On the 5 December 2012 visit to Penal Colony-6

5 December 2012

By Nikolai Shchur, member of the Public Oversight Commission for Chelyabinsk oblast and head of the Urals Democratic Foundation 

By the observer group of the Chelyabinsk Public Oversight Commission, under the leadership of Nikolai Shchur 
(D A Latypov, N A Shchur and T M Shchur) 

It did not happen in the morning: one of the prison officers, who was overseeing the young woman processing documents, took a look at our credentials and passports, and said: "You’re not on the lists so I’m not going to let you in". We argued that we did not need to appear on any lists as we were members of the Public Oversight Commission etc. I asked him to report our arrival to the management of the colony. Our counterpart, who refused to give his surname and title, refused to tell anyone: "It isn't my responsibility". 

We had to leave, put in a call to the Deputy Director of the Federal Penitentiary Service, Lt Gen E V Petrukhin, and report another example of idiocy by staff at the Chelyabinsk Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service. Naturally, our message did not bring Eduard Viktorovich any joy. You understand that we felt no hostility against us today, nor was any intended; there was, it is sad to say, just the run-of-the-mill stupidity of local prison guards. But this just goes to show what we have been saying for a long time now: the level of professionalism in Penal Colony-6 is – how can I put it delicately and politely? – on the shabby side.

After a half hour of calls back and forth (as far as we can tell) between Moscow and Chelyabinsk, and Chelyabinsk and Kopeisk, the Assistant Head of the Main Directorate of the Federal Penitentiary Service on Human Rights, Colonel V S Nazarkin (who had been waiting around for us on the inside for ages!) came for us and took us into the colony.

The situation inside remained calm. Several people were skating around the hockey rink in their kit – something we have never seen before.

We arrived at the library and announced that we were holding a personal consultation. We wrote a list of those whom we would definitely like to see (the approach to selection being those who we know, who are on our Security Record, and those whose parents rang asking that we see their relatives).

People came to see us in their droves. Even the prisoner from Section 11, who the day before last, had forbidden the rest from talking to us, came along. Today he was smiling at us warmly and doing his utmost to help us, asking whom he should run off to call in.

They formed a queue to join our consultation. At the same time, the prisoners, mindful of our time, took it upon themselves to complain about violations of their rights another way: they compiled a collective statement (about extortion and beatings, etc.), and this statement was signed by a large number of prisoners and referred to us. We thus took statements from 182 people. We will examine all of the statements in the coming days and if it is found that the information they contain falls within the purview of the authorities concerned (many of the statements were given to us in sealed envelopes in our care and we simply do not yet know of their contents) we will forward them to the intended recipients.

Several people told us that manufactured equipment is currently being swiftly removed from the facility that, according to the prisoners, was never processed as a product of the colony, i.e. it was shadow manufacturing, the profits of which appear nowhere, prisoners assured.

I (with V N Nazarkin) went on to the unit for syringe disposal – the unit was no longer there: its tables were even already in the street, waiting to be loaded up.

We were in the punitive isolation ward. The unusual silence was striking: no children's songs, no Ramstein. The radio was silent.

We took a few people along and went around the cells.

Here are the results.

The situation, although calm, seems worrying to us: the impression given is that the management has withdrawn from working with the prisoners. It does not yet seem possible to predict how the situation there will unfold.

We plan to visit to Penal Colony-6 next on 10 December.

Nikolai Shchur, 
Member of the Public Oversight Commission for Chelyabinsk oblast 
Head of the Urals Democratic Foundation 

5 December 2012