Lev Ponomarev: A broomstick up the backside is part of our national identity

 29 May 2021

by Lev Ponomarev, human rights activist, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source:  Ekho Moskvy]


I beg you in advance, esteemed readers of Ekho Moskvy, to excuse me for being compelled to share shocking facts about what is going on in Russian prisons. I should probably warn you that this article should not be read by individuals under eighteen and people with weak psyches.

Most often, publications on the Ekho site are devoted to problems on this side of the bars, in the so-called “free world,” but this lawlessness cannot be compared with what is happening on the other side of the bars. I want to tell the story of what is actually hidden behind the fairytale reports from prison leadership.

“What is the degree of severity of the bodily injuries and the mechanism of their formation? Could their formation result from introducing a broom handle into the anal orifice?”

“Could their formation occur as a result of the introduction into the anal orifice of a stick made of rolled up paper?”

“Could their formation occur as a result of the introduction into the anal orifice of a stick made of rolled up paper and a penis?”

“Could their formation occur as a result of the introduction into the anal orifice of a 200 ml sauce bottle?”

“Could their formation occur as a result of the introduction into the anal orifice of a 1 liter plastic (condensed milk) bottle?”

“Could their formation occur as a result of the introduction into the anal orifice of a broom handle?”

“Could their formation occur as a result of the introduction into the anal orifice of a human hand, a wooden stick, a penis?”

And so on in this vein. All these are quotations from statements by an investigator for especially important cases in the Irkutsk Region branch of the Investigative Committee. All this happened to prisoners at Penal Colony No. 15 and Remand Centre No. 6, Angarsk, Irkutsk Region, after riots on 9-10 April 2020. All these actions were taken in order to obtain “correct” testimony in the criminal case regarding the riots.

This is how it happens. FSIN [Federal Penitentiary Service] employees call in prisoner-”developers” and assign them to prepare the suspect for questioning, literally to “beat” the right testimony into their head. The “developers” include pariah prisoners to whom the administration assigns this very nasty job; by bullying other prisoners they get benefits and preferences. They “develop” the person, hence the category “developer.”

Immediately after the riots in Angarsk, relatives of the victims of the violence and the victims themselves started coming to us with reports of torture. We set ourselves the task of verifying this and of obtaining a fair investigation and punishment of the guilty parties.

I’ve already written about the fight of our movement, “To Defend Prisoners’ Rights,”* to open a criminal case on torture in the correctional institutions of Irkutsk Region. About how we found witness and torture victim Evgeny Yurchenko, how we made a film with his participation and showed this film to the Russian ombudsman and at a roundtable at the Federation Council, and also got an investigation into these crimes by the federal Investigative Committee. It was hard for us. FSIN employees created obstacles. Nonetheless, thanks to your help (by the way, you can support us here), today we can report the following results:

— Evgeny Yurchenko and three prisoners have been recognized as victims in the criminal case for abuse of authority (Article 286 of the Russian Criminal Code]), torture (Article 117), and violent actions of a sexual nature (Article 132).

— The investigator has issued statements on the assignment of forensic medical analysis concerning the presence and causes of bodily injuries in 27 prisoners (the quotations from the statements that I cited above).

A team made up of a human rights activist and two lawyers has made two trips this year to Irkutsk Region. We had to accompany Evgeny Yurchenko out of concerns for his safety. Quite recently, in the second half of May, an investigator invited Evgeny to participate in investigative actions. The actions went on for a whole week, and the most vivid of them was the verification of statements on location at Remand Centre No. 6 in Angarsk, which is where Evgeny was tortured by electric shock. He described in detail which outlet they plugged the extension cord into, and then how they prodded him with a bare wire, and how one of the “developers” stripped the paint off a metal hanger with a spoon and taped it to Evgeny’s hand so that the electric current would pass from his genitalia through his whole body. There were other prisoners in this room, too, and Evgeny showed where the FSIN employee was sitting, drinking tea, and laughing while a broom handle was introduced into the anal orifices of people lying on the floor.

I don’t know about you, but it terrifies me to hear such things and write about them. We must rouse the state to stop this horrific practice and halt Russia’s downward slide toward fascism. Every trip to Irkutsk Region by our experts and lawyers costs approximately 150,000-200,000 rubles. In parallel, we are paying for periodic work by a few local lawyers.

Ahead lies tremendous work on this case (more detail here). All 27 prisoners with regard to whom statements have been made are victims of torture and require professional legal assistance.

We need your financial support, which is why I am asking you to click here and help us with a one-time payment or a monthly donation.

* Russian authorities consider the organisation a foreign agent

Translated by Marian Schwartz

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