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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Former Inmates Tell of Torture in Grozny

GROZNY -- Beatings with bottles, sleep deprivation and threats of violence against relatives are all routine forms of torture in detention centers in Chechnya, former inmates say.

Though Russian government officials deny systematic abuse of prisoners, rights groups say abuse is frequent in Chechnya, where rebels have fought Moscow's rule for over 10 years.

Chechens detained on suspicion of backing the rebels said they would never recover from their experiences, especially at a notorious facility in the regional capital, Grozny, which even Russia's Chechen allies have insisted should be closed.

Housed in a four-story gray building guarded by towers with machine-gun nests and a concrete fence, Operational Investigation Bureau No. 2, or ORB-2, comes under the direct authority of the Russian Interior Ministry.

"The cell walls were smeared with blood. They chained me to a hot radiator. Then they started to conduct inhuman tortures. The same demands over and over," Ali Techiyev, 21, who accused of fighting against Russia, said in a written statement.

"They beat me with a sand-filled bottle over the head, the feet, the kidneys and other parts of my body. The torturers changed over every night. They got tired beating me," he said.

Techiyev's statement, addressed to local officials, said he was regularly taken from detention to ORB-2 for interrogation. He had tried to appeal to the courts without success.

"My torturers say they take their orders only from Moscow, and that no one can help me," said Techiyev, who remains in detention. He passed the statement to relatives during a visit.

Abusaid Azimov said his brother, Anzor, was taken to OBR-2 earlier this year and that he was also accused of fighting Russia.

"The torture went on day and night for three days. Then they said if he didn't admit his guilt they would bring in his relatives and beat us until he signed," Abusaid said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which monitors treaties on prisoner rights, ended its Chechen visiting program in May, saying officials did not allow full access.

The Red Cross appealed to President Vladimir Putin in June for help with restarting the visits, but a spokeswoman said Wednesday that no progress had been made.

In May, journalists managed to visit a former detention center before it was demolished. Its three cells were small and filthy, and inmates' graffiti on the walls spoke of suffering.

"[Police,] you'll pay for what you've done to us. We will get our revenge, Allah willing," said one inscription.

"Where am I? What is happening? Am I alive?" said another.

The number of detainees in the Chechen centers is not known, but hundreds of Chechens have been convicted of fighting Russia and sentenced to long prison terms, often in the Far North.

Local and international rights groups have long argued that these men are tortured in order to extract confessions.

These groups won an unlikely ally in April when warlord Ramzan Kadyrov, who heads Chechnya's Moscow-backed government, said OBR-2 should be closed because it "massively breaks the law."

"The problems of kidnapping and disappearances, of torture of people detained in the Chechen Republic ... are not being solved," rights group Memorial said in comments made after Kadyrov had spoken.