Russia: Lawyer covering torture case flees country after threats

23 July 2018, 15:39 UTC

Russian authorities must act immediately to protect Irina Biryukova, a lawyer who has fled the country after releasing a video showing her client Yevgeny Makarov being brutally beaten in a Russian prison, Amnesty International said today.

On 20 July, Irina Biryukova made public a video showing 18 officials attacking  Yevgeny Makarov in IK-1 penal colony in the Yaroslavl region of central Russia. According to Biryukova, her source inside the prison informed her that wardens were now plotting revenge against her, threatening her with physical harm.

“Irina Biryukova’s brave decision to expose the appalling abuse within IK-1 penal colony is the latest example of her dedication to protecting others from torture and other ill-treatment. It is alarming that her act of courage has forced her to flee the country in fear,” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

“The protection of Irina Biryukova and Yevgeny Makarov must be a priority for the Russian authorities. We are calling on them to promptly investigate in an independent and impartial manner the threats against Irina and the allegations of torture against Yevgeny, and commit to ending the culture of fear and impunity in the Russian penal system.”

Russia’s Investigative Committee announced on Monday that six officers of  penal colony IK-1 had been detained following the launch of a criminal investigation into the video, which was filmed in 2017.

“The launch of the investigation into the allegations of torture is a welcome first step towards justice. However, in the absence of a national mechanism which systematically works to prevent torture, the criminal case against Makarov’s torturers will be an exception to the rule.

“We remain extremely concerned for the safety of Yevgeny Makarov and the thousands of others detained in Russian pre-trial detention centres, penal colonies and police stations where allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are rife and investigations are rare.”