Zek Week: The Torture Memos

Today we are pleased to present one of our most extensive and exlusive translations of Lev Ponomarev‘s human rights work as part of Zek Week. This detailed report on the human rights situation for prisoners of the Udmurt Republic contains personal testimony of torture practices, beatings, violations of prisoners’ rights, inhumane treatment, and a plethora of other shocking stories from the insides of some of the Federation’s worst prisons. Ponomarev’s research, which is rarely available in English for Western readers, provides an important glimpse into the heart of darkness that is Russia’s penal system, and should motivate even the most coldhearted among us to advocate for reform. The document runs 16 pages, so we’ve decided to post a document for download and just extract a few sections to prompt your interest. Click here to download the full PDF of Lev Ponomarev’s Report “On the Situation in FGU IK -1 of the GUFSIN for the Republic of Udmurtia” gulagzek.jpg The legacy of the gulag lives on in Russia Excerpts from Lev Ponomarev’s report:

For sending out complaints, employees not only beat up convicts, but they also subect them to acts of humiliation. Convicts have reported about how convict Melkov in February 2006 was beaten, lowered by the head into a toilet bowl by employees of the IK, after which he was placed in a cell to persons who had been subjected to homosexual assault. They likewise subjected convict Alexander Glebov on 10 April 2006 to beating and dunked with the head in a toilet bowl, having thereby committed an act after which normal relations between him and convicts become impossible. Persons questioned told of several instances of lengthy holding of convicts in handcuffs, after attempts at suicide. They beat convict Yavorsky, breaking his collarbone, after which he cut open his abdomen. They sewed up the wound right in the dentist’s office, in the penalty isolator building, after which they held him in handcuffs more than a month. They held convict Fargiyev in handcuffs for 52 days after he caused deep wounds to himself on the abdominal cavity, neck, and arms in the presence of employees of the colony. After lengthy holding in handcuffs, Fargiyev to the present time can not fully restore the motor functions of the hands, which is confirmed by convicts serving punishment in IK-5, where he was transferred after what had happened. … Convict Andrey Valerievich Mishchikin during the time of the visiting of him by lawyer D.V. Kaloyan on 24.05.2006 transferred to the lawyer a declaration written in his own hand, wherein he indicated that he had been compelled to commit an act of self-mutilation after abuses of convicts being held in cell No. 15: they were forced to undress and dress to a count of 7, to pushups and squat, were subjected to beatings. After that employee of the administration Kurylev regularly came into cell No. 15 and threatened the prisoners with summary punishment, in the event of complaints, on 21 April, having been unable to withstand the threats about summary punishment, Mishchikhin was compelled to commit an attempt at suicide, and specifically swallowed a wire and nails tied together crosswise. After the commission of this act, they left him in the cell and staged for surgical intervention only on 4 May 2006, i.e. having left without the rendering of medical assistance for 288 hours. On 6 May of this year a cavitary operation was made to Mishchikhin. The mother of the convict, Natalia Yurievna Mishchikhina, residing at the address: city of Votkinsk, ul. Kurchatova, 10-45, likewise reported about tormenting of her son. It became known to her about the tormenting of her son long ago, because colony IK-1 is considered among the population to be a torture colony, and freeing convicts and their relatives report about what takes place in the colony. … The receipt of convicts “through the corridor” takes place in the following manner. From the automobile [actually a truck–Trans.] in which a newly arrived stage is brought prior to the building for searches (approximately 30 meters), employees of the colony line up, equipped with special means – rubber truncheons and dog handlers with work dogs. With a pause, of approximately 30-60 seconds, from the car jump the prisoners, who are ordered with harsh and abusive shouts to move at a run in the direction of the building for searches. During the time of the run, each employee hits the prisoner running by with a truncheon. If the prisoner slows down the run, trips or falls, the employees who turn out to be alongside him beat him up. In so doing the convicts run with luggage, which significantly complicates the run. At those sectors where employees with dogs are found, the run of the convict is slowed down by a dog lunging from the leash. The attendant intentionally holds the leash in such a way that the dog would be able to nearly touch the victim. Thus, one of the convicts was severely bitten up by a dog, the leash of which the attendant could not hold on to. Finding themselves subsequently in a cell with this convict, eyewitnesses testify that medical first aid was rendered to him. It is not known whether the given episode was recorded on the medical chart, but testimony of convicts who got released and serving punishment in various institutions of the UIS, are confirmed by traces of bites (scars).