Brief Expert Assessment of the Incident at IK-6

1 December 2012

By Nikolai Shchur, 
Director of the Urals Democratic Foundation, Director of the Chelyabinsk Oblast Public Oversight Commission working group 

To the Governor of Chelyabinsk Oblast 
Mr M.V. Yurevich 

The situation at IK-6 did not begin on 24 November or even this year, but much earlier: a system of extorting money out of prisoners' relatives was established in the institutions of the Chelyabinsk Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service before V.S. Zhidkov's tenure. Under Zhidkov the system became universal, and under General V.N. Turbanov it was taken to extremes. Moreover, under Zhidkov prisoners began to be beaten severely and frequently with or without cause. Under General Turbanov the foremost reason for the beatings was the prisoners' resistance to the system of extorting money from themselves and especially from their families. The situation as it stands today is such that an uprising could break out at any of Chelyabinsk's colonies at any moment. The fact a protest took place at IK-6 and not at another facility is due to the fact that the management at IK-6 is the least professional and most openly malicious towards those in their charge, constantly increasing the size of kickbacks demanded from prisoners.

The behaviour of the prisoners of IK-6 during their demonstration of civil disobedience has been surprising (and worthy of respect): despite the blatantly foolish and extremely unprofessional behaviour of the Federal Penitentiary Service (their constant lying to relatives, the press and members of the Public Oversight Commission; their provocation of the prisoners to riot; their unwillingness to listen to them, etc.), the protesting prisoners refused to be plunged into a scenario of destroying property, committing arson and other acts of vandalism typical in similar situations. It was purely due to their restraint that no blood was spilled and no one was harmed. We clearly need to thank them for this.

Thus, the corruption in the system of the Chelyabinsk Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service (throughout the whole system – from junior inspectors to the Administration in every institute) was the main reason for the unrest of 24-25 November.

The second reason was the complete inaction (I would call it criminal inaction) of the oblast’s Prosecutor's Office and territorial Investigative Committee. First and foremost, the reason for this inaction was the involvement of prosecutors and investigators in the corrupt system of the Federal Penitentiary Service. (The role of the regional courts is another matter.) For many years prosecutors and investigators have turned a blind eye to beaten and broken prisoners, completely satisfied with the prison guards' explanations that the "contingent's" bruises and damaged organs were caused by falling from top bunks, crashing into pillars when walking and other obvious nonsense. During their visits to facilities, prosecutors refuse to accept complaints from prisoners with the explanation of: "We're not postmen." Workers at the institutions are also very careful to ensure that not a single complaint regarding prison conditions leaves the colony. All the complaints which have reached the outside were either conveyed by illegal means or in a statement to a Public Oversight Commission member in a private conversation. This is why there are so many incidences of self-inflicted injuries at regional facilities of the Federal Penitentiary Service.

Prosecutors don't notice the phenomenon of the mass imprisonment of convicts in solitary confinement for whole years, even though the law dictates a maximum of 15 consecutive days.

The oblast's Prosecutor's Office is a state institution which destabilises colonies and remand centres.

It must be noted that the visit by Public Oversight Commission inspectors to the colonies was attended by representatives of the Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service, and the subsequently publicised video of prisoners' complaints and of the tortuous conditions at IK-6 were carried out in the presence of the assistant to the head of the Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service for human rights or his deputy. The acts of the Public Oversight Commission were conveyed to the colony's management, to the Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service and the Prosecutor's Office. But despite all this, no steps were taken to stop the offences being committed.

Specifically as regards IK-6:

The main and criminal error of the Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service was calling the riot police to the walls of the colony: there were no grounds for this step. The Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service clearly assumed that they would have no trouble provoking the prisoners so that the riot squad could enter the zone, but they seriously miscalculated.

The second – and blatantly criminal – error was giving the order for the peaceful people gathering near the colony to be beaten. Based on this fact, criminal cases must be initiated both against the colony director who gave the order to beat people, as well as against the riot officers themselves who carried out the illegal order with such viciousness. As part of these cases, the information about injuries received by riot police officers allegedly at the hands of bystanders must be investigated (we all remember how in 2008 the officers at IK-1 inflicted injuries on each other to offer as evidence of attacks from supposedly rebelling prisoners).

And finally: the investigation of the incident must be conducted quickly and publicly. In order to prevent potentially fatal eruptions of dissatisfaction at other institutes of the oblast's Federal Penitentiary Service, the investigation must begin with the immediate dismissal of colony director D.S. Mekhanov, his deputy for security and operations, the head of the operations department and the most offensive operatives (their names are mentioned several times in prisoners' grievances). Aside from this, the overseeing prosecutor A.P. Yakovlev and the director of the Kopeisk City District Investigative Committee must also be dismissed from their posts. 

The prisoners who took part in the protest must also be given the opportunity to speak publicly, especially those outraged by the false version of events circulated by the Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service: that the protest was planned from the outside, that certain crime bosses were involved, that demands were made for "relaxation of the regime" or for the release of the crime boss Givi from solitary. (We have long been aware that prisoner Georgii D. has been in solitary confinement, and also of his complaint of harassment on the part of the colony head and workers. However, when these grievances were received from D. by members of the Public Oversight Commission and his lawyers back in the summer, no protest actions had taken place at the colony).

In general, the constant lying of officials to the public must be stopped: the protest at IK-6 was filmed by dozens of operatives not involved in the corruption, shots have been posted online and the prison officers' insistence that black is white and vice versa serves to generate nothing but animosity of people. The normalisation of conditions both at IK-6 and other colonies does not facilitate this.

You must immediately take serious measures to ensure the safety of the prisoners who gave evidence exposing the colony's management and, first and foremost, the safety of Daniil Abakumov in SIZO-3, against whom a criminal case has been initiated on knowingly false information, as well as the safety of Evgenii Terekhin whose health is cause for serious concern, and Aleksei Pervukhin who is in solitary at IK-6.

It is also necessary to give a legal assessment of the blatant sabotage of the Law on Public Control on the part of officials from the Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service and the oblast's Prosecutor's Office.

Do not impede activists or the media from gaining knowledge of and publicising the circumstances surrounding this event.

There is no doubt that a relatively large range of issues remain to be addressed (as well as the initiation of criminal cases) and which have arisen in relation to the event (the behaviour of prosecutor A.P. Voitovich, the gross violation of the Law on Public Control by the oblast's Public Oversight Commission chair A.M. Tarasyuk, the selection of prisoners for recording their conversations with Chelyabinsk Oblast's Human Rights Ombudsman, the disinformation of the Ombudsman and the press service of Federal Penitentiary Service officials, etc.), they require discussion but they are not as critical as the issues listed above.

Nikolai Alekseyevich Shchur 
Director of the Urals Democratic Foundation 
Director of the Chelyabinsk Oblast Public Oversight Commission working group 

1 December 2012

16A Ostrovskovo St., 
Chelyabinsk, 454008 

Phone/Fax: +7 351 791 05 22; +79222352551