How the Service for Execution of punishment stands against changes
Two years ago in Yekaterinburg I was sitting at the human rights defenders’ office “Legal Basis” and listening to stories of former inmates about tortures, beatings and sexual abuse they had been experienced; about strange deaths due to “cardiac failure” or “infection”; about bodily injuries as if inmates inflicted harm to themselves. Suddenly a person who has just told how he was raped, asked me: “For what are you writing it down? You want them to know? They will find out anyway”.
Nowadays amid first airstrikes in Syria it’s inappropriate to say something like “tortures in the Urals are going on”. Is it breaking news?
In 2007 Head of “Legal Basis” Aleksey Sokolov made a documentary about the penal colony-2: “Torture factory or pedagogical experience”. This film shows scenes with beatings and humiliations of prisoners and interviews with former inmates, most of them left facility being disabled. Since that time nothing has changed except one thing: film creator was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment for assault. “Proof of guilt” was testimony of a convict from one of the “torture colonies”.
“We should do good instead evil, this way we will get more good”, says Larisa Zakharova, one of the most active members of Sverdlovsk Public Monitoring Committee. Together with Olga Dianova one year ago they launched a hunger strike trying to draw attention to torture problemin the penal colony-63 in Ivdel. “What did you achieve after that?” I asked. “Before everybody kept silence, after they began speaking”, she says.
One of the most significant things of “Medvedev thaw period” was Law on Public Monitoring Committer which let civil activists enter prisons. Unimpeded access to closed penitentiaries could shatter system; made it change for a better. Despite constant staff shortage Public Monitoring Committees are one of most efficient tools of civil control.
As survey showed in August 2015 Fund “Public verdict” and “Levada-center”, despite negative background of human rights defenders, 28% of the Russians consider them as real providers of legal aid; 36 % think that government does it. According to the same survey, 7% experienced tortures. Fewer than half tried to protect their rights; more than half decided not to do it.
Maria Eismont, author-journalist