Lev Ponomarev: We’re Digitalising Torture: Lawyers keep out!

8 November 2021

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

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Эхо Москвы]

THIS MESSAGE (MATERIAL) WAS CREATED AND/OR DISSEMINATED BY A FOREIGN MASS MEDIA OUTLET PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT AND (OR) A RUSSIAN LEGAL ENTITY PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT [this is included by the author in the text because it is the notification required by Russian law for publications by a person designated a ‘foreign agent’ – ed.]

Imagine the impossible, the director of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), director Kalashnikov has been sent to prison. Although, if you think about it, it’s not that impossible as his predecessors managed it too. And so, this means that Kalashnikov is being tortured. They’re slapping him about. They wrap him in a sheet and dip it in a tub of water. The bare wires are all ready. And in the corner there is a mop, tied with a festive red ribbon. What is it there for? Kalashnikov knows what it’s for. Hasn’t he seen the video from Saratov?

And now everything is going blurry before my eyes. They are shouting something at him, right into his ear. Kalashnikov sobs and signs a piece of paper without looking at it. Then he signs another and another. His shaking fingers drop the pen. If only it would all stop. He’s signed it already! But signing it is not enough. He needs to learn the testimony by heart before the investigator’s arrival. 

“And so, from the 22 billion roubles allocated for the digitilization of the FSIN, together with my subordinates, I stole….” 

The lawyer is not allowed to see Kalashnikov. This is not because of lawlessness, as it used to be; this is based on the law! The law adopted when Kalashnikov was director. First, quarantine. Second, a real threat of armed attack on FSIN officers was uncovered. Third, something about “acts of collective disobedience”. That is why parcels are not delivered. Visits by lawyers, the Public Monitoring Commission and relatives were banned. Everything is prohibited, a so called “special regime” has been introduced. 

Although if they let members of the Public Monitoring Commission in it would hardly change anything, right? After all, it includes former FSIN employees, former Interior Ministry officers and members of veterans’ organisations. Kalashnikov did not have any problems with them. They would have addressed him politely, by name and patronymic, out of habit. But, of course, no complaints would be accepted.

What if they let a lawyer in? Well, Kalashnikov would have told them about his torture under questioning. But in the materials of the case would contain a report on the digital intelligence system. It will note that “no atypical behaviour on behalf of the FSIN officers and other prisoners in relation to A.P. Kalashnikov was identified” and “there are morphological signs of criminal intent on the face of A.P. Kalashnikov to conspire against FSIN officers and to escape criminal responsibility.” 

There is no reason to distrust the digital network. Besides, no lawyer has the right to disclose any information “constituting a secret of the investigation”, “intended for official use”, “damaging the country’s defence capability”, and such like…

Do not feel sorry for Andrei Petrovich Kalashnikov. Feel sorry for yourself and your loved ones, because all this could happen to anyone. And it is much more likely to happen to you than to him. And do not think that the store of means of humiliating treatment is limited to items to be thrust in your anus. You can torture people without direct physical violence – watch poignant the poignant film made by the Dozhd online TV channel about what they are doing to Navalny in prison. Psychological ill-treatment leaves no traces on the body.

And things are still not so bad for Kalashnikov. The “digitalization” of the Federal Prison Service has still not been carried out, billions have yet to be stolen, and the law on restricting the rights of prisoners has not been adopted. But most importantly, public attention is focused on what is happening in Russian prisons. Prisoners are aware of this, and the tension in the prisons is growing. They hope that you will hear them and help change this inhumane system.

Our demands are simple:

Kalashnikov must resign.

The myraid  of cases of torture must be investigated and the perpetrators punished. The country’s parliament must oversee these investigations.

The Federal Prison Service should be subjected to radical reform. The legislation should be changed to bring about a real strengthening of public oversight and transparency of the prison system.

I have recorded a new video about the torture of Navalny, the digitalization of the Federal Penitentiary Service, Chemezov, and a trip by human rights defenders to colonies in the regions. I think it turned out well.  Please take a look, comment, give feedback, and be sure to subscribe as I recently started a new channel,and it needs your support.

The security forces can only govern the country in one way.

Their way includes bans, surveillance, expulsions, and finally prisons – all of which constitute the main news in the country. There are systematic abuses against people. That’s what they’ve led us to!

Nowadays the leading roles among those in power are played by those who think they can just smother everyone. That there is enough money and stability in the power hierarchy for that. They think, following the example of China, that it is possible to build a digital concentration camp on the site of the post-Soviet Gulag, develop new technologies there and gradually turn the whole country into a digital concentration camp.

But Russia is not China.

You can’t, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t — everywhere there are cameras Everywhere there are cameras, that’s why citizens are in prison.

You can’t, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t, we’ll be caught like pussy cats.

These were the lyrics from a song by a modern rock band.

P. S. It is possible and necessary to support the civil human rights project “For Human Rights” here. Rest assured, of the 22 billion roubles allocated for the “Digitalization of the Federal Prison Service”, none will drop into the laps of  human rights defenders.

* TV channel Dozhd is a media outlet recognized as a foreign agent.

Translated by Matthew Quigley and Graham Jones

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