Lithuania OKs torture of suspect by Russian security forces?

Article published on June 17, 2010
community published
Article published on June 17, 2010
20 years ago Lithuania declared its independence from the USSR, before anyone knew it will break apart very soon. In the eyes of the world, Lithuania's name stood for courage, as well as struggle for individual and collective rights against the omnipotent bureaucratic empire with ubiquitous security and intelligence systems. The last Soviet troops left the country in 1993.
I watched them leave from a bridge above a railroad with my father and brother. A hand from a window of the last car waved a Soviet flag. "See, they want to tell us they'll be back," my father said then. Two decades later, KGB's inheritors are coming through the back door: a Lithuanian citizen, suspected of participating in organising a terrorist attack, was allegedly tortured by Russian officers.

20-year-old Eglė Kusaitė was married to a Chechnyan guerrilla fighter and converted to Islam. The man died during one of the operations, fighting against the forces of the Russian Federation, occupying the breakaway republic in Caucasus. As the full-scale war has receded, most of the fighting currently takes place on a much smaller scale. Using links, weapons and funds from abroad, some guerrillas engage in terror acts against government institutions, while the institutions aim at isolating and dismantling the structures of the Chechnyan resistance. As most of you probably expect, they couldn't care less about international human rights standards, and the world watches on, since the global fear of terrorism serves to sort of legitimise such action. Recently I read a journalistic investigation on the methods of interrogation of alleged helpers of guerrilla fighters in Chechnyan villages (skip the following text and jump to the next *** if you are sensitive to descriptions of cruelty). Beating of men and women, including those at old age, until they become shapeless lumps of meat was a technique that security forces are even proud of. The use of drowning and other more sophisticated techniques is widespread. The journalist writing the story even recorded testimonies of security officers chopping off a suspect's hand, supposedly when his handcuffs were stuck.

***Kusaitė is suspected for attempting a terrorist attack on a military base. She had been living with her deceased husband's relatives in Germany and repeatedly applied for a visa to Russia, but was never given one. She was given the visa in order to catch her in action. The terror act was planned against a military base. Nobody has explained so far, just how the young woman would have had access to the military base in Russia, of all places. Well, if she was indeed planning a terror attack, she should be judged weighing all the evidence.

However, this is only a part of the problem. There have been reports that Kusaitė received threats and was tortured during the investigation in Lithuania, in which Russian officers also took part. The suspect was denied the right to consult a lawyer prior to the interrogation, the right to see her relatives, and even, as some say, adequate medical treatment after the torture. Her relatives claim she has been severely beaten up and threatened that her friend, a Russian citizen, will be murdered unless Kusaitė takes the blame onto herself. The member of the European Parliament Leonidas Donskis, civic activist Darius Kuolys and the director of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Henrikas Mickevičius, have sent an appeal to the director of the State Security Department asking for a fair investigation of the case and immediate investigation of the involvement of Russian officers and the alleged torture.

This case has very destructive consequences to law enforcement and even national sovereignty of Lithuania. Earlier speculations were circulated that the country hosted a high security CIA prison, where inmates could have also been tortured. The government claims to know nothing about it, but a special commission has found that some secret prison could have been based in the Lithuanian territory, American officers were landing in planes that refused inspection by border controls, top secret meetings took place, but there is no evidence that inmates were kept in the place. Even so, in the middle of the EU, there is a place where non-EU planes land and refuse inspection by border controls, potentially smuggling weapons or people, and nobody is accountable for this! Now Russian officers, with their inhumane methods, are allowed to interrogate a Lithuanian citizen. The country, which had Europe's first impeachment of a president for leaking secret information to Russian agents and thus violating the national security, now watches on as its legal sovereignty is further eroded.