5 January 2022
For all the undoubted necessity of exposing the systematic torture in Russian prisons and penal colonies, Vladimir Osechkin’s latest publication raises questions about the priorities, values, and motives of the work he does in human rights.
Yesterday, he published online an answer from the Federal Penitentiary Service to the Federal Human Rights Ombudsman, along with his own commentary. The letter gives the names of 17 prisoners found to be victims in criminal cases brought against prison officers on charges of torture and sexual violence. This is an internal document and it is currently unclear when, at what stage, and how the information was leaked. But that is not what is most important.
The publication of the names of raped convicts puts them at serious risk during the remainder of their time in detention, not to mention the moral cost to their family and daily life after release. Their wives and children will know what the convicts themselves might possibly want to hide from their families and friends. Lev Ponomarev, head of the Movement for Human Rights, says these same prisoners and their relatives are contacting his organisation and expressing outrage over this irresponsible publication. This reaction is perfectly understandable.
It is difficult to understand Vladimir Osechkin, who surely knows what the publication of the victims’ names means for the prisoners concerned. He cannot fail to understand that now they will be identified at any of the transit points, prisons and penal colonies in our lawless Gulag. He knows, after all, that now they cannot escape the fate of being made outcasts in the prison world. Or are their fates not so important in the noble cause of defending human rights? When the tree is being felled, the chips fly?
Translated by Simon Cosgrove