Prisoners tell about radical approaches to correcting in penal colony No. 9 in Horki
Human rights defenders keep receiving information on the situation of prison inmates as part of a campaign of monitoring places of detention in Belarus. The Human Rights Center “Viasna” earlier covered the issue of using prisoners who cooperate with the administrations of prisons to perform sensitive tasks.
Convicts Ch. and H. had been transferred from prison and penal colony No. 20 of Mazyr respectively to serve their sentences in penal colony No. 9, which holds prisoners who have earlier served a sentence of imprisonment. Both prisoners were not praised for good behavior, so they could not claim amnesty or parole; for the same reason they did not consider it necessary to sign a commitment of law-abiding behavior. Until now, this situation has not bothered both of them: for example, Ch. has spent more than three decades behind bars, without even trying to reform, for which the administrations of correctional institutions repeatedly initiated tightened his detention rules.
However, the administration of penal colony No. 9 showed quite a different approach to correcting the prisoners. According to the convicts, each of them, after refusing to sign a commitment, was brought into a “storeroom”, where they were brutally by several prisoners who called themselves “blatnois”. Prison officials watched the scene, not allowing anyone to disrupt the “educational process”. It is necessary to add that the “blatnois” in Horki differ from other prisoners not only for their wish to maintain by law and order among other inmates, also but for their strong physique ... The “correction” was supervised by someone named Papovich, who continues to serve his sentence, according to available information, in the colony of Vaukavysk.
As the prisoners say, such rules have been used in Horki since 2008. The administration promotes violence against prisoners who are brutally punished for both illegal actions, such as the possession of a phone, and a refusal to sign a commitment, or writing complaints against the administration. Surprisingly, the ban is even applied to writing supervisory appeals in criminal cases! At the same time, the administration can always find an excuse: persons acting in an official capacity do not infringe the law, all that happened is a private conflict; but an unbiased check would certainly revealed if not abuse of power, then a criminal inaction of officials of the prison administration. But who will do it?
Prisoners Ch. and H. were not held in penal colony No. 9 for a long time, having left for prison. As Ch. said, analyzing his rich experience, “I did not know that Belarus has its own “White Swan” (also known as VK-240/2, the informal name for an infamous colony of special regime in Solikamsk, Perm Krai, Russia. It is a maximum-security prison for convicts sentenced to life imprisonment. The prison is known for its severe conditions.)
A similar situation is reported by prisoner Z., who was sent to penal colony No. 9. He also refused to sign a commitment of law-abiding behavior, and voiced his opinion about the criminal world of Belarus. His opinion did not coincide with that of the prison administration, and the incident ended, just like in the case of Ch. and H., with a “storeroom”.
Lawyer Pavel Sapelka stresses that all the methods described by the prisoners are examples of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, also having signs of torture, which is explicitly prohibited by both the national law and the binding international treaties.
“In accordance with Article 10 of the Criminal Procedural Code, convicts should not be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has secured that each State shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction, shall undertake to prevent other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture. Each State shall ensure that any individual who alleges he has been subjected to torture in any territory under its jurisdiction has the right to complain to, and to have his case promptly and impartially examined by, its competent authorities,” says the expert.
Moreover, Pavel Sapelka emphasizes that prisoners are unconditionally prohibited to implement the functions of the prison administration, “From the point of view of human rights, no status or behavior of convicts gives the prison administration or persons possessing, contrary to the law, the functions of administration, the right to use torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
Within the frames of the campaign of monitoring the penitentiary system, the HRC “Viasna” collects and organizes data about prisons conditions. After receiving prisoners’ complaints, they can be assisted in appealing against the prison administration’s illegal practices. If it is not specifically agreed, the data is not disclosed or legendized for security purposes.