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Russian Press on Ponomarev and YouTube

torture030208.jpgFollowing the reinstatement of our Lev Ponomarev video posted on YouTube after certain members of the community conspired to have it removed, the Russian press has reacted. The following exclusive translation come from News.ru: Video confirms human rights advocate’s words about beatings in colony IK-2. They open case against Ponomarev, but fail to remove video from YouTube. Yet another scandal is blazing in the domestic prison system: video evidence of the barbarities of the OMON in one of the Sverdlovsk colonies have been obtained, and namely “prophylactic beatings” of inmates, supposedly in colony IK-2. Abroad, the video clip, removed from the site YouTube due to “doubts about the context of what is taking place”, has been put back, because there are no longer doubts about its authenticity. But in Russia, a case has been opened against human rights advocate Lev Ponomarev, who has written about torture and into whose hands this video first found its way, while the chief of the Sverdlovsk UFSIN has been fired – although they do insist that it is for something else.

The clip, entitled Preventative Actions in Yekaterinburg Prison Camp, is astounding in its cruelty. Imprinted on it are the beatings of inmates.Now, after the restoration of the clip on YouTube, the administration of the site is demanding registration and proof of age. At first it may seem that this is punishments of persons who have committed offences: they are led out of the lineup, “spread-eagled” on improvised trestles and beaten with rubber truncheons. But then an entire lineup of inmates is prepared for this same punishment, and these hastily undress. Before this, one of them, who had undressed insufficiently quickly, was viciously beaten. In the pauses between cruel blows an OMONovite in a helmet plays around with [his] truncheon. They beat yet another inmate when he, semi-naked, attempts to pick up his trousers from the ground. The inmates, who are wearing nothing but underpants, are beaten one at a time by an iron fence, some of them already can not get up.The recording was first placed on the site in December 2007 by lawyer Robert Amsterdam. He explained that the film was made in the year 2006 in a correctional colony in Ekaterinburg and had found its way into the hands of Lev Ponomarev – one of the founders of the Moscow foundation “In defence of the rights of prisoners”.Already back on 12 February, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial about Lev Ponomarev and about the cruel treatment of prisoners in Russia. The item appeared prior to the removal of the clip and reported to readers how to find the clip on YouTube.Indicative is the beginning of the article: “Lev Ponomarev is a well-known Russian human-rights activist. So you can guess where this story is going.”Indeed, in 10 days they initiated a case against Ponomarev and took a pledge not to leave town. Supposedly serving as the motive for this was an old story: Ponomarev had written an article about torture in jails, which the court had found offended the honor and dignity of the head of the Federal Service for the Execution of Punishments [FSIN] Yuri Kalinin.At that moment, the story looked symptomatic: the FSIN declared the clip to be slander, began prosecution of the human rights advocate, while it was removed from YouTube. But only temporarily. When the clip was removed, the administration explained that this was done after someone of the users had noted that the video is inappropriate for all viewers. “In accordance with our general policy in relation to scenes of violence we have promptly removed the video, showing the probably violation of human rights, inasmuch as the context of what is taking place was not obvious”, declared the press-secretary of YouTube to the WSJ. “But having examined the given case, we have restored the clip”. (Full text on the site InoPressa.ru.)Ponomarev’s commentary on the theme of torture in places of confinement under the title “Under Kalinin 40 torture zones have appeared in Russia” was published on 10 November 2006 on the site Regnum. In it, Ponomarev named Kalinin “the author of a system that is becoming more and more established in the colonies, this system is sadistic”.Sverdlovsk human rights advocate: in IK-2 anybody will “confess to everything” already after a weekOn the site “Izbrannoye” is placed a commentary of the head of the Sverdlovsk human rights organization “Pravovaya osnova” [“Legal basis”—Trans.], Alexey Sokolov – the person through whom the clip had, by all appearances, been brought to light. He tells about the beastly morals in Sverdlovsk colony IK-2 – at the present time, this video is the sole documentary evidence.Sokolov says that the video was passed on to him by employees of the FSIN system themselves. The video was made by the press-service of the jail, in order to show it to inmates – for intimidation. “These people are convinced of their own impunity: they know that the attaining of the initiation of a criminal case and an investigation is absolutely impossible”, he indicates.Here is how he describes the story of the appearance of the film: “Everything began when I started to concern myself with colony IK-2 and other correctional institutions, known for the lawlessness, the torture taking place there. Very quickly it became clear that there is no sense in any applications to the procuracy and complaints. From there always comes one answer: “Was not proven to be true”. And that was when the idea was born of making a film, showing real witnesses. I brought in journalists and people who provided them with expendable materials – film, sometimes a car, in order to drive around the Oblast and to Tyumen. Before, they used to bring here from Tyumen those who would not confess. They would seat them in an ordinary car and drive them to IK-2, and there in a week or two they would confess to everything. Then they would drive them back..I began the filming, started to look for people who knew the situation, and at some moment I got a phone call from a person who passed on this recording to me. When I saw it, I was amazed myself. We had had information that the OMON is introduced onto the territory of the colony from time to time for the beating of convicts, but the procuratorial workers categorically do not confirm this. There was just one case when convicts were able to photograph this and pass it on to the outside, but we were also unable to confirm this: the medical unit refused to record [the existence of bodily traces of] the blows. Therefore, the filming, where the OMONovites are beating the inmates – and not for some kind of delinquencies, but just for the fun of it – became the sole proof that such a practice exists.”