Sergei Magnitsky’s False Arrest, Torture and Murder in Pre-Trial Detention

Russian Interior Ministry officers intentionally arrested and created torturous and ultimately deadly conditions for Sergei Magnitsky in pre-trial detention, in an attempt to get him to change his testimony implicating them in crimes.

This is confirmed by independent findings as well as Sergei’s own writings from pre-trial detention and this has been recognized by the Russian and US heads of the Helsinki Commission, one of the world’s foremost human rights organizations.

After Sergei Magnitsky’s death, the Moscow Prison Oversight Commission conducted a 5-week investigation into the circumstances of Sergei’s imprisonment and death. The commissioners, all of whom were used to visiting substandard Russian prisons, were shocked when they discovered the conditions of Sergei Magnitsky’s incarceration. They concluded that a detainee is dependent on the system to provide for all his needs since, he has no means for providing for himself and that conditions had intentionally been created for Sergei that amounted to a denial of the conditions necessary for life. They also concluded that it is necessary to find out the role of the investigators in creating conditions and subjecting Magnitsky to them.” “The people responsible for this must be punished.”

In an attempt to prosecute the corrupt Interior Ministry officers responsible, Mrs. Lyudmila Alekseeva the Head of the Moscow Helsinki Commission, Russia’s oldest independent human rights organization, filed a complaint with Head of Investigative Committee to open a criminal case against the specific officers who organized the false arrest and torture to death of Sergei’s Magnisky.

Sergei Magnitsky was falsely arrested on November 24th, 2008 by officers he had testified against and who he accused of stealing 5.4 billion rubles ($230 million) from the Russian Government.

While Sergei was in pretrial detention he was told numerous times by the investigating officer Major Oleg Silchenko that if he withdrew his testimony against Interior Ministry officers Lt. Col. Artem Kuznetsov and Major Pavel Karpov that he would be released. In Sergei’s own words (11 September 2009):

“Realizing the invalidity of their claims, the investigators arranged for physical and psychological pressure to be exerted upon me in order to suppress my will and to force me to make accusations against myself and other persons. In particular, the investigators repeatedly proposed that I testify against William Browder in exchange for “a suspended sentence during the trial” and freedom. Every time, when I repeatedly rejected these propositions by the investigators, pushing me to be dishonest, the conditions of my detention became worse and worse.”

While Sergei was held in pre-trial detention and refused to change his testimony he was continuously moved to an innumerable cells in consistently worsening conditions. He was put into cells in the middle of the Russian winter with no heat and no glass in the windows. He was put into cells with 8 prisoners and four beds, so the prisoners had to sleep in shifts. He was put into cells with prisoners who were mentally disturbed and violent, where Sergei would have to be constantly aware to avoid attack. He was put into cells with no hygiene, with holes in the floor for toilets, that flooded with sewerage so that he had to jump from bed to bed. He was denied access to showers, clean drinking water, and when he got sick from these conditions he was denied access to medical care.

By June 4th of 2008, 6.5 months after he had been detained Sergei was already seriously ill and in constant pain because of his treatment in prison. He had lost 18 KG (40 pounds) and could no longer eat without vomiting. He was diagnosed in prison with pancreatitis and gall stones and he was scheduled for an ultrasound examination to be followed by a necessary operation.

During this time Investigator Silchenko continued to try and get Sergei to withdraw his testimony against officers Kuznetsov and Karpov.

On July 25th, just two weeks before Sergei’s medical treatment was to begin, investigator Silchenko lost patience waiting for Sergei to withdraw his testimony against officers Kuznetsov and Karpov and moved him to Butyrka the harshest maximum security pre-trial detention facilities in Moscow where there was no medical ward at all.

The conditions in Butyrka were infinitely worse than anything Sergei had experienced before.

Sergei described his conditions in Butyrka in a letter to his lawyer as follows:

“Justice, under such conditions [deprivation of sleep, food, and water over a long period of time] turns into a process of grinding human meat for prisons and camps. A process, against which a man is not able to defend himself effectively. A process through which a man loses awareness of what is happening to him and can only think of when this all will be finished and when he can escape the physical and emotional torture and make it to the labor camp. (Nobody hopes for a not-guilty verdict as they say our courts issue not more than 2% of such verdicts).”

“They say here that the level of human suffering when serving a prison sentence is much less than here [in pre-trial detention] where a man, who has still not been found guilty by a court, is put through the meat grinder…”

“The medical examination, which was prescribed for me in the previous pre-trial detention center, was not conducted at the prescribed time, while another half a month passed since then… I ask you to use the information stated in my letter to prepare complaints in my defense to the bodies you deem necessary. I also ask you not to pass the contents of this letter to members of my family, as I would not want them to experience additional worries because of this.”

On the night of November 13, after 355 days in detention, Sergei, in extreme pain called for medical help. After three days Butyrka prisons officilas transferred him to Matrosskaya Tishina where four months earlier he had been prescribed with a medical examination and surgery for pancreatitis he was diagnosed in pre-trial detention.

But instead of treating him, they put him in a straightjacket and left him in an unattended room for 1 hour and 18 minutes to die alone and in extreme pain.

During that entire time a medical team was stationed just outside the room.

During the period of Sergei’s incarceration Sergei filed hundreds of complaints about the inhumane conditions he was subjected to, and scores of requests for medical care. He also filed scores of complaints for failing to get any redress.

During the 12 month of Sergei’s incarceration not only did Major Silchenko sadistically create ever more deadly conditions for Sergei in an attempt to force him to retract his testimony, but he also denied Sergei contact with his family. Sergei was denied visits with his wife, mother and aunt. Major Silchenko even refused Sergei the right to speak with his children. Sergei spent 12 months in pre-trial detention and died without ever hearing the voices of his children again.

Moscow Public Prison Oversight Commission member Zoya Svetova called Sergei’s death – “an intentional death”. Another human rights activist – Andrei Babushkin said that “Sergei was murdered to conceal the fraud he discovered”.

Lyudmila Alekseeva was even more specific and stated in her complaint to the General Prosecutor’s Office that Sergei Magnitsky was falsely arrested and systematically tortured to death by the Interior Ministry Officers who he had testified against.

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