Torture in Russian Prisons under Medvedev

Torture in a Volgograd prison, 2009

by Jeremy Putley

How Chechen prisoners are treated under President Dmitry Medvedev

It is a principle universally recognized, in countries governed by the rule of law, that imprisonment following conviction is all the penalty the law allows. Torture of prisoners is not any part of the punishment demanded by society. But in the Russian Federation, under the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev, that principle apparently does not apply, considering the evidence of numerous cases of which one of the most shocking is that of an imprisoned Chechen, Zubair Zubairaev.

In a recent report of court proceedings in a French newspaper, the Chechen historian Maerbek Vachagaev testified: “With or without guarantees, a Chechen who is accused of killing police officers does not stay alive for long in a Russian prison.” Mr Zubairaev was not accused of killing a police officer, only of attacking one. For this offence, according to a considerable body of evidence, he has been savagely tortured for a protracted period. The torture has included being nailed to the floor.

Consider the following report from the International Secretariat of the World Organization Against Torture:

According to the information received, in August 2007, Mr. Zubair Isaevich Zubairaev was sentenced to five years in high security prison and sent to prison colony IAR- 154/25 in Frolovo, Volgograd region, where he was tortured by prison colony officers throughout the period he was held there. The acts of torture included severe beatings, also with full plastic bottles, electric shocks, injection of unknown substances, nailing to the ground, and having to stand in the snow with bare feet. He was also placed on several occasions in a punishment cell.

Following complaints on Mr Zubairaev’s situation, he was reportedly admitted to the prison hospital (penitentiary colony ЯР-154/15) in February 2008, where he is still currently being detained. However, according to the same information, instead of receiving adequate medical care and treatment, he was again subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment, including beatings, allegedly by the chief of the penitentiary colony and his deputy. Mr Zubairaev was also reportedly threatened with psychiatric internment. In November 2008, the Volgograd regional prosecutor inspected the prison hospital but reportedly found no fault with the prison authorities.

According to the same information received, Mr Zubairaev’s health is extremely poor and, due to several head injuries, he might be suffering from epilepsy. Moreover, he has several wounds on his leg that do not heal. His family has reportedly recently received threats, including by a Federal Security Service (FSB) officer, for having denounced his conditions on several occasions.

Amnesty International has taken an interest in the case, and has reported as follows:

Officials at the prison, as well as an official from the Volgograd Public Prosecutor’s office, are said to have verbally threatened Zubair Zubairaev that if he does not stop complaining about his treatment in detention, his prison sentence will be extended or he might “accidentally” die in prison. They also made threats against his family, saying “something might happen” to his sisters.

The latest information is that a human rights activist – one of the few incredibly brave individuals who investigate and report on such cases – called Elena Maglevannaia has been arraigned on charges under article 152 of the Russian Civil Code (honour and business reputation protection), accusing Elena of spreading information on Zubair Zubairaev in order to destroy their good name. The first court hearing has been scheduled for March 26, Thursday, and it will be held in the Kirovskiy district court of Volgograd before Judge Asatiani.

We await the verdict of the court with interest. Will the court order an investigation of the serious and credible allegations of the torture and other maltreatment of Mr Zubairaev? Or will Elena Maglevannaia be found guilty as charged, and sentenced to some form of punishment under what passes for justice in Volgograd these days? Watch this space.

9 responses to “Torture in Russian Prisons under Medvedev

  1. Elena Maglevannaia is appearing again before the court today, Monday April 20, to answer the charge that she is guilty of defamation of those responsible for Zubair’s mistreatment. The torturers are seeking danages of 500,000 rubles. The judge has ruled that the torture victim is not to appear in person to give evidence.

  2. Hi La Russophobe

    Mr Jeremy Putley writes about crimes in Russia , I am perplexed in where he gets his information, he seems to have a fixation on Russians, Has Mr Putley ever lived in Russia?Answer probably Net! He seems to be a racist towards our Russians. Mr Jeremy Putley is a racist! Mr Medvedev is our President and Mr Putin was a good leader and a gentleman>not a murderer as Mr Jeremy Putley has suggested! Long Live Russia!

  3. Also Mr Jeremy Putley of England writes about TORTURE in Volgograd prison under Medvedev. I ask who gives this man this information? this is a man who lives in the far away of his English home in the UK making unichtozitelnii statements about the Russian people and our leaders,

  4. Jeremy Putley
    What about killing innocent people in Texas

  5. This is a classic instance of the Pot calling the Kettle black.

    Mr Putley’s seems to be totally unaware of the Prison brutality that is happening in his own Western world. His time would be better spent on writing about the Prison rapes that is going on in America and elsewhere in the West. What a bloody hypocrite.

  6. Theres good and bad in every walk of life but you need to get off your high horse, rat poison is 95% good food but its the 5% that is the killer.
    We have bad prisons here in the UK and police too. So no matter where torture happens should we all not join to fight it? Surely if anyone puts fences in the way or argues where, when and if, is that not denile. We are all human and the whole human race should fight against it not argue amongst each other you fools.

  7. I totally agree with Tony. It doesn’t matter which country is being mentioned -the fact is prisoners are being treated poorly. They may be criminals but are still human beings. they are already being punished for their crimes and serving sentences and this does not include torture. And that is why the prison of Alcatraz -for those of you so vocal in pointing out the tortures in western prisons -was closed.

  8. Torture in Russian prisons ? That’s almost as absurd as calling the sky blue.

  9. From a recent report:

    From the first days in the Colony men in masks regularly “visited”
    Zubayr in his prison cell, especially at nights, and beat him on his
    head with plastic bottles filled with liquid (in order to avoid
    leaving traces). He often fell unconscious during these beatings. They
    poured water on him to restore him, and then beat him again. They also
    used gummy sticks, butts of machine guns and, of course, their boots.
    Besides that, they tortured him with electroshock (the wire was fixed
    to his 5-th fingers). In addition, they injected him with an unknown
    substance; after this his condition sharply deteriorated. The prison
    personnel were especially angry and cruel when Zubayr tried to say a
    Muslim prayer (Namaz). They tried to force him to give up his
    religion. When he refused, he was pulled out of the cell to the
    basement and brutally beaten; he was put back in the cell covered in
    blood. Even the inmates (non-Chechens) were shocked, but were afraid
    to openly say a word in support of him. They told their own relatives
    secretly during prison visits (Zubayr was deprived from having
    visitors). Often, although Zubayr could barely walk by himself, the
    guards forced him to walk with bare feet outdoors in freezing winter,
    dressed in nothing but a thin robe. They kept him on the snow until he
    fainted. The Colony’s officers threatened to strangle him if he
    complained. But he did. When the Colony’s stuff learned about his
    complaints, the guards threw him into the basement (torture chambers
    with beds) and hit his head by the bed’s metal armature; then they
    kept him without food for several days in a row. Only his professional
    sports training – the fact that he was in good physical shape before
    entering prison – allowed him to survive.

    As a result of heavy beating on the head Zubayr had a serious trauma
    to his brain. He fainted often. His internal organs were damaged, and
    he had acute pain in his chest, kidneys and liver. His feet were
    broken, he could not walk well, or even serve himself without outside
    help. So, in February 2007 Zubayr was hospitalized, and then
    transferred to a Medical Colony for the sick and disabled (LIU-15),
    with a long list of diagnoses of posttraumatic brain injuries and
    damage to his internal organs.

    In LIU-15, his sisters were allowed to visit him for the first time.
    They were shocked by what they saw: “Zubayr looked like a shade. We
    didn’t recognize him. Nothing remained of the tall and handsome man.
    His eyes were closed. We called him by name. With his fingers he
    pulled open his eyelids. Blood leaked from the corners of his eyes.
    Then he recognized us. He couldn’t walk by himself. He needed to be
    supported while walking, or even carried. He lost half his former
    weight. ”

    Personnel of medical facility LIU-15 forced him to sign a paper that
    he had no complaints about the staff of the previous colony, where he
    was sodomized. The methods of forcing were the same: beating and
    tortures. They threatened him that he would not come out of there
    alive, and told him to give up any hope.

    Zubayr’s sisters again made a complaint against deputy director of
    LIU-15, V.D. Deripasko, who beat Zubayr most brutally. On the basis of
    Zubayr’s serious body injuries, a criminal lawsuit was finally opened.
    But when the administration of this “medical” Colony learned about it,
    they threatened him the same way or even worse than they had in the
    first colony: ‘How does a Chechen dare to make complaints against our
    colleagues? You have little time left alive, we can arrange your death
    easily. ” As a “proof” of these words, three days prior the scheduled
    visit of his relatives on June 17, 2008, Zubayr was called to the
    first floor to see his lawyer. He was told he had 5 minutes to speak
    with him. However, when overcoming pain, Zubayr managed to get to the
    1st floor, he saw instead of his lawyer a few officers of the
    administration. He couldn’t understand what was happening until they
    pulled him into a special room and beat him heavily, calling him
    ‘terrorist’ . Then they threw him into the basement cell. One of those
    who had beaten him was director (Chief Manager) of the colony
    A.I.Mansvetov. He hit him with his boot in the face and broke his
    nose. Mentioned above Deputy director V.D. Deripasko and two other
    officers beat him with their feet, having said that he complained too
    much and he would be punished for it. After several hours Zubayr was
    unconscious. When he came to himself, he found himself in a puddle of
    blood. He couldn’t move. All his body was one huge wound, he
    experienced unbearable pain. He remained like that on the concrete
    floor all day and night. The next day, medical personnel brought him a
    mattress. Three days he was without any food. Extremely desperate by
    all this tormenting, Zubayr attempted to commit suicide: to hang
    himself on his T-shirt. But he was too weak to succeed.

    After the complaints of a group of human rights activists, Zubayraev
    was secretly transferred (probably in retaliation) to a Siberian
    colony, the town of Minusinsk, Krasnoyarsky Region. He was relegated
    to the most cruel and strict regime part of it, called the Prison:
    which is a prison within the Colony. The official grounds were fully
    fabricated. His lawyer, Mr. M. Khadiso, brought a full and detailed
    proof of the fabrication, and several times addressed it to the Local
    and Federal office of prosecutors; but he received no answer.

    In the Prison, Zubayrev was introduced into another circle of the
    Hell, even more unlawful and monstrous than those he’d already
    experienced. Aside from being subjected to continued severe beatings
    by personnel of the Prison, Zubayraev was practically deprived of any
    legal help: after each visit by a lawyer or a human rights public
    (paralegal) defender, he was subjected to more severe beating (in
    retaliation). This was followed ritualistically. During his 2 years in
    the Prison, Zubayraev became fully paralyzed; his spinal cord was
    broken, he cannot walk, or sit, he can only lie prone. In spite of
    having unbearable pain in his back, he is deprived even of (very
    necessary) pain medications. Under these conditions Zubayr attempted
    for the second time to commit suicide,- with one hand, which doesn’t
    function properly,- he cut his wrist, and spent 2 days in a coma,
    until his mother and sisters came from 4000-mile-away Chechnya, having
    spent all the money they had in their household, to either cure or
    bury him. Then the medical personnel of the Prison took the first
    necessary steps to save him, and his sisters spent three days helping
    to cure his wounds, and to give him moral support. After the visit
    they said they were crying in their pillows all night. This was in
    August 2011.

    Below are quotes from the report of Mr. V.A. Shaklein ((Head of the
    Civic Controlling Commission and of the Interregional Center of Human
    Rights, the city ofEkaterinburg), who visited Zubayraev onSeptember
    26-28, 2011:

    1.Zubayraev was brought to our meeting on the back of an inmate from
    another cell. Zubayraev tried to step on one leg with the help of
    crutches, dragging another leg as it was paralyzed, but failed.

    2.Zubayr stayed laying during our meeting because he was unable to sit
    due to acute pain. His back is put into a corset for already a year.
    (When I visited Zubayraev in May 2009, when he was in Ekaterinburg
    pretrial facility, he came to the prison office on his feet.)

    3.Because he is unable to sit and walk, Zubayraev cannot go for
    strolls, nor is he able to perform personal hygiene.

    4.He denies the allegations of the Colony’s chief, a colonel A.V.
    Misyura, that he refuses medical treatment. In fact, he testifies
    that the prison doctors are torturing him no less severely than the
    prison personnel; in particular, he calls a certain name “Michalych”
    as a nickname of one of the tormentors in the medical unit. Moreover,
    he said he has been tortured by some of the personnel of
    theKrasnoyarskhospital where he was transferred onJuly 7, 2011. He
    said he has been brutally beaten in the hospital’s basement. He also
    said that the medical staff told him that he ‘wouldn’t live up to the
    time of his release, for he would be beaten to death the next time.’
    That’s the reason for his refusal to be hospitalized into any prison
    medical facility ofKrasnoyarskregion. He stated his refusal to be
    treated in the regional prison hospitals at the meeting with me and
    with Alexey Babiy, head of the Krasnoyarsk Civic Controlling

    5.During our visit on Sept. 26 – 28, we found a big gematoma (bruise),
    10 to 12 centimeters length, at the second segment of his left arm,
    which wasn’t reported in the medical file signed by V.A. Goryachkin,
    the deputy head of the prison medical facility. According to
    Zubayraev’s words, this injury, as well as injures on his neck and
    upper back, were made by the prison personnel on Sept. 20, 2011 after
    his lawyer, M. Khadisov, had left Minusinsk (Sept. 19).”
    Zubayraev is now on the edge of death. Many say that his death will
    be a release from his hell on Earth. But we can’t accept it. We still
    try to save his life. For two years we have been addressing the case
    to many Russian institutions controlling correctional facilities;
    also, we wrote to Procurators and President Medvedev. We didn’t have
    any appropriate answer, and the situation didn’t change.

    The last minute before the sending this letter (Fri., Nov 18)we got
    E-mail from Minusinsk lawyer Mr. O. I. Bazuev that Zubayraev was
    forcibly, against his will, transported
    to KtasnoyarskTuberculosisHospital, where in summer 2011 the guards and
    personnel seriously damaged (broke) his spinal cord with their
    beatings, after which he remained fully paralyzed. This is where they
    promised to beat him to death the next time he came.
    Until now, nobody has been allowed to see him.

    The Tel/fax of the Hospital (KTB-1) is: + 7 391 221-10-04
    The address is: KTB-1 (UP 288/18), LIU- Tuberculosis Hospital of
    Krasnoyarskiy Kray;Maerchak Street, No.48;Krasnoyarsk:Russia;
    Tel/Fax:.+7 (391) 221-10-04

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