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Visit to Atlyan Juvenile Colony on 11 December 2012

11 December 2012

from Chelyabinsk Public Oversight Commission group of observers led by Nikolai Shchur 
(D.A. Latypova, N.A. Shchur, T.M. Shchur) 

Visit to Atlyan Juvenile Colony on 11 December 2012 by inspectors N.A. Shchur and T.M. Shchur

We had planned to visit Atlyan for a long time. Especially after the events of October, when some people, if we are to believe the the reports from the official media, would drive up to the colony at night and storm the walls for lack of anything better to do. Therefore we went to Atlyan at the first opportunity. We had assembled a large group but for various reasons only the two of us we able to go today, alas. 

We were greeted very graciously when we arrived. We hadn't had time to talk to the colony chief Lieutenant Colonel Andrei Vladimirovich Bivalkevich (+7 35135 28307) when the deputy chief for human rights from the Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service, V.N. Nazarkin, arrived with the Directorate's press service chief Ivan Aleksandrovich Meshanin along with two other Directorate representatives, one of whom had a camera and was recording our every move and word from a distance (with the exception of several of our one-on-one conversations with the young offenders).

Everything was fine until while we surveyed the colony: there were repairs going on everywhere, excellent showers, dining hall, school... The most important thing was that the rooms were warm. The area was a pleasant surprise, it wasn't like in adult colonies where they sweep away fallen snow into small particles, leaving the place looking extremely unwelcoming; here only the walkways were cleared, while the rest was blindingly white with snow, glittering in the sun and looking very beautiful.

Then the beauty instantly dulled as soon as we began talking with the colony's inmates. The boys we spoke to were selected entirely at random: someone sat slightly closer than the rest, someone seemed the most miserable or the most forward; someone had an injury on their face...

They told us terrible things. 

In October 18 boys (yes, they are children in every way, just children who have been sentenced to prison and committed crimes) who the "tough lads" of the facility wanted to teach a lesson, asked the administration to put them in a safe place as they feared reprisals. Since the colony's solitary confinement only had 9 places and they needed to isolate twice as many as that, they put them in the medical unit. But the "tough guys" decided to get at them there and planned to storm the medical unit. The boys in the medical unit barricaded themselves in, dismantled the beds and armed themselves with the bars, preparing to defend themselves. And then the aforementioned "drunkards" from outside the colony arrived just in time. Who called them, we don't know. The drunken troublemakers saved the boys from reprisals through their own actions. The incident ended with all of the October "tough guys" being moved out of the zone. 

However, the worst was yet to come.

On 7 December (i.e. four days ago!) the situation was repeated. But unfortunately without such a farcical conclusion: this time 10 new "tough guys" (their names were given by the victims) armed themselves with the bed bars, they broke the window of the medical unit (we saw the window), climbed through and beat the boys hiding in there with the same bed bars. The colony worker who was in the medical unit saw the ten boys climbing in, and according to the boys who were beaten, simply locked the door and left. After this the duty assistant ran up and stopped the battle. The attackers were taken out of the medical unit. When they had all left, the beaten boys hid in the laboratory room. And for good reason. An operative arrived and once again let the thugs in, opening the passage from the closed local zone to the medical unit to continue the "lesson". But they couldn't find their targets in time before the working day began. 

In the afternoon they were all brought to the operations unit and there an operative (his surname was given to us) told the "activists" to bring the beaten boys to the unit and beat them there, but not totally. The reason for the beatings was their requesting to be transferred to a safe place.

That's not all. 

After the events in October, "inspectors" arrived from the "Board" (their surnames were given to us). According to the boys: "At first they were sort of on our side, but then they started hitting us." I don't even know what to say to this. The correct thing to do would be to write an open letter 2 to General Turbanov and chain letters to two other generals: A.P. Voitovich (the oblast Prosecutor) and P.V. Cheurin (the head of the oblast's Investigative Directorate). But I already know that I'll receive no response from them. 

I can hear the cries from Russia's "patriots": why are you taking teenage murderers at their word? My answer is that I have just seen them myself and when I look at them, I see. 

I see these hunted, unfortunate children at the end of their tether, who impossibly found the courage to say what they said to us. (One actually decided not to speak, he only wrote, fearfully looking around and gasping all the while.) I can still feel their animal, overpowering fear in my bones.

These boys are sure that tonight they will likely be killed. Their names are Georgii Pestrikov and Andrei Vorobyov.

We demanded that they be IMMEDIATELY moved to secure cells in solitary and are kept under constant observation by both security and a psychologist.

We also enter all 18 boys in the Security Register and reported this to the Chelyabinsk Oblast Human Rights Ombudsman, A.M. Sevastyanov, upon leaving the colony.

We made requests of everyone accompanying us on our visit for the medical examination on three prisoners (by the colony doctor) and the Directorate officers filming us recorded (and we all saw) Pestrikov and Vorobyov's bruises, scratches and injuries (on their arms, legs and back).

We spoke with two "activists", and I can say that we haven't seen such blatant and brazen louts in quite a while: they were blatantly rude to us. They didn't even try to hide the fact that, yes. they did beat those boys: What if they are lying?

Is that all that is important?

We came here, went on the internet and read a little bit. Dear journalists, we have a big request – when you interview us over the phone, try to record our answers on a dictaphone – it's unsettling to read what words you have attributed to us. We beg you to be accurate and honest. The best thing would be to quote our press releases.

We also read that the management of the Chelyabinsk Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service "has decided to not engage in controversy with human rights defenders" which is awaiting for a court ruling (if any), then it will talk. After seeing Atlyan today I really hope that I will be speaking with the general major through bars, with him inside. That is if I want to speak to him. 

The last thing for today. It was cold in the colony. Freezing. It's not the capital of the upcoming Winter Olympics. The boys are going around in flimsy shoes, the ones specified in the colony rules. Perhaps we could find someone to buy 100 pairs of felt boots, but Turbanov would just try to ban them from wearing them in the zone. 

Just like that. A little more frightening than at Penal Colony No. 6? 

Nikolai Alekseevich Shchur
Member of Chelyabinsk Oblast Public Oversight Commission, 
Director of the Urals Democratic Foundation 

11 December 2012