11 November 2016
This article is a translation by Sarah Hurst of: '«Никого ты не спасешь» Рассказ Ильдара Дадина о том, что происходило с ним в ИК-7 — до и после его письма о пытках,' Meduza, 11 November 2016
The translation was originally published on the website xSovietUnion. Permission to republish is gratefully acknowledged
Photo: Inside correctional colony No. 7, by Pavel Chikov (via Meduza)
On November 9 Anastasia Zotova, the wife of Ildar Dadin, who described his torture in Karelia’s correctional colony No. 7, had a visit with her husband. It lasted for four hours, and for all that time Dadin told her what had happened him since the day of his arrival in IK-7 in as much detail as possible – and about what happened after Meduza published his letter on November 1. Meduza publishes Dadin’s story, recorded by Anastasia Zotova, slightly edited for length.
This isn’t a correctional institution, it’s a concentration camp. People aren’t held here to be to be reformed but to be humiliated. Please send a statement in my name to the Investigations Committee in connection with the fact that a whole array of torture is being used on the prisoners in IK-7. The beatings and torture aren’t stopping even now, after the intervention by [human rights ombudsman] Tatyana Moskalkova and the arrival of members of the HRC [president’s Human Rights Council] Pavel Chikov and Igor Kalyapin.
I hear people being beaten, I hear them shouting. I know the torture with hunger and cold is continuing, and I can’t write a complaint about that myself. I’m prepared to give specific dates, but personally in a conversation with human rights defenders, because I’m afraid the guard will find out and also delete those video recordings (Pavel Chikov said that the recording of Dadin’s beating may have been deleted, as the data from the video cameras is stored for 30 days, and the incident happened in September – Meduza). I know that recently they deleted video recordings from the hard disk and I want to request all the video recordings from all the cells that should exist – while at least some are still saved. It will be easy to confirm my words because the beatings take place here virtually every day.
Like Nazi concentration camps
I’m asking you to write a statement to the Investigations Committee because I can’t do that myself: according to the daily schedule you can only write something (letters or complaints) in your free time, and you get half an hour for that. The rest of the time is work, like cleaning your cell. And if you cleaned in half an hour you can’t do nothing – you have to sweep the floor a second and a third time. If they see that you’re not working they send you to the punishment cell. It reminds me of stories I read about Nazi concentration camps: the prisoners were forced to do pointless work like dragging bricks from place to place.
Your personal time is almost completely spent on going from your cell to the store room because you don’t have any personal things with you, not even food – it’s all in the store room. When you get there there are only five minutes left, and, realising that you won’t write a complaint, you try to eat something, because here you dream all day about a bit of salami and a bit of bread – just like in the story One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. You dream about food at night, and when you imagine a long visit, you don’t think about being able to hug your wife or sister, but about them bringing you food. I think the prison guards reduce our “personal time”, exploiting the fact that we have no watches and can’t check.
The worst thing for a person starts when he’s just arrived at IK-7. They throw him into the “transfer room”. The guards first assured me that this was a special cell for new arrivals, a kind of quarantine, but in fact it’s just the punishment cell. I found out that it was the punishment cell because later they forced me to sign a statement on being placed in the punishment cell supposedly for some blades they found on me (they “find” these blades on all arrivals, try asking for the documents on placement in the punishment cell for all transferees!).
Then they threw me into that same “transfer room” a few more times. In total I spent 45 days there, and they were 45 days of hell. There’s no insulation in that cell. If it’s minus 10 outside, it’s the same in the cell. And they give you just one jumpsuit, and take away all your personal things, so there’s no way to warm up. At night I lay under a blanket having cramps from the cold, and I only thought about holding on at least for a week. I dreamed of food – in the first days I went on hunger strike, then they forced me to abandon it, but they fed me short rations. I’d brought the regulations on food according to internal discipline from the pre-trial detention centre, but they took them away from me. I remembered some by heart and tried to compare – it turned out that the portions were approximately halved. You can withstand torture with cold and hunger for one or two days, but when it goes on continuously and you don’t know when it will end, it’s just unbearable. I really hoped for help, because I’d asked to send letters about my situation to my wife and mother (by law they have to do this). But they didn’t send one to my wife, because I didn’t know her address by heart, and they didn’t let me look in my notebook, saying, “If you don’t remember, we don’t care”. I had my mother’s address, but my letter apparently didn’t reach her.
On September 11 they first tried to “put me on a brace” during inspection – after I went on hunger strike on the 10th [as a sign of protest against being put in the punishment cell]. The “brace” is when you’re standing two steps from the wall and the backs of your hands are pushed against it. You face downwards and your legs are as wide apart as possible. No law, no instruction regulates this particular pose, I checked. When a prisoner is “standing in the brace” it’s easy to beat him. They beat you on your head - on the back of your neck, on your temples and on your crown, but not with their fists, with the palms of their hands, so they don’t leave marks. They kick you, but not with the toe of their boots, with the flats of their soles – on your trunk, on your legs, on your inner thighs, and on your groin. When you try to protect yourself with your arms, your arms get hit too. I had a bruise from a blow on my elbow – it probably stayed there for a month. I also had bruises on my inner thighs. They beat you until you fall down. When you get up they beat you again until you agree with what they say. They tell you, for example, “You’re worthless, you’re a faggot,” and you have to reply, “I’m worthless, I’m a faggot.” They forced me to say, “Putin is our president”, because I’m an opposition activist.
Also you can’t see the faces of the people who are beating you because you’re standing with your back to them. And they don’t introduce themselves, of course – they beat you anonymously and with a sense of their own impunity. At some point I couldn’t stand it and I screamed, a woman orderly came up to me and said, “Stop beating him now.” I asked her name because there was a chance to call her as a witness, but she didn’t tell me. And the torture wasn’t recorded.
In the video recordings the guards try to talk politely. For example, when I arrived at the colony, I complained that I’d lost some of my personal things during the transfer. They said on the recording: “It’s fine, your things got here,” but in fact they hadn’t arrived, I didn’t see them. I lost my shaving tools, for example – they gave me their own, but they don’t shave you, they tear your hair out. A guard watching you shave says, “Come on, shave better or we’ll send you to the punishment cell.” The bath-house, where they take you once a week, is the only place where you can somehow warm up, but the guards make sure they turn off the hot water, and when you say that the water is cold, they reply, “No, it’s hot.” And you have totake an icy shower.
When they started beating me I quoted the Constitution to them, article 21.2: “No one should be subjected to torture, violence or other behaviour or punishment that is cruel or humiliating to human dignity.” They completely seriously replied to me, “You don’t understand where you are, the Constitution is not in force here.” Meanwhile, according to article 15.1 of the Constitution, it is in force across the entire territory of the Russian Federation, and I don’t understand: have they decided to carry out an anti-constitutional coup at IK-7? Have they separated from the territory of Russia?
On September 12 the guards came to me again and told me to come out of my cell for an inspection. I realised they were going to beat me again, and I said, “What difference does it make where you beat me, in my cell or in the corridor?” Then they turned on the video recorder and started doing everything “by the book”: they said they would use force, they ran in and started twisting my arms. They used handcuffs illegally, because I didn’t resist, and what was the point of the handcuffs? I deliberately kept my palms gripped together so they couldn’t accuse me of resisting.
Beatings and torture
The first time the guards didn’t manage to make a nice video where everything was done “legally”, so they let me go, went out the door and started again. They opened the door and asked me to come out of my cell, I replied in the same way, they warned me about using force and rushed at me. They only managed to film everything so it was “legal” on the third take. The guards shouted on the video that I’d grabbed them by their clothes, but that wasn’t true, that should be clear on the video. And you should be able to hear that I refused to come out of my cell because I said, “I don’t care where you beat me.” I’m very glad that part of that video got into the Russian media, now the prison service can’t say that it was deleted. And if you ask for the whole video it should be clear that they dragged me out of my cell and beat me. I can’t tell you the names of those who participated in that, only their titles: one was a major and the others were a senior warrant officer and another senior lieutenant.
When they were beating me they put a hat with ear flaps over my head like a sack to cover my eyes. I thought they were going to kill me – then it all ended, and I smiled. That made them angrier, and someone said, “Look, he’s even smiling.” They started beating me harder and demanded that I apologise to [head of IK-7 Sergei] Kossiev for my behaviour. After that they made me go down on my knees and started sarcastically quoting parts of my letter to my wife – about the fact that I was ready to go down on my knees to the woman I love – to insult me. Then they pulled down my trousers and took me somewhere with trousers down and the hat over my head. Through a narrow strip between the hat and my face I saw they were taking me out to the exercise yard. Four men raised my arms, already handcuffed, and attached them to something, but I was able to stand up. Then one of them said, “No, not like that,” and they unhooked me and raised me higher so that I couldn’t stand. It was unbelievably painful, and I felt tears, snot and saliva start pouring out, and tried not to scream with all my might.
They took off my underwear and one of them said, “Now you’re going to be raped, call - ” either Venya or Benya. Another one got angry, saying, why did you say his name? The first one replied, “What does it matter, he won’t see anything, anyway.” Someone went for that Venya. A couple of minutes later they told me I had a last chance to avoid being raped if I would agree to stop my hunger strike. I agreed, but they said they’d still have to hang me up and would take me down from the rack only after a call from the administration.
After half an hour I wanted to scream, but I realised that I couldn’t say anything; when I tried to inhale and exhale there wasn’t enough air. I had to breathe only quickly and nervously. Then they finally took me down – the guards stated their demands: I had to do everything they said, stop my hunger strike and apologise to Kossiev. First they unhooked one arm and it hung down like a vine, then the other one – the same. Someone laughed that I’d fall down, but I didn’t fall, I just couldn’t straighten my back. They recorded all this on video – possibly they showed it to Kossiev afterwards.
Then I didn’t know Kossiev’s initials yet – S.L. – and to myself I called him the “camp sadist”. All those tortures and beatings take place here only with his knowledge. When I talked to him after being hung up, he said, “Yes, we beat prisoners here.” As if it’s his right. And he said, “They didn’t beat you hard, they’ll beat you harder if I order them to.” I said I’d go on dry hunger strike until the prosecutor came, but Kossiev only laughed and replied that if I complain they’d kill me right here and bury me. I realised that he wasn’t afraid of inspections or prosecutors.
There are inspections in the colony, but they’re very strange. They force you to look at the floor, and you only see the boots of the person inspecting you. They don’t tell you who came – from the prison service, from the human rights ombudsman or from the prosecutor’s office. Those who have been beaten and still have bruises are hidden from inspections in the punishment cell. And if you talk to someone then it’s in the presence of the same prison guards who had tortured you. Are you going to complain about them in front of them? They’ll remember it and beat you even harder. So it only makes sense to talk to a prisoner alone.
When I told my lawyer Alexei Liptser about what had happened, I was very afraid that you wouldn’t publish my letter, being afraid for me. But on November 1 I realised that you’d done everything, and done it all correctly. The prison guards started making a fuss. They took me to the sick ward, although they didn’t tell me where we were going or why. They stripped me naked there and started making a video; they didn’t explain what was going on. They transferred me from the punishment cell – true, not to normal conditions, but to a cell “for the violent”. There’s another man in with me, he’s really crazy, he even smears his excrement on the walls. Recently they took him away to somewhere – probably to the punishment cell.
The Moscow security officers came on November 2, then also on the third. I complained that I was in a cell with a crazy man, but at the colony they were told, “It’s for his own safety.” Then I talked to the local employees of the public monitoring commission and I got the impression that their head is very friendly with the local prison guards, but I told them everything anyway. I didn’t even realise that I had a seizure during my conversation with them (during the meeting with members of the Karelia public monitoring commission Dadin started feeling ill and was taken to hospital – Meduza), I didn’t understand: when I was talking I felt like I was swaying, and I couldn’t stop it, my body wouldn’t listen to me.
Then at some point I had trouble breathing, I couldn’t inhale or exhale, and I realised I was blacking out. No one told me there were convulsions and foam, it was only through a haze that I felt they were carrying me and undressing me, then I felt an injection in my buttock. And my teeth also hurt – probably they unclenched them to pull my tongue out.
The next day they took me somewhere, they didn’t say where. I saw a beautiful lake through the window of the police bus. They took photographs of my head, then drove me back without showing me any results. If I’d known they were taking me to hospital I would have asked them to check my heart, because recently I’ve been having chest pains.
Now they’re not beating me personally, but they continue to humiliate me. For example, “Did you need to complain? You didn’t get anything, you just made a fool of yourself in front of the whole world. And no one will save you.” They also say, “You’re a political, now you won’t come out of the punishment cell until the end of your sentence.”
The heads of correctional colony No. 7 haven’t commented on Ildar Dadin’s statements since Nov. 1.