“This is the legacy of the Gulag”

Human rights advocate and Presidential council for Human Rights expert Vladimir Osechkin has reported freedom of expression violations in penal colony №7 in Tver. Inmates and their relatives appealed to Oscechkin saying they had been seriously injured by the staff, he told Index on Censorship.

According to Osechkin, Pavel Kaitsukov was released on 23 January after four years in the colony for use and storage of drugs, and immediately went to hospital where he was diagnosed hard brain concussion. This, he said, was the consequence of the colony’s staff’s response to his attempt to complain about harsh treatment, including numerous insults and “groundlessly” locking him up in penal isolations wards.

He adds that on 19 January the staff commanded inmates should leave the cells and run through corridors with about 20 staff members who beat the inmates to Rammstein’s song “Murder”. Kaitsukov told Osechkin he asked for the colony’s head and a local prosecutor, but was beaten harder instead, lost his front teeth and was concussed.

After Kaitsukov’s term ended on 23 January he came to Moscow and filed a number of complaints to the General Prosecutor’s office from himself and other inmates — their written complaints had not been sent out from the colony, but had been allegedly torn or burnt, he says, noting that inmates were beaten for complaining.

Pavel Kaitsukov’s allegations were later confirmed by two other inmates, Ibragim Sardalov and Ruslan Artskhanov. They are still serving their terms –— for larceny and robbery with violence respectively — and appealed to Osechkin through their relatives. The pair have claimed they were repeatedly beaten for their Chechen nationality. Sardalov is to be operated on because slivers got into his injured leg after one of the beatings and caused infection. Artskhanov has got cancer. Both of them have filed complaints to prosecutors.

The response from Tver colony superiors is yet to be heard by the public. Vladimir Osechkin says the three victims have reported psychological pressure after speaking out, including the released Kaitsukov, who said he had been receiving phone calls from his former cellmates who “asked him to take back complaints and stop the scandal about the colony from flaming up”. Osechkin says those inmates were forced to call him because they had been under pressure themselves.

“Inmates are deprived of their right to express concerns about administration’s illegal actions, by threats of physical violence and of being sent away to North Russian colonies where their relatives can’t visit them”, Osechkin explains.

“This is legacy of the Gulag: inmates are supposed to work in colonies. But in Tver’s colony they are forced to work for miserable fees (up to 30 roubles — 0.6355 GBP — a month), like slaves. They are put in penal isolations wards if they refuse, and if they dare to file complaints to prosecutors, they are beaten and their complaints are torn”, he continues.

The investigation into Tver colony №7 human rights abuse is yet to be launched, although Tver prosecutors and a local non-governmental supervisory committee has already started interviewing inmates. Russia’s Public Chamber and Presidential Council for Human Rights members have expressed concerns about the reported incidents and promised to see to the situation.