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Chelyabinsk: Visit to Penal Colony No. 8

25 January 2013

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

Preliminary results. Members of the Public Oversight Commission, T.M. Shchur, N.A. Shchur and D.A. Latypova visited penal colony-8 on 25 January.

As yet nothing is any clearer regarding the incident with the corpse. We saw two people implicated in the case. They are now being considered suspects, have given testimony (a confession) to investigators and are each being held in punishment cells in just the same conditions as everyone else. The head of the penal colony gave an official explanation today for the confrontation amongst the convicts. We still have doubts about its accuracy
but it is too early to mention anything specific. Hope of learning the truth, however, is not lost.

Conditions of detention in the high security punishment unit are poor for everyone. There is almost no natural light in any of the cells of the high security punishment unit; the window is small as it is, and little or no light gets through it. If you turn off the electricity it is completely dark in the cells. It is damp and airless. There is no window at all in one of the cells. The convict was immediately removed from it upon the visit by the Public Oversight Commission. It is worth noting, however, that before that he had already been held there since the beginning of November 2012. In another cell, where a convict has also been held for a long time, the ceiling is dripping and there is a strong smell of mould and damp in the air. However, the prisoner refused offers by the head of the penal colony to move him to another cell. The question is why was he put there at all in the first place? Are only members of the Public Oversight Commission able to see these torturous conditions?

From start to finish, our whole visit, much like the conditions of detention, was photographed and video recorded by the head of the press office, Mishanin. We took the opportunity to record our appeal to General Turbanov proposing that he meet with us and assist in raising awareness of human rights and explaining the law on public oversight to staff of the penitentiary service. This was done in order to avoid misunderstandings arising from the interpretation of the law between human rights defenders and prison service officers, which happens constantly at the present time.

T.M. Shchur