Activists from Nizhny Novgorod investigate alleged torture at Penal Colony No. 1

posted 14 Jun 2013, 08:42 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Jun 2013, 08:49 ]
13 June 2013 

Source: (info)
The Committee against Torture report that on the evening of 4 June 2013 Nizhny Novgorod Independent Monitoring Commission began receiving reports of the widespread use of violence against prisoners at Penal Colony No. 1 in the Nizhny Novgorod region (the village of Sukhobezvodnoye). To verify this information, members of the Monitoring Commission visited this colony from 5th to 10th June.

The monitors interviewed dozens of prisoners, of whom more than 20 reported that on 4 June the staff of Penal Colony No. 1, together with officers from special purpose units of the prison service, searched the punishment blocks, cells and a number of sections, including those for strict regime prisoners. According to those questioned, during the searches the members of the special units without any legal grounds used physical violence against the prisoners. Some prisoners were taken out of their sections, moved to solitary confinement and the cells and there special unit officers continued to beat them. Prisoners were stripped naked, insulted, and forced to shout out humiliating phrases while they were being beaten. In addition, they were forced to shout various slogans glorifying the penal colony, the regime, and the management of the colony. Some prisoners told the representatives of the Monitoring Commission that they had plastic bags put over their heads, blocking their access to air. Several statements reported threats of sexual violence. Those who lost consciousness were doused with water and beaten again. Some prisoners reported that these beatings continued on 5 and 6 of June.

Members of the Monitoring Commission used cameras and video cameras to record numerous bruises and abrasions on the bodies of prisoners. Moreover, prisoners reported that they did received no medical care. On the contrary, they were forced to write statements refusing a medical examination.

As soon as the members of the Monitoring Commission received written permission from the prisoners, they examined their personal medical cards at the colony and the "injury journal." At that moment there were no records either of the presence or absence of bodily injuries, and this fact was also recorded with the help of cameras.

The prison officers themselves, in conversation with members of the Monitoring Commission, categorically denied that physical force had been used, and said that all this had been a carefully prepared act of provocation by the prisoners, and the presence of injuries were attributed to the fact that the prisoners had harmed themselves, also part of the planned act of provocation. However, the colony management provided no evidence to the Monitoring Commission that the prisoners’ statements were false, citing the fact that the information was "operational." The management also refused to allow the viewing of the surveillance cameras located where the alleged beatings had taken place, even as a demonstration. In the view of the members of the Monitoring Commission, such a viewing could have answered all the questions. In addition, members of the Monitoring Commission noted that the video camera in the corridor of the punishment cell block was pointing towards the wall.

Particular dismay was caused by the fact that, despite ample evidence to indicate a crime had been committed, for a whole week after complaints from the prisoners had reached the Monitoring Commission, and after information had appeared on the Internet, those who had made complaints had been interviewed only by members of the Monitoring Commission, and by prison officers. No prosecutors or investigators from the Investigative Committee had met the prisoners.

To date an analysis of the material collected confirms that unlawful force had been used by Nizhny Novgorod region prison officers against prisoners. Currently, members of the Monitoring Commission continue to conduct an independent inquiry into what happened, documenting all the facts and circumstances of what happened. All the materials collected at the end of the investigation will be handed over to the Investigative Committee to decide on whether criminal charges should be brought.

The investigation by the Nizhny Novgorod Monitoring Commission is continuing at present is not over, and we believe it is premature to report all the details of what happened. However, due to the fact that some Internet resources have published a lot of information about what happened at Penal Colony No. 1, including information that is inaccurate and is purely speculative in nature, we consider it necessary to report that, despite the fact that the prisoners were victims of unlawful force, no instances of serious bodily injury have been confirmed. At present, they have received medical care. Currently, we are in the process of informing the prisoners' relatives, whose contacts we know, about the situation in the colony and the actual state of health of the victims.

At the end of the investigation the Independent Monitoring Commission will publish its findings and, jointly with the Committee against Torture will provide legal assistance to the victims.