Lev Ponomarev - The Independent Investigation Continues: New Testimony about Torture in Penal Colony 7

posted 12 Dec 2016, 05:08 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 12 Dec 2016, 05:10 ]
6 December 2016

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Echo of Moscow]

by Lev Ponomarev, leader of the “For Human Rights” movement, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, deputy chair of the Foundation for Defence of Prisoners’ Rights

The investigative department of the city of Segezha is dragging out the investigation of torture in Penal Colony 7, which commenced after a letter from political prisoner Ildar Dadin.

We decided to help the investigation — and are gathering evidence about the torture ourselves. For now the Investigative Committee is following in our footsteps, interrogating only those prisoners (and not all of them!) on whom lawyers have managed to gather dossiers.

The investigators’ attention has bypassed the human rights defenders Pavel Chikov, Igor Kalyapin, and the Russian Federation Ombudswoman for Human Rights Tatyana Moskalkova. They will also hardly venture to interrogate Sergei Kossiyev, head of the penal colony, much less Aleksandr Terekh, head of the Federal Penitentiary Service in Karelia. It is clear that such large-scale violations in Penal Colony 7 require the efforts of ombudspeople and independent investigators. It’s possible that in this situation the investigation should be carried out by a special department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation that focuses on crimes committed by law enforcement officials.

For that reason, the “For Human Rights” movement is sending a letter to Aleksandr Bastrykhin, chair of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, and Yury Chaika, Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, with a request for the Main Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee to carry out an investigation into the widespread, frequent crimes committed by the administration of Penal Colony 7 in Segezha, Karelia, and for the General Prosecutor to take the case under its aegis.

Segezha’s Penal Colony 7 is not the only detention site where violence is used against prisoners. However, thanks to Ildar Dadin’s letter, the situation specifically in this prison has attained widespread public resonance. As a result, other prisoners of the colony, following Dadin’s example, are prepared to testify against their executioners. Here, for example, are excerpts from the lawyers’ interviews with them:

M. Z. Nagoyev: “Specifically on 15 August 2015 at about 18:15-18:30 in the evening I stepped out of my cell for inspection; I was told to stand facing the wall, to kiss the wall. My legs were stretched out—they started to stretch them out, pressed my knees to the wall, hit the small of my back, gave a painful blow to my right knee, then twisted my arm, beat my shoulder (to this day the beaten shoulder makes a crunching sound). And this went on for 20 minutes minimum. The employees shouted, “You’ll kick the bucket here, we’ll hang you.”

K. Sh. Shurgaya: “Most recently I was beaten on the 14th or 12th of February 2016. About 10-12 employees on duty used violence against me. My arms and legs were beaten. I was stretched out to the extent that my head was bent to the floor and legs stretched in different directions; my head was beaten with various objects. Then I was brought into the office of the head of Penal Colony 7, who threatened that I would be locked naked in the exercise yard, where I’ll die of cold “like a dog.” After the beating I felt a severe pain in my chest, and also experienced a pain in the right side of my chest; in that spot I can still feel a broken rib sticking out when I touch it. There were injuries on the bottoms of my feet that occurred when I was stretched out. The left foot healed after some time, but the right one is still swollen and causes me excruciating pain.”

A. M. Islamov: “I arrived on Friday, and on Monday at morning inspection I was brought out of the cell and stood facing the wall in search position. I was handcuffed from behind, and the procedure of stretching my perineum into the splits [so a body cavity search could be performed] was used. One employee used his foot to push my leg one way, another employee pulled my other leg another way with his foot, till my genitals touched the floor [….] Members of the administration of Penal Colony 7 took place in my beating, that shift. S. L. Kossiyev was aware of all that was going on, was at work [when it happened].”

An enormous quantity of information has been collected by the lawyers; this is indisputable evidence of torture in the penal colony. Of course, the Federal Penitentiary Service system is actively resisting interference, and in this situation the efforts of civil society and support of journalists is needed to see the case through to the end.

The testimonies gathered up till now from prisoners subjected to violence by Federal Penitentiary Service employees in Segezha’s Penal Colony 7 are available on the specially-created site “Territory of Torture” (http://stop-torture.info/). There one can also view the full texts of appeals to the General Prosecutor and Investigative Committee from the All-Russian movement “For Human Rights.”

We will not stop with Penal Colony 7. There are scores of such torture zones in Russia in my estimation. We intend to contribute to their liquidation along with other human rights organizations and groups. We will post all information on the “Territory of Torture” site (http://stop-torture.info/), follow our updates for more.

Translated by Caroline Elkin