Systemic beatings in Russian jails

Russian ombudsman urges better public control over prisons

BBC International Reports (18-10-2007)

Moscow, 18 October: Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin has said he was not clear about the circumstances which lead to a riot at a juvenile penal colony outside Yekaterinburg, but voiced his concerns about the frequency of such riots.

“I am already concerned about this being a very serious, but not an isolated case, which is beginning to look symptomatic,” Lukin said in an interview with Vesti TV channel.

“Quite apart from investigation into this particular case, it should be said that the existing system of public control over prisons is very inadequate,” the ombudsman said. “Some time ago, public control was getting better, which brought certain results. The picture was not ideal, but the situation started to improve. With an increasing resistance to public control, these alarming symptoms started to appear again,” he said.

He recalled that three years ago the Duma passed in the first reading a bill on public control over penitentiary facilities. “Although it had no apparent opponents and the president repeatedly urged its speedy adoption, the bill has not yet been adopted. Somebody influential must be sabotaging this bill,” Lukin said.

Speaking about conditions in top security juvenile colonies, he noted: “this is not a charitable institution, of course – it has a strict regime, as it should”. “However, it must be legal and should be firmly maintained. It should be clear to everyone and equal for all.

Regrettably, we have complaints and registered cases of restrictions being applied selectively and allowances made to those whose parents are able to pay,” Lukin said.

[Passage omitted: Lukin criticized the courts for imposing excessively heavy penalties on first-time offenders, sending them to penitentiary institutions where many grow into hardened criminals]

Source: Interfax news agency, 0735 gmt 18 Oct 07

Russian human rights activist to investigate juvenile prison riot

BBC International Reports (18-10-2007)

Moscow, 18 October: Russian human rights activists have started their own investigation into the disturbances at a juvenile colony in Sverdlovsk Region.

“Our organization has decided not to send there anyone from Moscow. However, we have colleagues, human rights activists, in that region, and we have started collecting information with their help. We will definitely carry out an investigation,” Lev Ponomarev, leader of the For Human Rights movement, told Interfax on Thursday [18 October].

He predicts that human rights activists will have difficulties in accessing the juvenile colony in Kirovgrad (Sverdlovsk Region), where the riot that led to casualties took place.

“I am sure that there will be obstacles. Not every region’s colonies are closed to human rights activists but written responses from representatives of the Federal Service for Prisons to the effect that they deem visiting a particular colony inexpedient have become very frequent,” the head of the For Human Rights movement said.

He said that the riot at the Kirovgrad colony will be one of the issues discussed during the public hearings in Moscow on 23 October. Human rights activists will discuss the situation in Russian prisons and issues concerning prisoners’ rights.

“The situation in Russian colonies is deteriorating, and we think that this is a national problem. It is colonies that violence, intolerance and cruelty originate from. We have two sore spots, the colonies and the North Caucasus where human life is devalued,” said Ponomarev.

The head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alekseyeva, told Interfax on Thursday that lawyer Genri Reznik plans to travel to Kirovgrad. “He is planning to go there as a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group and a member of the Public Chamber,” she said.

“We should find out what led to the riot in the Kirovgrad colony. As a rule they [riots] are caused by cruel treatment of inmates. We, human rights activists, have long been denied access to colonies from which the bulk of complaints comes from. I am not saying that human rights activists are a panacea to all of the ills, but I am sure that visits to prisons by human rights activist soften the situation, remove some of the antagonism between the administration and the inmates,” said Alekseyeva. [Passage omitted]

Source: Interfax news agency, 0739 gmt 18 Oct 07

Des adolescents en prison se révoltent comme des grands

Une rébellion dans un établissement pénitentiaire pour mineurs dans la région de Sverdlosk a fait trois morts, deux jeunes prisonniers et un gardien, dans la nuit du 16 au 17 octobre 2007. Deux cents des 480 détenus de la prison de Kirovgrad ont participé aux événements au cours desquels cinq gardiens ont été pris en otages et qui se sont soldés par l’incendie de plusieurs bâtiments dans l’enceinte de la prison, rapporte Kommersant.

Les gardiens ont ouvert le feu, provoquant la mort sur le coup d’un prisonnier de 17 ans. Les deux autres ont succombé à leurs blessures à l’hôpital où se trouvent également une vingtaine de blessés, insurgés et gardiens. Des renforts policiers ont été dépêchés sur place, dont des forces spéciales.

Les autorités pénitentiaires assurent que la révolte a été fomentée par “des jeunes caïds qui cherchent à gagner en autorité dans le milieu criminel”, rapporte Kommersant. Son déclenchement reposerait sur le fait qu’un de ces caïds, qui vient d’avoir 19 ans, devait être prochainement déplacé dans une prison pour adultes.

Quatre enquêtes criminelles ont été ouvertes aux motifs de meurtre, prise d’otages, émeutes collectives et menaces sur la vie de membres des forces de l’ordre. Néanmoins, les rebelles ne seront pas les seuls à faire l’objet d’investigations puisque le procureur de Sverdlosk a demandé de vérifier dans tous les établissements pénitentiaires de la région qu’il n’y ait pas d’abus lors de la détention, souligne Vremia Novostieï.

Des organisations de défense des droits de l’homme rappellent qu’une révolte avait déjà eu lieu dans la prison de Kirovgrad le 4 août dernier, selon Kommersant. Une quarantaine d’adolescents s’étaient révoltés contre le comportement abusif d’un gardien à l’égard de détenus. Selon les ONG, les deux affaires pourraient être liées.

La Komsomolskaïa Pravda rapporte pour sa part une version plus originale délivrée par le chef du service d’applications des peines dans la région de Sverdlovsk, le général Nikolaï Tkatchev : “Je pense que tout a commencé après la diffusion de la série ‘Plotina’ sur NTV. Les adolescents ont répété fidèlement la révolte qu’ils avaient vue à la télé.”

Courrier International, 18.10.2007
http://www.courrierinternational.com/article.asp?obj_id=78856.

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