14 October 2021
by Andrei Babushkin, Head of the Committee for Civil Rights, Deputy Chair of the Public Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Moscow, member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, laureate of the Moscow Helsinki Group Prize
Human rights activists met with Minister of Justice Konstantin Chuichenko.
The meeting at the Ministry of Justice was devoted to three issues: the fight against torture, changing the internal regulations of penal institutions and creating a probation system.
The Minister proposed:
– To raise the status of assistants to the heads of regional human rights bodies, possibly subordinating them directly to the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia;
– to grant the right to members of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation and the Human Rights Council to visit the institutions of the penal system;
– to develop algorithms for compiling and examining materials from video recordings, promptly identifying evidence of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment;
– Not to include former members of prison staff in Public Monitoring Commissions.
The Acting Director of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia, A.I. Yakunin, noted that an increasing number of incidents is being reported in Saratov. The situation in the prisons remains difficult. Thus, more than a third of convicts are repeat offenders. Every year, the number of those who are under penal constraints grows by 4%. Every week ten episodes of violations against the life or health of employees of the criminal justice system are reported. Thirty-six criminal cases have been initiated against the employees of the penal system. 202,000 video cameras and 57,000 portable CCTV are installed in prisons. In the first half of 2021,1,881 employees were disciplined on the basis of CCTV evidence.
He assessed the events in the Saratov region as shameful.
The proposals in my contribution included:
– to increase the number of human rights defenders actually working in the Public Monitoring Commissions;
– To be more active in enrolling human rights defenders in Public Committees of the Federal Penitentiary Service;
– To revise the implementation of penal constraints;
– To intensify human rights instruction for the staff of the prison service in their training and retraining; the development of human rights awareness among staff;
– Official visits made by senior staff of the Central Office of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia should include mandatory meetings with members of the local Public Monitoring Commission and with regional Human Rights Commissioners as routine.
The Minister supported these proposals. Georgy Volkov, chair of the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission, proposed the creation of a public hotline to receive complaints about human rights violations.
The Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia promised to run a trial of this phoneline the next day.
In response to my speech, the Minister expressed his readiness to meet with human rights defenders once a quarter.
Deputy Minister of Justice V.L. Kukolov reported on the preparations of the law on probation.
The bill provides for three types of probation:
– Judicial, that is, appointed by the court.
An individual rehabilitation programme is to be developed with respect to everyone on probation. Psychological assistance and assistance in finding employment is provided. Unfortunately, the fourth type of probation is “pre-trial probation”, but so far it has been omitted from this law. Work on the draft bill on probation is ongoing.
The draft of a new bill on the internal regulations of the penal system was also discussed. The order will approve the internal regulations for four types of institutions – correctional institutions, educational colonies, pre-trial detention centres and correctional centres.
Maybe I’m naive, but I, and also, apparently, my colleagues Eva Merkacheva and Valentin Gefter, had the impression that K.A. Chuichenko is just the minister to bring all the institutions of the penitentiary system together, working with human rights defenders towards compliance with human rights.
Translated by Graham Jones