Grigory Okhotin. ‘Firstly our data [is] vivid proof that protest has not disappeared. Secondly, there are hundreds of appeals from detainees at Russian protest demonstrations before the European Court of Human Rights. This court is slow and unwieldy, but sooner or later the appeals will be investigated. Thirdly and finally, the arrests have formed a new social group. During the last 18 months several thousands of people have been detained and experienced the Russian police and judiciary. 73% of Russian citizens no longer trust the police [according to a 2012 survey]. Only this kind of concrete knowledge can lead to the formation of a grassroots move for reform; a move that could be turned into action.’
Image courtesy of OVD-Info
Last updated: 05th of September, 2014