Oksana Trufanova https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/26425/all cached version 12/02/2019 00:49:25 en Why Russian prison officers can torture with impunity https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oksana-trufanova/why-russian-prison-officers-can-kill-with-impunity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Russian courts continue to protect prison service officers accused of torturing and murdering inmates. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oksana-trufanova/dazhe-ne-pytaytes">RU</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/content_001_colong7.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/content_001_colong7.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Russian independent newspaper recently released footage of how Evgeny Makarov, a prisoner in Yaroslavl Colony No 1, was brutally tortured in June 2017. Source: Novaya Gazeta. </span></span></span>Everyone knows that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/bulat-mukhamedzhanov/everyday-violence-in-russia-s-prison-system-has-to-stop">torture is an everyday occurence</a> in Russia’s prison system. Even the <a href="https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23412&amp;LangID=E">UN</a>. But while domestic and international organisations write about torture cases in their reports, it seems that no one can take any concrete action to solve this problem. </p><p dir="ltr">In 2010, a number of staff members at Prison Colony No 1 in the Urals town of Kopeisk, outside of Chelyabinsk, found themselves in the dock. They included the regional prison service director, Vladimir Zhidkov, and were accused of <a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2010/07/23/2373-gromkie-dela-o-proizvole-rabotnikov-fsin">beating four prisoners to death</a> – provoking a prison riot to cover up these murders in the aftermath. On the orders of the regional prison service management, evidence of these murders was destroyed; prison officers tore their uniforms, faked injuries to themselves, photographing and drawing up reports on these “injuries” in the process. These fake documents on this “prison riot” were sent to Russia’s central prison service management in Moscow. </p><p dir="ltr">Some two years later, Denis Mekhanov, the head of the same town’s Colony No.6, was also convicted – in this case of extortion. The world <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/olesya-gerasimenko/scenes-from-uprising-kopeysk-revolt">found out about Mekhanov’s crime</a> after inmates held a protest action over the torture and inhuman treatment taking place there. The prisoners were later punished by having long extra stretches added to their sentences, while the colony boss was later amnestied. </p><p dir="ltr">Today, Russia has been shaken again by news of torture in its prison system – this time in <a href="https://meduza.io/en/brief/2018/07/20/the-real-russia-today">Yaroslavl Colony No 1</a>. Immediately afterwards, the Metallurgichesky district court in Chelyabinsk, one of the country’s largest cities, held a closed session to try a number of prison officers accused of the 2015 beating and killing of a Chechen inmate, Sultan Israilov. Back then, 500 detainees went on hunger strike in demand of a proper investigation into Israilov’s death.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen_Shot_2018-08-02_at_13.25.41.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen_Shot_2018-08-02_at_13.25.41.png" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>21 December 2015: prison officers at Chelyabinsk Prison Colony No 2 take Sultan Israilov to a punishment cell. Source: ADV-TV. </span></span></span>Human rights campaigners and legal experts believe that the Chelyabinsk trial is a farce, an attempt by the penitential system to defend itself from public opprobrium inside and outside Russia over the torture practices embedded in the system for decades – and to call attention to the fact that the perpetrators <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/bulat-mukhamedzhanov/russia-s-prison-service-is-keeping-its-abuses-under-lock-and-key">will yet again get off scot free</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">In July 2017, Russia’s Investigative Committee completed their investigation into the death of Sultan Israilov at Chelyabinsk’s Colony No.2. According to their findings, on 21 December 2015, prison officers Vladimir Malinin, Alekcandr Dontsov and Viktor Podkorytov beat up inmate Sultan Israilov in a punishment cell. They then faked his suicide, leaving him to die a slow death by hanging him from the cell window.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“You should see how brazen they are. They laugh in our faces, as though they know they won’t be found guilty”</p><p dir="ltr">This case involves a second victim, another prisoner by the name of Andrey Chernikov, who was also beaten up by Dontsov, Podkorytov and another warder, Viktor Zaviyalov. Evidently Israilov tried to protect Chernikov after he was beaten up: the court papers say that the prison officers beat Israilov, who was handcuffed, with a rubber truncheon and then tied one end of a scarf to a high window bar and the other end round his neck.</p><p dir="ltr">Prisoner Anzor Mamayev, a witness at the trial, was afterwards transferred to Prison Colony No.7 in Karelia, where he and another inmate, political prisoner Ildar Dadin, would later <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ildar-dadin/letter-from-prison">report their experience of torture in November 2016</a>. Mamayev later asked human rights lawyers who were trying to defend him to stop assisting him, saying he was fine and could look after himself. Another prosecution witness was prison officer Vladimir Zorin, who worked at Colony No.2, and whose truncheon was used to beat the victims. Immediately after giving detectives evidence against the officers, Zorin was found hanged. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_dsc00627.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/rsz_dsc00627.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anzor Mamayev. Source: Oksana Trufanova. </span></span></span>“He gave evidence against the two prison guards, confirmed that they had actually entered Israilov’s punishment cell,” lawyer Andrey Lepekhin <a href="https://zona.media/article/2017/07/06/zavhoz">told</a> MediaZona, a website focusing on Russia’s justice system. “The three of them took Israilov into the cell, Zorin went out again and the other two stayed inside. He doesn’t know what they did there, but then they found Israilov’s body.”</p><p dir="ltr">All the officers accused of killing Israilov and beating Chernikov were released on bail, on written agreements that they would not leave the region. Today they visit the courthouse on their own steam, sitting in the corridor next to the victims’ lawyers. </p><p dir="ltr">“You should see how brazen they are,” says Dmitry Gromovoy, an ex-inmate of the same colony who has attended the trial as an observer. “They laugh in our faces, as though they know they won’t be found guilty.”</p><p dir="ltr">Immediately after his own release, Gromovoy decided to help Andrey Chernikov and represent him in court, but the court refused him entry, saying that he wasn’t a professional defence lawyer. In fact, Russian law has nothing to say about reasons for refusing entry to a representative. The very next day, the court sessions were closed to journalists and observers. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/jpg_3." rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/jpg_3." alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sultan Israilov. </span></span></span>“On 23 July 2018, the lawyer for one of the defendants requested that the court proceedings be closed to all visitors, because of the widespread negative feedback on social media,” Chernikov’s lawyer Anna Dunayeva tells me. “It seems that Judge Sirotin has taken the function of defence lawyer on himself, although he should be impartial. He claimed that the case should be tried in camera because the accused and their families might be in danger, given the active discussion around it online.” </p><p dir="ltr">So, for the moment not even members of the press can enter the courtroom in this Chelyabinsk district court. Kheda Saratova, a member of Chechnya’s Human Rights Council, is also dissatisfied with the judge’s decision.</p><p dir="ltr">“When this terrible crime was committed, I personally went to see the Prison Service deputy director Anatoly Rudoy, who assured me that the guilty men would be punished and the investigation would be thorough,” she says. “But now we see them at liberty, arriving at court on their own two feet while Sultan Israilov, whom they mercilessly tortured, is dead. People who have been arrested on mere hooliganism charges are left for years in pre-trial detention, whereas here prison officers accused of abusing their authority with force get away with just a travel ban… And this inexplicable court secrecy is also worrying. But everyone needs to realise that we won’t let the case be dropped. We’ll shout it from the rooftops.” </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Today, making the fact of torture in Russia’s prison systems public – even at the international level – doesn’t necessarily lead to results</p><p dir="ltr">Today, making the fact of torture in Russia’s prison systems public – even at the international level – doesn’t necessarily lead to results. On 25 July, the Russian Federation <a href="https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23412&amp;LangID=E">once again reported</a> on its fulfillment of international obligations via the UN Convention Against Torture. The UN Committee Against Torture stated that the Russian delegation did not answer all the committee’s questions, and does not use good quality statistics on the number of violations. </p><p dir="ltr">The fight against torture is focused on closed trials. The tendency to arbitrarily hold trials in camera can lead not only to perpetrators being judged not guilty, but to even more dangerous repercussions. Any judge naturally feels more at home without observers and dictaphones: they can then just mutter another platitude about “legality and well-founded judgements”, as a colleague at the Agora international human rights association recently <a href="https://www.advgazeta.ru/mneniya/poterya-glasnosti-kak-ugroza-pravosudiyu/">remarked</a>. Many members of Russia’s human rights community agree that the country’s uniformed and robed mafia will remain untouchable for the forseeable future. </p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/oksana-trufanova/prisoners-of-the-donbas">How prisoners in Ukraine’s occupied territories live, work and survive</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/bulat-mukhamedzhanov/russia-s-prison-service-is-keeping-its-abuses-under-lock-and-key">Russia’s prison service is keeping its abuses under lock and key</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/ildar-dadin/letter-from-prison">“10-12 people would beat me all at once, kicking me”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/olesya-gerasimenko/scenes-from-uprising-kopeysk-revolt">Scenes from an uprising: the Kopeysk revolt </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anastasiya-zotova/inside-russia-s-new-gulag">Inside Russia’s new Gulag</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Oksana Trufanova Russia Fri, 03 Aug 2018 10:21:14 +0000 Oksana Trufanova 119119 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Oksana Trufanova https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/oksana-trufanova <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Oksana Trufanova </div> </div> </div> <p>Oksana Trufanova is a rights defender based in Chelyabinsk, Russia.</p> Oksana Trufanova Tue, 24 Jul 2018 12:41:22 +0000 Oksana Trufanova 118987 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How prisoners in Ukraine’s occupied territories live, work and survive https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oksana-trufanova/prisoners-of-the-donbas <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Prisoners in the so-called “People’s Republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk are facing terrible living and working conditions – and being kept beyond their sentence. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oksana-trufanova/zachem-donbassu-zeki" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/37256950_1907068199352497_7296951652660019200_n_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/37256950_1907068199352497_7296951652660019200_n_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration by Irina Stasuk. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In May and June 2018, the situation around the city of Horlivka just outside of Donetsk deteriorated rapidly. Near this<a href="https://ukrstream.tv/en/videos/press_center_of_united_forces_18_06_2018#.WzyZE4onaUk"> “new hot spot”</a> are a number of penitentiary establishments, each holding a minimum of 500 prisoners who are basically captives of the new Donbas authorities. Over half of them were tried in Ukrainian courts for criminal offences, and many are serving sentences of more than five years. How are they fed, how are they protected from the bombings and shellfire – and why are they not being returned to serve their time in Ukraine, given that is where they were tried and convicted?</p><p dir="ltr">In late December 2015, President Petro Poroshenko signed the so-called “Savchenko Law” (after Nadiya Savchenko, one of the law’s authors). This law guaranteed that every day spent by a suspect in pre-trial detention would be counted as two days of their sentence. This was a means of satisfying suspects’ rights under the minimum conditions required by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Thus, a detainee stuck in pre-trial detention for years, deprived of sunlight and fresh air while the investigators and courts twiddle their thumbs, could at least rely on a shorter prison sentence. In Russia, a similar system has been under <a href="http://www.interfax.ru/russia/618741">discussion</a> for some years.</p><p dir="ltr">Between the passing of the Savchenko Law and its repeal in mid-2017, many Ukrainian prisoners and their defence lawyers contacted the courts to try and take advantage of the new law. One of them was Igor Tovma, an inmate of Prison Colony 27 in Horlivka, a city to the northeast of Donetsk. In February 2016, Sloviansk city court made the appropriate changes to Tovma’s sentence. But Tovma was not only not released at the appropriate time&nbsp;– he was also subjected to pressure and threats. The prison administration claimed that they had no obligation to comply with Ukrainian law and, in defiance of all international legal standards, initiated a review of Tovma’s sentence in line with the new laws of the self-declared “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LNR).</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“It’s not just the guards or the ‘fighters’ who come to visit the colony bosses or get their cars fixed who could put a bullet in you – it could happen any time if there’s shooting going on”</p><p dir="ltr">In order to carry out its plan to prolong Tovma’s imprisonment, the prison administration resorted to further trickery – he was forced to sign documents renouncing his Ukrainian citizenship and adopt citizenship of the “LNR”, as if this was an internationally recognised state. Acts like this put the lives of people stuck behind bars at risk. Rumour has it that inmates who fail to comply with prison rules in Horlivka are <a href="http://podrobnosti.ua/2037548-nachalnik-tjurmy-iz-gorlovki-navytjazhku-vstrechal-boevikov-foto.html">simply shot</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s not just the guards or the ‘fighters’ who come to visit the colony bosses or get their cars fixed who could put a bullet in you – it could happen any time if there’s shooting going on,” says Ivan, a former inmate of the Horlivka colony. “When they were bombing us, the guards all ran off and hid, and just left us there. They couldn’t give a damn about us convicts. Sometimes you would go a couple of days without food – the suppliers didn’t bring it in case they got shot at on the way. Nowadays they at least feed you.”</p><p dir="ltr">Andrey O. is another former inmate of Prison Colony 27, released a year and a half ago.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/37296164_1907068236019160_4287262859110383616_n_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/37296164_1907068236019160_4287262859110383616_n_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration by Irina Stasuk. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“My sentence ‘overran’ by two days,” he tells me. “Up to the last minute I was sure they weren’t going to let me out. The administration is keen to hang onto every ‘old’ con, given that there are hardly any new ones. Ukraine has stopped sending its citizens to serve their stretch there, and there aren’t enough inmates in the ‘LNR’ and ‘DNR’ to justify the number of staff. And if there are no cons left, where are they going to find work?”</p><p dir="ltr">Both the UN Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are aware of the issues around prison colonies in the self-proclaimed “People’s Republics”, including the use of torture and illegal holding of prisoners. The first body would only comment on the situation in private, to keep their names out of the media; the second said that they lacked detailed information on the situation but would check it out.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, a number of experts are linking the silence of these international organisations to the fact that there are now Ukrainian citizens working for them – local people, in other words, rather than foreigners, as used to be the case. Penitentiary establishments in the “DNR” and “LNR” are, it seems, undergoing inspections, but there’s nothing to be done about it. But it is well known that the only people who have direct access to prisons in the Donbas are International Red Cross employees, who won’t say anything in public for fear of losing this access.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“The convicts held in different parts of the DNR and LNR are having their rights infringed as a result of the armed conflict, in the same way as other residents of the occupied territories” </p><p dir="ltr">The Ukrainian side, after this year’s appointment of Valeria Lutovska as Human Rights Ombudsperson, replacing Lyudmila Denisova, is also not actively working on the release of prisoners held in the “lost” colonies of the “DNR” and “LNR”, and who are entitled to be released. Dialogue on this question has also been complicated by a new Ukrainian law, passed in January 2018, on de-occupying the Donbas. The Ombudsperson’s office told me that it would also not be easy to either transfer these prisoners to a prison in another Ukrainian region or to apply the Savchenko Law to them, since this would require a written request from the prisoner himself. Another legitimate question now arises: is a prisoner held in the “DNR” or “LNR” entitled to send such a request to the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice, and would this be physically possible without risk to his health?</p><p dir="ltr">Before the start of the armed conflict, there were <a href="http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1519378213&amp;w=%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B5%D1%81+%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BD%D1%84%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%86%D1%96%D1%8F">16,000 prisoners serving sentences in prison colonies</a> in the Donbas region. Only 186 of them have been transferred to Ukraine. Former members of ex-ombudsperson Valeriya Lutkovska’s staff tell me that they were strung along for months, never knowing which prisoners would be exchanged by “DNR” and “LNR” officials, when the exchange would take place and how many prisoners would be involved. And it was always the wrong people who got transferred – not the ones that had requested it. It looked as though the other side was taking bribes to transfer people.</p><p dir="ltr">Lawyers from the <a href="http://khpg.org/en/">Kharkiv Human Rights Group</a> have so far sent the ECHR 15 complaints from people imprisoned in the occupied areas.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/37282151_1907068232685827_3408171697449205760_n_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/37282151_1907068232685827_3408171697449205760_n_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration by Irina Stasuk. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“The ECHR has received complaints against both Russia and Ukraine,” Yevgen Zakharov, head of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, tells me. “They include grievances over the infringement of Article 5 (the right to freedom and personal immunity), Article 13 (the right to effective legal defence) and Article 8 (the right to respect for personal and family life) of the UN Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.”</p><p dir="ltr">“The convicts held in different parts of the DNR and LNR are having their rights infringed as a result of the armed conflict, in the same way as other residents of the occupied territories,” says Zakharov. “There have been several shell attacks on prison colonies, resulting in deaths and injuries as well as the destruction of buildings and interruption of electricity services and other utilities. The inmates of the colonies have been subjected to cold and hunger and a lack of medical services. They have, moreover, no access to the rule of law, since the question of the representation of their interests in the courts and other official bodies in the controlled and occupied territories has not been resolved. </p><p dir="ltr">“Their specific right to freedom is also being infringed: some have been detained without any appropriate legal basis for this – either a trial in a first-instance court was incomplete, or the sentence wasn’t carried out, or the court was using legislation that didn’t apply to the controlled territories, or they were entitled to an amnesty or early release, or because of the Savchenko Law and so on. Many have lost any chance of contacting their families and friends, since transfers and visits are now impossible. If a prisoner has been released but doesn’t have a passport, he can’t cross a demarcation line as release documents issued by the DNR and LNR are not recognised in the rest of Ukraine.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Prisoners in the occupied Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts have basically ended up as forced labourers, exploited in industrial zones for the enrichment of others”</p><p dir="ltr">Why do the so-called “republics” need all these prisoners, anyway? The prison colonies obviously provide employment for part of the Donbas population, but there is another possible reason.</p><p dir="ltr">Pavel Lisyansky, director of the <a href="http://www.vpg.net.ua/news/">Eastern Human Rights Group</a> and co-author of the <a href="http://www.vpg.net.ua/fullread/176">report</a> “On the State of Human Rights in the Ukrainian-controlled territories of the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts”, tells me: “Of course there are people being held captive there. Some of them should be freed under the terms of the Savchenko Law; others as part of a presidential amnesty, and there are still others whom they just won’t release, and these people can spend several extra years behind bars. Prisoners in the occupied Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts have basically ended up as forced labourers, exploited in industrial zones for the enrichment of others. Their unpaid labour produces breeze blocks, small scale mining machinery, souvenir products and so on. All prisoners are forced to work: if they don’t, they face sanctions such as solitary confinement or physical abuse.”</p><p dir="ltr">On <a href="https://dn.vgorode.ua/reference/kolonyy/106168-kalynynskaia-yspravytelnaia-kolonyia-27">this website</a> you can find a description of the activities of Prison Colony 27. Before the conflict, this penitential facility produced railway parts, chain-link fencing, reinforced concrete units and many other goods. It was also engaged in metal finishing and woodworking services, vehicle and agricultural maintenance and the sorting and packing of various materials.</p><p dir="ltr">The website stresses that up to 25 prisoners could be hired as labourers on a contract basis. But now that the colony has been removed from Ukraine’s balance sheet and transferred to that of a “republic” which is engaged in military activity against it, obviously there can be no question of any contracts. So how are the convicts occupied now?</p><p dir="ltr">“They are all engaged in the same thing – fraud,” says an anonymous Horlivka resident who used to work at the colony. “They phone people up – both inmates’ family members and random members of the public – and force them to transfer money to bank cards by hoodwinking them. ‘Your son has been involved in a road traffic accident where someone has died, and unless you transfer a couple of thousand roubles, hryvnya or dollars, he’ll be imprisoned or killed.’ They introduce themselves as witnesses or even police officers. It’s the same old trick, but the stories are all different and people are ready to hand over their last kopeck to save their loved one. The colony administration rakes in hundreds of thousands a month. It’s true. I used to work there. Do you think it’s a secret here? No way. Everybody knows what’s going on.”</p><p dir="ltr">Prison Colony 27 is headed by <a href="http://podrobnosti.ua/2037548-nachalnik-tjurmy-iz-gorlovki-navytjazhku-vstrechal-boevikov-foto.html">Alexander Lyashenko</a>, who, at 40, is considered the youngest boss in the prison system. According to former colleagues, before the arrival of the “fighters” he started off as a Ukrainian patriot but changed sides afterwards. I sent both him and “DNR” ombudsperson Darya Morozova a press request to explain why prisoners’ rights are being infringed and why those who have valid legal documents showing the length of time they spent in pre-trial detention have not yet been released under the Savchenko Law. The requests have, however, been ignored, and I have only received a reply from Morozova telling me that requests have to be either handed in in person or sent by post. I have received no response to specific questions about human rights infringements and obstacles to compliance with the Savchenko Law, as well as reasons why prisoners convicted in Ukrainian courts are still imprisoned in colonies which are not under the control of the Ukrainian government.</p><p dir="ltr">The Eastern Human Rights Group’s <a href="http://www.vpg.net.ua/fullread/176">report</a> also documents the effective absence of a public defender's office in the “LNR”: “At present, this institution does not exist in the so-called ‘LNR’. Defence lawyers whose evidence of their legal right to practice at the bar has been issued by Ukraine have no right to offer legal services in the so-called ‘LNR’, as they may themselves risk being suspected of ‘aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation’.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Lisyansky concludes that the issue of prisoners in the Donbas can only be settled collectively – that is, through collective protest by family members, sympathisers and the convicts themselves. Lisyansky also stresses that the Russian Federation can also use its influence on the “LNR” and “DNR” authorities to help resolve the issue.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Read this <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/gabriel-levy/eastern-ukraine-we-need-new-ways-of-organising">interview</a> with Pavel Lisyansky on new forms of labour organising in Ukraine's frontline territories.&nbsp;</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/how-ukraine-is-selling-out-pensioners-from-crimea">Trading sovereignty: how Ukraine&#039;s Pension Fund co-operates with the Russian authorities</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/gabriel-levy/eastern-ukraine-we-need-new-ways-of-organising">Eastern Ukraine: “We need new ways of organising”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/peace-building-versus-human-rights-in-ukraines-donbas">Peace-building versus human rights in Ukraine’s Donbas</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/yulia-abibok/the-growing-gap-between-ukraine-and-russia">The growing gap between Ukraine and Russia – and the people trying to bridge it</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/isobel-koshiw-anastasia-vlasova/growing-up-apolitical-in-ukraine-s-war-zone">Growing up apolitical in Ukraine’s war zone</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/katerina-iakovlenko/surviving-imprisonment">Surviving imprisonment: does Ukraine need a law for former prisoners from the Donbas conflict? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Oksana Trufanova Ukraine Tue, 24 Jul 2018 12:40:46 +0000 Oksana Trufanova 118986 at https://www.opendemocracy.net