More deaths in prison: who is to blame?

2017 2017-01-24T13:37:03+0300 2017-01-24T13:38:38+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Penal colony No. 13 in the town of Hlybokaje. Photo:

Penal colony No. 13 in the town of Hlybokaje. Photo:

An inmate has died in penal colony No. 13 in the northern town of Hlybokaje, according to the Belarusian Documentation Center. On January 4, Valiantsin Pishchalau, 30, died in an ambulance that was called to take the patient to the hospital. According to the penitentiary’s chief, the prisoner died of “acute cardiovascular failure.”

However, Pishchalau’s mother says her son was sick back on December 23. He had a fever, but was not only refused medical care, but also sent to work at a sawmill. In addition, it became known that for some unknown reason the prisoner was brought to Žodzina, a town 150 km away from Hlybokaje, instead of being taken to a local hospital.

Another prisoner held in the same colony, Mr. Yurchyk, committed suicide in late December. Yurchyk reportedly suffered from hemorrhoids, which gave him pains and prevented him from working. He requested a surgery, but his request was rejected and the prisoner threw himself out of a window.

Siarhei Ishchuk died in the colony in June 2016. His widow argues that his health deteriorated because of a delay in providing medical assistance.

Over the few past years, the penal colony in Hlybokaje has seen at least five deaths of convicts. They either committed suicide, were denied proper medical care or died as a result of an accident at work, Viasna’s source in the penitentiary said.

“Deaths are quite common in the colony. A human life costs very little there. Last summer, a guy died at a woodworking shop — he was just pierced with a sharp board that flew from a machine. He died in front of other prisoners. A prison officer only changed his shoes so that the inspectors could see that he worked in proper clothes. And as the year began, another prisoner jumped out of the window and killed himself, and they also blamed it on an accident. A man with terminal cancer is dying in a cell, but they offer no real aid to him,” says a woman, whose brother is serving a sentence in the colony.

BDC also writes that “the level of healthcare in prisons remains low, but the prisoners are increasingly dying as a result of indifference by the prison authorities and healthcare professionals, rather than because of the inability to receive timely assistance. A cynical joke is said to be popular among the guards, who claim that it is “easier to write off a dead prisoner than a watchdog.”

High-security penal colony No. 13 in the town of Hlybokaje, Viciebsk region, is considered to be one of the most rigorous prisons in Belarus.