The Oak Fellow for Incarceration and Human Rights is Russian human rights lawyer Olga Sadovskaya. Olga is vice chair of the Committee Against Torture, the largest and most notable anti-torture organization in Russia, which she and three other activists launched in 2000.
Olga Sadovskaya is a human rights lawyer working as the vice-chair of the Committee Against Torture in Russia, who has been working on issues surrounding torture for over 18 years.
She began this human rights initiative in 2000 along with three other activists; Now the Committee against Torture is the largest and most notable anti-torture organization in Russia.
During the early years at the committee, Sadovskaya’s role as an investigator included collecting evidence of torture in colonies, prisons, police, and psychiatric institutions. Over time, she transitioned to analysis and international defense with the European Court and UN bodies. Sadovskaya also trains lawyers on how to work with the European Court of Human Rights.
After years of experience with torture cases, Sadovskaya and her team have written and published a methodology for public investigation, which is now widely used by human rights organizations in Russia and the former Soviet Union. Olga has personally represented more than 300 victims of torture before the European Court of Justice, two of which have been included in the list of 20 most important cases that changed Russia.
The Committee Against Torture has created accountability for torture that was previously missing in Russia. Torture as an issue was scarcely talked about and often victims were scared and ashamed to speak out or believed it was not possible to get justice. However, the problems are still very prevalent. Investigations into torture are still very low in quality. This problem is amplified in the Chechen Republic, where Sadovskaya’s organization is the only one that continues to work on cases of tortures and abductions.
While working against state-sanctioned torture, Sadovskaya has faced personal threats, including the threats of murder, particularly for her work in Chechnya. The Committee’s office has been burned down several times and their cars have been destroyed. Olga is also periodically monitored and constantly at risk of being accused of baseless crimes.
Sadovskaya hopes to use the Oak Human Rights Fellowship as respite so that she can continue her work in Russia, as well as an opportunity to connect with Colby students and raise awareness on issues of torture and incarceration in Russia and around the world.