Lev Ponomarev: Prisoners tortured; a lawyer killed in a car crash: daily life in the Russian Gulag

posted 19 Nov 2017, 08:16 by Website Service   [ updated 19 Nov 2017, 08:28 ]

14 November 2017 

By Lev Ponomarev, leader of the movement For Human Rights, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, deputy chair of the board of the Foundation for the Protection of Prisoners' Rights

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

The topic of violence against prisoners isn't the most popular among Echo of Moscow's listeners and readers. But this incident stands out. In this case prisoners are facing prosecution for an alleged “false denunciation” after they were tortured and lodged complaints about it. The next day, their lawyer, Ekaterina Selivanova, died. Maybe this is a coincidence, but maybe it isn't.

Several prisoners at Kemerovo prison colony IK-37 had reported abuse and beatings to Selivanova. According to convicts, a search was carried out at the colony on 12 September, during which they were told they would be sexually abused if they did not sign a document agreeing to cooperation with the prison authorities. One of the prisoners, Mikhail Krasilnikov, refused to sign this document. According to Krasilnikov, he was raped. We have published letters from two prisoners earlier, as well as pictures of one of them, who had cut his veins.

According to Selivanova, more than ten people committed this act of self-mutilation, including her defendants. One of the prisoners, Anton Fedotov, attempted to hang himself but was pulled out of the noose.

Prisoner Daniil Kruglov was freed from prison colony No. 37 on 30 September. He recorded a video in which he related what he saw on the day of the "search." He stated what he saw with his own eyes and heard how they beat his fellow prisoners. He also stated that he heard stories about the rape of his acquaintance Krasilnikov.

Video evidence

Under pressure from human rights activists, the Investigative Committee began an investigation. Remarkably, government officials attempted to interfere with this investigation in whatever ways they could. Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) officers interrupted prisoners' meetings with lawyers and intimidated defence counsels. Selivanova even appealed to the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Kemerovo region for assistance, although no action was taken.

As a result, criminal cases were initiated not against prison colony employees, but against prisoners, for false denunciation. The decision to institute criminal cases was issued on 25 October 2017. Major Tiptsov led the investigation.

The next day, 26 October 2017, Selivanova died. She was on her way to see her defendants when her car was struck by a heavy truck. The lawyer was buried in a cemetery in Prokopyevsk, a city in Kemerovo region. However, on the ninth day after her death, unknown persons dug up her grave and desecrated it.

Selivanova's colleagues are continuing the work she had begun on this case. Sergei Okhotin, leader of the Kuzbass regional division of the For Human Rights movement, issued a statement addressed to Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of Russia, with a complaint about Major Tiptsov for improper conduct of the investigation. Okhotin has demanded that a criminal case be initiated against the investigator. Meanwhile, the lawyer Kurkin has taken on the defence of Krasilnikov.

We worked with Ekaterina Selivanova for a long time and will of course continue to support the work she had begun. We support Sergei Okhotin's complaint, we will appeal to the Human Rights Ombudsman, and we will demand that the General Prosecutor's Office assume supervision over both the resumed investigation of torture at Prison Colony No. 37 and the criminal investigation into the death of lawyer Selivanova.

Katya was a radiant person who was destined for human rights work since childhood. We plan to write more about her separately and in more detail, but for now we'll share a quote from her correspondence with activist colleague Larisa Zakharova: "I will always protect people's rights no matter what. It's my calling. It's what I was sent to this world to do. Since I was just a child I've been defending the weak and defenceless. When I would see big kids picking on smaller kids in the courtyard, I would run out and fight with the big kids. I've always been this way! And I'll always be this way. And no one will be able to stop me from doing this."