At Prison Colony No. 15 in Irkutsk, where a riot broke out, lawyers have been banned and a meeting with members of the Public Oversight Commission cancelled
Photo: Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation / RIA Novosti

13 April 2020

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group

Since 13 April in Prison Colony No. 15 in the Irkutsk region, where a riot occurred on 10 April, they have forbidden the admittance of lawyers, and the promised Federal Penitentiary Service meeting with members of the Public Oversight Commission has been cancelled, human rights defender, Pavel Glushchenko, and Public Oversight Commissioin chair for the region, Oleg Antipenko, reported to MBKh Media.

“Relatives call me, they’re calling every two minutes, but they’re not telling them anything on this hotline. Today, they sent lawyers, since lawyers can visit, to represent the interests of the victims.  As of today, 13 April, there is an order not to admit anyone. Visits from lawyers are only permitted with the agreement of the investigator,” explained Glushhenko.

Antipenko commented that representatives of Federal Penitentiary Service promised to meet today, so four members of the Public Oversight Commission went to theprison colony, but they were not allowed to enter. “The prosecutor’s office took the measure of not admitting lawyers, members of the Public Oversight Commission, or relatives because of coronavirus. There is already an official order, signed by the prosecutor and the chief medic of the Federal Penitentiary Service,” he said.

Human rights defenders, including representatives of the Moscow Helsinki Group, demanded that the federal authorities investigate the circumstances of the riot in Prison Colony No. 15, punish those responsible and prevent such things from happening in the future.

“Rus’ Sidyashaya” [Russia Behind Bars] asked UN Special Rapporteurs to urge Russia to promptly and effectively investigate the riot in the Irkutsk prison colony, which led to the death  of at least one person, as well as a fire. The letter was addressed to UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnès Callamard, and UN Special Rapporteur on torture and cruel or inhuman treatment, Nils Melzer. The human rights defenders call on the UN to urge Russia to investigate the deaths of two detainees and “extraordinary use of force in Prison Colony No. 15”, and also to provide urgent medical aid to the injured convicts. In their view, the UN should urge Russia to notify prisoners’ relatives about their condition, provide access to the prison colony for the public oversight commission and disclose full information about the victims and possibly deaths. 

Human rights activists also asked the UN to ask the Russian government who gave the order to suppress the riot so harshly, the use of weapons during these events, whether the use of force was proportionate, about the causes of the riot, about the victims and what assistance was provided to them, and about possible deaths during the suppression of the riot.

On April 10th, prisoners in Angarsk prison colony No.15 in the Irkutsk region rioted following the beating of a convict by a prison officer. This was reported on Radio Liberty’s website, citing as a source the human rights organisation For Human Rights.  Several buildings were set on fire during the riots and special forces were subsequently brought in.

The prisoners recorded a video in which they complained of bullying and beatings. On 9 April, a prison officer went to the barracks for regime violators and beat one of the convicts, who inflicted injuries on himself. For this, he was beaten again. Several other prisoners self-harmed in protest. They recorded an appeal from the burning industrial zone of the colony. “Now everything will burn down, there is going to be trouble. They’re going to kill us.” the prisoners say in the video.

The press service of the Irkutsk Federal Penitentiary Service said that the convicts of prison colony No.15 attacked a prison officer, who was allegedly hospitalised. They referred to the situation in the colony as being “under control.” According to information received from prisoners’ relatives, special forces threw smoke bombs into the colony, causing the fire. Prisoners were allegedly beaten, but human rights defenders are not allowed in the colony. The Irkutsk region Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against the convicts under the article on disorganisation of the activities of institutions that ensure isolation from society.

As Olga Romanova, Executive Director of the ‘Jailed Russia’ foundation, told the Russian service of Voice of America, a second colony, Prison Colony No. 14, is also on fire, and communication with a third (Prison Colony No. 7) is lost, while a fourth colony, Prison Colony No. 2, is preparing for a riot. According to Romanova, the riots were provoked by the regular beating of prisoners. The situation was aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic. Prisoners are not allowed to see their relatives or lawyers, and they are not allowed to meet with representatives of Public Oversight Commissions. Transfers, including the transfer of medicines, were also banned.

Translated by Mercedes Malcomson and James Lofthouse

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