Russian Olga Sadovskaya keeps fighting torture

December 2, 2015

Yesterday I announced the “10 December, 10 Defenders” Campaign by OMCT. One the first profiles concerns Russian human rights defender Olga Sadovskaya.

Olga Sadovskaya does not shout, or carry banners in the streets; nor does she complain about the threats and insulting graffiti she regularly finds painted on the fence around her house.  This sober 36-year-old lawyer, who practices yoga in her spare time, has put her legal skills and intellectual rigor in the service of the cause of fighting torture.  As Deputy Director of the Committee Against Torture, theNGO that won the 2011 Council of Europe Human Rights Prize, she focuses on winning legal victories in torture cases by thorough investigative groundwork, sophisticated medical reports and legal expertise.

Everyone should care about torture because anyone could be the next victim,” Olga says. “If torture is condoned or indeed widespread, it means that the State’s legal system is not working properly, not only when torture is involved, but at all levels.” Torture works like a litmus test. If it is accompanied by impunity, the legal system is dysfunctional. “There is no guarantee that the law will work properly in ordinary, day-to-day situations, as when someone asks for a bank loan, sues for damages, needs her child to be protected from abuse or her mother to be provided with anaesthesia”, she explains.

The work pays off. In the 13 years she has been with the Committee, she and her colleagues have filed 84 complaints at the European Court of Human Rights, managed to put more than 100 police officers in jail for torture, with clients receiving almost 46 million roubles (700,000 USD) in compensation, and several lives being saved by evacuation from Chechnya.

Olga describes her work as a constant challenge given the Russian Government’s attempts to close down independent human rights organizations.  For lack of substantive arguments, the Government accuses the Committee – partially funded by international donors, as most NGOs – of being a foreign agent, in order to prevent it from accessing funds that allow it to function. This is a commonly used tactic against human rights activists. Rather than simply banning an NGO, some States block its access to external funding by a variety of restrictive measures – legal, administrative or practical – which being, less obvious, are less likely to draw international condemnation. Although, as a result, the Committee might run out of money within three months, Olga keeps ploughing through her cases with unwavering faith that her work is about restoring trust in the State. [for more on foreign agent, see:]

Story by Lori Brumat in Geneva.


Source: Russian Federation: Olga and the paradox of fighting torture: Revealing legal dysfunctionality, building trust / November 1, 2015 / Links / Human rights defenders / OMCT

One Response to “Russian Olga Sadovskaya keeps fighting torture”

  1. […] During her early years at the organization, Sadovskaya’s role as an investigator included collecting evidence of torture in prisons, penal colonies, police stations, and psychiatric institutions. Over time, she transitioned to analysis and international defense work with the European Court of Human Rights and various UN bodies. Sadovskaya also trains lawyers on how to work with the European Court of Human Rights. See also: […]

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