“Then they’ll come for you”

<< No 7 (240), 20 February 2017 >>

♦  … and no one will notice that either”  ♦

Anastasia ZOTOVA (journalist and human rights advocate)

Last summer less than 10,000 people gathered to protest against the “Yarovaya package” of amendments to the law. That was in Moscow, where more than 16 million people live. Only a tiny, marginal group opposed the law; the Yarovaya package became law, of course.


Anastasia Zotova

Yesterday, it emerged that internet service providers may stop offering unlimited data because of the Yarovaya package. People began complaining en masse — but where had they been when the law was passed?

I think it is the same with torture.

Everyone seems to know about the use of torture in penal colonies, but they don’t feel strongly about it. After all, they’re not being tortured, so it’s fine. And when misfortune finally strikes, the relatives of the prisoners start calling human rights advocates, screaming hysterically: “Help! It’s a torture camp! They’re killing them!”

Even the prisoners admit, with shame, that until they themselves were beaten, they remained unperturbed. And when they are no longer beaten, they are no longer concerned. Don’t meddle, as they say, in other people’s business.

No need to worry?

According to this logic, I, too, should no longer be worried about torture, since the story of my husband Ildar Dadin’s torture has come to an end.

After he wrote a letter describing the use of torture in Karelian penal colony no. 7, he was removed from the torture colony in Northwest Russia. Of course, it would have been too good to transfer him to the Moscow Region, so he was sent, as is the tradition, to Siberia. We’re not allowed to meet, but this is a triviality, since he isn’t being beaten. But dozens of people other than Ildar have confirmed the use of torture [in Karelia] — not only in penal colony no. 7, but elsewhere, such as penal colony no. 1 and psychiatric institution no. 4.

The Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS) is already retaliating against those who spoke out about the torture, with prison guards threatening to “make invalids of them” and promising to torture them once prison inspections have finished.

A criminal case has already been opened against Khazbulat Gabzayev, who is accused of attacking a prison guard. The review of the case will be quite interesting, since the footage [of the attack] has most likely not been preserved. The case was opened only after we objected to the beating of Gabzayev on 20 and 21 December 2016, apparently, in order to justify the use of force against the prisoner.

For some reason, his fate worries me, as do those of dozens of other prisoners who are now uncertain of what consequences their complaints may hold.

It’s too bad that I’m the only one worried.

The FPS blocks an official visit

echo-moskvy-logoHaving seen that the scandal has gone quiet, and that the problem of torture is no longer interesting, the Federal Penitentiary Service has taken serious more serious measures, such as refusing to allow members of the Presidential Human Rights Council to visit torture colonies. This emerged on Friday evening, when most Russians were not paying attention (“It’s Friday evening, fellas, what colonies? what are you on about?”)

The Presidential Human Rights Council, which had planned to visit Karelia anyway, will now hold a meeting in which lawyers pass on prisoners’ accounts (since human rights advocates are no longer able to meet prisoners anyway). That will take place on 8 February.

It’s too bad that the verdict in the “Kirovles” case against Alexei Navalny is due to be announced that same day. That means our event will most likely take place unnoticed  and the Federal Penitentiary Service will have a greater chance of victory.

Then they’ll come for you, and no one will notice that, either.

Translated by Lincoln Pigman

 Ekho Moskvy radio station
(Transcript published by the Moscow Helsinki Group )

6 February 2017