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The "Dry Submarino": Police Torture in Kazakhstan

Three years ago, Alexander Pavlovich Gerasimov went to the police station to check on his stepson, who had been arrested. Instead of helping him find out about his family, police accused Gerasimov of murder. They held him in detention overnight and tortured him using a technique called the “dry submarino”: the police tied Gerasimov’s hands and held him down on the floor; one officer repeatedly jammed his knee into Gerasimov’s back while suffocating him with a plastic bag. Gerasimov bled from his nose, ears, and face before finally losing consciousness.

The video clips above and below show Gerasimov explaining what it was like to experience this horrible mistreatment (clips courtesy Joe Cyr, who provided pro bono assistance on the case).

Unfortunately, Gerasimov’s story illustrates a broader pattern of abuse in Kazakhstan. Rather than conduct proper investigations, police will often decide on a “suspect” and then use torture to force a confession.

Yet Gerasimov did not confess and was released. He spent 13 days in the hospital recovering, and, later, over a month receiving intensive psychiatric treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder arising from the incident.

There still has been no proper investigation into Gerasimov’s mistreatment. The same police unit that tortured Gerasimov was then entrusted with investigating his complaint, guaranteeing that it would go nowhere. Gerasimov was told that some unnamed officers were subjected to unspecified disciplinary sanctions. In other words, nothing happened.

Unlike countless victims, however, Gerasimov did not stop there. During the last three years, he sent complaint after complaint to the state bodies of Kazakhstan. Last week, along with our colleagues at the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, the Open Society Justice Initiative submitted Gerasimov’s case to the UN Committee against Torture, where it is the first complaint to be brought against Kazakhstan.

We hope the committee’s decision in this case will help Gerasimov finally get an effective remedy, including compensation for his pain, suffering, and medical treatment.

We also hope that it will serve as a catalyst for Kazakhstan to finally prosecute those who tortured him. Most importantly, we hope that it will push Kazakhstan to prosecute and investigate other torture cases, and to prevent future abuse.

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