The follow of torture in prisons and penal colonies in Russia has lengthy been widespread. Prisoners are tortured and raped by different prisoners on the request of the jail administration. Former prisoner and sufferer of abuse, the Belarusian laptop scientist Sergei Saveliev, who has offered the web site GULAGU NET with greater than a thousand movies testifying to those crimes, has simply arrived in France to hunt political asylum. Is there any likelihood these practices will cease?
In early October 2021, Vladimir Ossechkin, founding father of the web site GULAGU NET, launched a video of torture practiced within the jail hospital for tuberculosis sufferers in Saratov. Since 2015, Ossechkin lives in France, the place he emigrated for worry of prison prosecution in Russia. Having been granted political asylum, he continues his work, denouncing torture practices in Russian colonies and prisons. He and his colleagues have revealed movies of beatings earlier than, however they’ve by no means had as a lot publicity as this time. Ossechkin says he was approached by a former inmate who, whereas serving his sentence within the above-mentioned hospital, had labored for the jail administration on video footage shot by hospital employees. Upon his launch, he was in a position to pull out an archive of damning proof.
The follow of torture in prisons and penal colonies in Russia has lengthy been widespread. Prisoners are tortured and raped by different prisoners on the request of the jail administration. Those that complain about rights violations within the colonies are overwhelmed and tortured. Usually, jail officers videotape the torture and warn their victims that if they don’t denounce different prisoners or adjust to their calls for, the movies of their rape will probably be revealed. Being raped locations an individual within the lowest caste of the jail system, the so-called “decrease caste”. The unwritten guidelines of Russian prisons forbid different inmates to shake fingers, eat or discuss with them. Because the video footage enters the database of the regional penitentiary division and, as human rights activists imagine, goes all the way in which again to the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), it’s clear that these actions by officers in some prisons and settlements should not the work of amateurs, however are a follow authorised by jail authorities.
The publication of the video from the “Ossechkin archive” precipitated a powerful response from the media and authorities in Russia. A number of prison circumstances had been opened, the pinnacle of the federal penitentiary service in Saratov resigned and a number of other officers of the Saratov penitentiary hospital had been dismissed.
Vladimir Ossechkin says that the pinnacle of the FSIN, Alexander Kalashnikov, in addition to different representatives of the penitentiary division liable for “chain” torture must also be dismissed, because the archives comprise movies of torture from different areas as properly.
Nonetheless, the deputies of the State Duma refused to create a parliamentary fee to analyze torture in Russian prisons; the FSIN itself requested the video archive of Vladimir Ossechkin for evaluation.
It’s potential that even these extremely publicized movies of torture is not going to result in any change within the practices of the Russian jail system; at greatest, some torturers will probably be punished: some will probably be imprisoned and a few will probably be fired. However the system is not going to change.
The reason is easy: the Russian jail system is constructed on violence. Proof of humiliation, torture and extortion in Russian prisons and settlements has been piling up over the previous 20 years that Vladimir Putin has been in energy. Yearly, the jail system turns into increasingly more closed, the general public management of human rights defenders licensed to go to prisons and colonies since 2008 is regularly lowered to nothing. Real human rights activists are regularly being changed by former staff of the penitentiary system or folks loyal to the authorities. Within the minds of the Russian authorities, jail have to be scary; Russian residents, particularly opponents of the regime, have to be scared of being in jail.
In 2007, human rights activist Alexei Sokolov made a movie referred to as Torture Manufacturing facility, by which he described the mass torture in a detention middle in Yekaterinburg, the place prisoners had been introduced from throughout Russia to extract confessions. This was the primary time that documented proof of horrific torture was made public.
Later, Lev Ponomarev, a human rights activist and head of the NGO For Human Rights, and his colleagues drew a map of the settlements the place torture is practiced, based mostly on prisoners’ testimonies. Final summer time, I spoke with Malkho Bisultanov, a Chechen businessman launched from the Omsk colony on that map.
That is what he says about his torture experiences: “After they torture you, they don’t allow you to sleep, you’re tied up on a regular basis. One hand cuffed at waist degree and the opposite above the pinnacle. You may’t sit or lie down. You’re bare on concrete on a regular basis. In the event that they feed you, they don’t take you to the toilet. Or they don’t feed you in any respect. And everybody who is available in hits you, insults you, scolds you. This will go on for a lot of, many hours. After which, if that’s not sufficient, they encompass you, present you their dicks and let you know that they will rape you. They dangle you up, smear your anus, shove issues into you. They don’t say something, they don’t care if you’re Muslim, if you’re Russian.”
Malkho Bisultanov complained of torture to the European Court docket of Human Rights. His criticism continues to be pending.
A prisoner being tortured within the IK-1 colony in Yaroslavl. Picture from the video revealed by Novaya Gazeta.
In 2017, Irina Biriukova, a lawyer with the Public Verdict Human Rights Basis, obtained a video of the beating of prisoner Yevgeny Makarov from the IK-1 colony in Yaroslavl, the place her purchasers had been imprisoned. The video exhibits the torture of Yevgeny Makarov for daring to verbally insult one of many officers as a result of, throughout the search of his cell, he threw his mom’s letter on the ground.
The video was revealed by the newspaper Novaya Gazeta and prison proceedings had been initiated towards the jail employees for “abuse of energy”. The Russian Prison Code doesn’t present for any punishment for torture, and this text is invoked each time torture and humiliation of prisoners is confirmed. The officers of the penitentiary colony No. 1 who participated within the torture had been arrested regularly, one after the other, whereas the director and deputy director of the colony had been positioned beneath home arrest.
Of their preliminary testimony on the investigation, a number of of the accused acknowledged that the beatings of the inmates had been filmed and that the reminiscence sticks had been often handed over to the administration of the colony, which in flip despatched them to the Yaroslavl division of the FSIN, as proof of the “instructional work” carried out.
Later, the arrested officers recanted their statements. In November 2020, the court docket acquitted the previous director of the jail and his deputy “for lack of proof of against the law”. The others had been sentenced to sentences starting from three to 4 and a half years in jail. Because of this, of the eleven folks accused, with actual proof, of torturing prisoners, solely three are presently in jail.
Have any critical conclusions been drawn inside the jail system after these high-profile scandals? No. The latest story of the Irkutsk pre-trial detention middle, the place torture and rape had been revealed, confirms as soon as once more that each one these circumstances symbolize a longtime follow through the years.
In April 2020, a riot broke out at Angarsk penitentiary colony No. 15, however it was brutally suppressed by particular forces. Dozens of prisoners had been taken to SIZO-6 in Irkutsk. There, different detainees cooperating with the administration tortured them. They raped them and demanded that they testify towards the organizers and members of the riot. That is the story of Yevgeny Yurchenko, who spoke to human rights activists after his launch about this torture: “They tied my hand to a coat hanger and connected a rag to my genitals. They sprayed the rag with water so there could be no burn marks.” Journalist Viktoria Ivleva traveled to Irkutsk with human rights activists and met with one of many detainees who suffered comparable torture. Here’s what he informed her:
“I used to be stripped bare, taken to the bathroom, had my hair and eyebrows shaved. A number of instances I used to be put in a gown, a wig was fabricated from yarn and tied to my head with a twisted rope: that is how I got here out, bent over, for the morning check-up – the medical doctors and the employees of the particular unit noticed this, and no one reacted. The gown was a grey T-shirt that was too huge, I had no pants, over the gown they put a prime that was imagined to be a bra, with cardboard glasses as a substitute of breasts, in addition they put make-up on me and painted my cheeks pink. I used to be compelled to go to the toilet like the women, saying: you’re not going to show in your faucet, you’re going to pee, so do it sitting down. I used to be compelled to shove a tightly rolled paper, sealed in a cellophane bag, up my anus…”
When requested by a reporter why he didn’t complain, the prisoner defined, “Complain? To whom? Everybody knew all the pieces, our screams could possibly be heard on two flooring”. This prisoner was acknowledged as a sufferer in a case of torture on the Irkutsk SIZO-6, which is presently beneath investigation by the Investigative Committee of Russia.
Will the publication of the “Ossechkin archives” result in the top of torture within the Russian jail system and the resignation of Alexander Kalashnikov, director of the FSIN?
My prognosis on the event of occasions is pessimistic. Suffice it to say that Aleksander Kalashnikov was the pinnacle of the FSB in Krasnoyarsk from 2017 to 2019, earlier than taking on his new put up in Moscow. And the present deputy director of the FSIN’s operational division, Anton Efarkin, labored within the operational division of Krasnoyarsk’s jail colony No. 17, which is thought for its torture practices. It’s Anton Efarkin who has simply been appointed by Kalashnikov to conduct an investigation into torture on the Saratov jail hospital, which is featured in Vladimir Ossechkin’s video archive.
Furthermore, one mustn’t neglect that each one human rights organizations preventing towards torture in Russia at the moment are declared “international brokers”, which implies that they’re perceived as enemies by the Russian authorities. As for society, it’s apathetic and depressed. The Russian Orthodox Church can also be silent; Patriarch Kirill has by no means spoken out in regards to the torture practices in Russian prisons. That is significantly putting when one remembers the habits of the Georgian patriarch, who, after the publication of movies of torture in Georgian prisons, introduced 1000’s of individuals to the streets of Georgian cities.