Pavel Chikov: “Even people who’ve never met Dadin talk about his freezing cold cell, how he gets strung up by his handcuffs and how he had his head shoved down the toilet” (Realnoe Vremya)

posted 21 Nov 2016, 02:37 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Nov 2016, 04:19 ]
14 November 2016

Interview with Pavel Chikov by Irina Plotnikova

Source: Realnoe Vremya 

Photo: Moscow Helsinki Group

Pavel Chikov, a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council and head of International Agora Human Rights Group, talks to Realnoe Vremya about what the 'Tatarstan' scenario for the scandal in Segezha would be like, the treatment of political prisoners, the humiliations undergone by other prisoners and the 'lost' video. This week Pavel Chikov conducted a visit of inspection at Prison Colony No. 7 in Karelia on behalf of the head of the Presidential Human Rights Council and met with Ildar Dadin, who is the first person in Russia to be imprisoned under the article of the criminal code that criminalizes repeated violations of the regulations governing picketing.

Источник :

Good day Pavel. Are the human rights defenders from Agora representing Dadin in court?

— No, he has a defence team made up of other lawyers and members of other organisations. Otherwise it would have been entirely out of the question for me to travel to Karelia with the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights on their investigative mission. This was why we refused to take part in the investigative mission to the colony where Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (one of the sentenced members of Pussy Riot) was being held, despite being asked to do so by Mikhail Fedotov (chairof the Presidential Council – Ed.).

Even when we were talking with Dadin, we emphasised the fact that we had no preconceptions or prior knowledge whatsoever about what had happened – we merely wanted to find out the facts. We – by which I also mean Igor Kalyapin (member of the Presidential Council and head of the inter-regional Committee for the Prevention of Torture – Ed.) – have dealt with many cases of this kind in the past, and I would say that the number of lies we’ve heard from people who claim to have been tortured has been roughly equal in practice to the number of lies we’ve heard from law enforcement officers. We therefore set out with a very open mind about what we should and should not believe, particularly in respect of the prisoners.

— The news about Dadin’s refusal to undergo a lie detector test broke after your return to Kazan...

— We learned that Ildar Dadin had “refused to undergo a lie detector test” before we left, and we were told by employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service. But it was from us that Dadin learned that his lawyers objected to the test being carried out in their absence. Dadin is happy to undergo a lie detector test, but he wishes his lawyers to be present.

What really surprises me about the whole affair is that the Federal Penitentiary Service press office has repeatedly disseminated and put its spin on information which should have been published by other bodies. The official responsible for carrying out the lie detector test had been sent by the Investigative Committee as part of the pre-trial investigations. The penitentiary system is currently being audited, so it would have been wiser for the press office to keep the information to itself …

We spoke with Ildar Dadin for five and a half hours on the first day, and we also talked to him on the second day of our visit, without meeting any kind of obstacles, although representatives of the Federal Penitentiary Service initially asked to be present. Dadin explained in very straightforward terms how the video recording disseminated by the Federal Penitentiary Service had come about. After being beaten up and having his head shoved down the toilet, he refused to leave his cell on the following day as a mark of protest. The prison officials then made three different video recordings: one of him sitting on the floor in his cell, one where he is being warned that his actions are unlawful and he will be punished by physical force, and one where he has refused and is being lifted up and carried out of the cell by officials. From these three recordings, they chose the one which was most convincing as proof that they had made lawful use of physical force. Dadin had even folded his arms for the specific purpose of avoiding any accusations that he had put up a fight. I honestly don’t remember the Federal Penitentiary Service ever taking videos like this before, but the video recording is very powerful evidence. There have been dozens of cases in the past where law enforcement officials have ended up in the dock because their actions have been videoed. We don’t have to look far for an example – an employee of Kazan Colony No. 19 was sentenced only today in connection with beatings of prisoners in transit, even though the video of the assault only came to light many years after the incident in question.

It is also important to make it clear that we have not been shown authentic video recordings from 11-12 September, or in other words when Dadin claims that he was mocked by officials. If the Federal Penitentiary Service refutes all the accusations, why can these videos not be released? We were told that the tapes have already been wiped, but videos of this kind should be stored for at least one year according to ministerial standards. It is only videos recorded on officers’ body-worn cameras that need to be stored for one month. Given that the entire colony is crammed with high-tech video cameras – one in each of the cells, two or three in the corridors, and the body-worn cameras as well – it is hard to understand why those refuting the accusation can’t simply show us what happened …

If the Dadin affair had happened in Tartarstan, members of the Investigative Committee would have seized all the servers and questioned all 600 inmates long ago, and instigated a number of proceedings immediately on the basis of the witness statements. There is absolutely no question in my mind that this would have happened, because in Tartarstan they stick to the rules when dealing with such matters in the aftermath of the Dalny case.

We talked with dozens of other prisoners and they repeated exactly the same behaviour and circumstances that Dadin reported: the 14th cold cell, a wooden mallet with which prisoners are beaten on the soles of their feet, the leg-stretching, the suspension from the door of the exercise yard, the shoving of prisoners’ heads into the toilet…They describe all this in detail exactly as it happened to them! And these are prisoners who don’t communicate with each other! There is a ‘strict regime’ section that newcomers never have any contact with, and they tell the same things.

And there is a prisoner who has been in solitary confinement for six months, in cell-type conditions, and who has no idea who Dadin or Moskalkova are. But describing what happened to him in March and April he says exactly the same things! …And this is despite the fact that the prison officers had spoken to him, and at least three prisoners said that when the prison officers brought them to the meetings they demanded that they say nothing. But you have to understand that these guys are hard-boiled. They are ready to take the consequences.

— But what is the point of treating people this badly?

— There are a whole group of reasons, as with any complex phenomenon. First of all, Dadin is without doubt a political prisoner. He was given three years in prison for the sole reason that he had held protest pickets. This is pretty severe, although the maximum punishment under Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code is actually five years. But political prisoners have been having a hard time in prison for quite a long time now. It’s enough to look at the fates of other people. There is no one who is sentenced to a term in prison and then is forgotten about.

Rafis Kashapov from Tatarstan was not sent to serve his sentence in local prison colonies. He was sent to serve his term in far away Komi. And as soon as he arrived, he was subjected to a number of disciplinary penalties, including time in a punishment cell, and then he was put in solitary on much worse conditions. That was this year. And remember Irek Murtazin who despite his short term was categorized as having been in ‘malicious breach’ of the established rules. Dadin is in a similar situation, he has also been classified as being in ‘malicious breach’.

Secondly, in Karelia the prison colonies are well-known – for those who know about these things – as ‘Red’ colonies (under the exclusive control of the prison administration – Ed.), and that has been the case for a long time. It even goes so far that officials from the Federal Penitentiary Service say there are no mobile phones there – not one. By tradition the prison colonies in Bashkiriya are also ‘Red’, while the ones in Tatarstan are ‘Black’ (where the prison management allows the prisoners to create their own rules, to live according to their own customs – Ed. ). And since the decision to send a prisoner to serve their sentence in another region is taken by the leadership of the Federal Penitentiary Service, they know well enough to what regions prisoners are being sent, and what the circumstances will be like there. And of course the decision to send Dadin to Karelia, to Prison Colony No. 7, was a decision that they had thought out…

In fact Dadin only has nine months left to serve.

— There is no chance he can be released on parole?

— Very unlikely. Taking into account the fact that he has been given seven penalties and has the status of being in ‘malicious breach’ of the rules. It all began when, on arrival, they allegedly found a razor blade on him. They say that in that prison colony they always ‘find’ razor blades on newcomers….They think that now the Federal Penitentiary Service will treat Dadin with kid gloves, just as they treated Alekhina and Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot. Personally, I would say that the best option would be for him to be transferred to another prison colony where he could serve out his term in much less severe conditions. But Dadin himself is categorically against this. He said that it would be going against his conscience, because there are other prisoners who won’t be transferred out of this place. And he asked us not to request a transfer to another prison colony on his behalf. But it’s the Federal Penitentiary Service that will take the decision.

— So it turns out that Dadin was right when he decided not to be quiet and put up with what was going on? After all it could have ended badly for him before the investigators and rights defenders reached the prison colony…

— The penitentiary system is very active in playing with these stereotypes of what is humiliating for prisoners, and exploits them. Prison officers know very well that the vast majority of prisoners will never say that they had their heads shoved into a toilet bowl. That is why they use precisely these methods.

And in fact all this would come to an end in Russia as soon as the prisoners are no longer embarrassed about these things. It is the right thing to do – to complain about a prison officer who behaves in this completely lawless way. And as soon as this kind of ‘coming out’ happens and people begin talking about these things – the practice will end immediately…

Translated by Joanne Reynolds & Simon Cosgrove