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Khodorkovsky 101: The Treatment of Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky at the Krasnokamensk Prison Camp

The Treatment of Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky at the Krasnokamensk Prison Camp The politically-motivated persecution of Mikhail Khodorkovsky has continued after his trial. Mr. Khodorkovsky is incarcerated in a remote Siberian prison, in contravention of Russian law. He has been repeatedly denied rights afforded to him as a prisoner under Russian and international law. A pattern has emerged of constant fault-finding by prison authorities, in order to reprimand Mr. Khodorkovsky as many times as possible, thereby justifying additional restrictions of his rights and undermining the likelihood of an early release. The following is a summary of the treatment of Mr. Khodorkovsky since he was incarcerated in Siberia in October 2005. Remote Incarceration Article 73 of the Russian Criminal Penitentiary Code stipulates that except under extraordinary circumstances, prisoners serve their terms of deprivation of liberty on the territory of subjects of the Russian Federation where they reside or were convicted. In violation of the norms and practices of Russian law, Mr. Khodorkovsky was sent to the remote Krasnokamensk prison camp YG 14/10 in the Chita Region of Siberia, thousands of kilometers from his home and family in Moscow. Mr. Khodorkovsky was resident of Moscow, his trial was held in Moscow, and therefore Russian law would normally have required that he be incarcerated in or near Moscow. Risk of Radioactive Poisoning and Unsanitary Prison Conditions The Krasnokamensk prison is situated near a uranium mine that has contaminated the area with radioactive waste. Concentrations of radioactive elements exceed appropriate safety levels, and spills from storage centers enter ground waters and migrate towards potable water reservoirs. A report produced by the Human Rights Monitoring in Russia project declared Krasnokamensk an area of environmental catastrophe. Life expectancy in Krasnokamensk is 42 years, and there is disproportionately high prevalence of tumor-related diseases in the area. The Krasnokamensk prison itself is unsanitary. Inmates suffer from tuberculosis, and two inmates died in 2005, one of dysentery due to leakage of sewage into the prison water supply, and the other of gangrene. Obstruction of Lawyers – November 2005 Prison administrators imposed procedures infringing upon the rights of the lawyers and the client, impeding a court appeal that was under preparation. Members of a four-person team of lawyers were permitted to see the client strictly one at a time, despite the fact that there is no law prohibiting visits to the client by the defense team as a whole. In light of the time restrictions imposed on access to his lawyers, Mr. Khodorkovsky was unable to benefit from the efficiencies of group discussion. The visit of one of the lawyers was abruptly ended with no reason given. Due to this and other practical impediments that were imposed during their three-day stay in Krasnokamensk, the total time the lawyers spent with Mr. Khodorkovsky was five hours, rather than the twelve hours permitted by law. Prison officials repeatedly tried to examine the defense team’s confidential materials, including lawyers’ records on their client’s case. The personal papers and documents of one lawyer were seized when he left the prison grounds. Lawyers were subjected to body searches, including searches of items of underwear, without the presence of witnesses. Prison officials scrutinized the lawyers’ private notes made by them during their talks with Mr. Khodorkovsky. According to the prison administration, officials had the right to look through the notes “for the purpose of preventing terrorist attacks”. Following the thorough examination and attempts to decode the notes made by one lawyer, a prison administrator requested that the lawyers undertake in writing that they would commit “to speak and write only in Russian” with their client. The lawyers were threatened that non-compliance with any of the demands of the prison administration would result in a cutoff in communications with the client for “objective” reasons. Later in November 2005, two lawyers who traveled from Moscow to the prison, to discuss preparations for Mr. Khodorkovsky’s appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, had access to their client obstructed without legally justifiable grounds. Despite his legal right to telephone calls, Mr. Khodorkovsky does not have access to a telephone and therefore communications with his family and lawyers can only occur in person. First Reprimand – December 2005 While working in a camp workshop, Khodorkovsky left his work place to find the equipment serviceman to inform him of the breakdown of a machine. Immediately afterwards he was reprimanded “for the unauthorized escape from his work place.” According to lawyer Yuri Schmidt, the reprimand was absolutely unreasonable: Khodorkovsky strictly followed the instructions above his work desk. Moreover, he did not “leave” his work place as the whole workshop is considered the work place and Khodorkovsky did not go beyond its premises. Cancellation of Family Visit – January 2006 The prison authorities cancelled a visit by Mr. Khodorkovsky’s spouse on the grounds that the visitors’ area was under renovation. Obstruction of Lawyers – January 2006 Mr. Khodorkovsky was deprived of the ability to work on documents during his meetings with his lawyers. Communications must take place through glass and bars. The lawyers must put sheets of paper up to a glass window for Mr. Khodorkovsky to read. The lights on Mr. Khodorkovsky’s side of the glass window are switched off, making it difficult or impossible for him to read the text of the documents. Second Reprimand – January 2006 Mr. Khodorkovsky was transferred to solitary confinement for five days for being in possession of unauthorized printed material – in this case, a publication of the prison regulations. Prison officials seized from Mr. Khodorkovsky two decrees issued by the Russian Federation Ministry of Justice and approved bylaws of the decrees concerning convicts’ rights in penal colonies. Mr. Khodorkovsky had received the seized documents through the mail and they were handed over to him, on receipt of his signature, by a prison official responsible for transmitting mail. The right of convicts to information about their rights is explicitly provided for under Russian law. Third Reprimand – March 2006 Mr. Khodorkovsky was transferred to solitary confinement for the second time, for seven days, for “eating outside the designated premises.” More specifically, Mr. Khodorkovsky was punished for drinking tea in an unauthorized location. A spokesman for Mr. Khodorkovsky explained that since meetings with lawyers were permitted only after eight-hour shifts at the production unit, Mr. Khodorkovsky had to forego dinner if he wished to meet with his lawyers, and this is what motivated him to drink the tea in question. Knife Attack – April 2006 While sleeping, Mr. Khodorkovsky was slashed across the face by a fellow inmate using a cobbler’s knife. The aggressor was in possession of a knife and razor blade in contravention of prison regulations. Prison authorities subsequently placed Mr. Khodorkovsky in solitary confinement, stating that “In order to put an end to all speculation on convict Khodorkovsky, including about his life being in danger, we have decided to put him in solitary confinement. He will be safe there.” When interrogated by the prison administration, the aggressor stated: “I wanted to cut his eye out, but my hand slipped.” Fourth Reprimand – June 2006 Mr. Khodorkovsky was transferred to solitary confinement for the third time, for ten days, for breach of a prison regulation prohibiting inmates from “selling, buying, presenting, accepting, or seizing personal food products, objects, or substances.” Mr. Khodorkovsky was placed in the cell the day after his spouse’s visit to the penal colony ended. He was punished for not reporting to the prison authorities an inventory of two lemons his spouse gave to him when she visited. The punishment contradicted the right of prisoners under Russian law to use and dispose of personal items, “such as foodstuffs”, at their own discretion.