Human rights defenders with the Orenburg regional branch of the Interregional NGO «Committee Against Torture» report that on 6 April 2014 criminal proceedings were initiated against unidentified servicemen of Penal Colony no. 11 (FKU KP-11) of Orenburg region under Article 286 (1) of Russian Criminal Code (exceeding official powers). Investigator of the Novotroitskiy Investigative Department, Mr Koshara, initiated criminal proceedings seven months after the criminal complaint had been filed. During the seven months four unlawful refusals to investigate were issued, and two more sexual and physical abuse complaints were lodged by other prisoners of the same colony. Those new complaints were consolidated with the first one by the investigator. However, he, for some reason, found grounds for investigation into the alleged use of forced labor only.
Human rights defenders started working on this situation after 26 July 2013, when Irina Balashova applied for help. According to the woman, her partner Sergey Nikonorov was trapped in unbearable and inhuman conditions created by the staff of Penal Colony (settlement) no. 11 for Orenburg region, which is headed by Filyus Khusainov: convicts were systematically subjected to ill-treatment, including threats of sexual abuse. Concerning Mr Nikonorov, the treatment had been caused by his refusals to work at construction sites, and his forced labor complaints lodged with the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor’s Office.
Moreover, Sergey gave a detailed description of the construction process of a country house and a bath-house he had allegedly built for the Head of Colony no. 11, Mr Filyus Khusainov. Mr Nikonorov requested an investigatory experiment and insisted that he was able to show a number of details, which could have been known to builders only, and which Mr Khusainov couldn’t have been aware of.
Nevertheless, for more than seven months the authorities were refusing to open a criminal case and to investigate the alleged violations. The construction site and the buildings at the address indicated by the applicant were never examined. During this period lawyers representing his interests appealed against four decisions not to open criminal proceedings, which were subsequently declared unlawful and quashed.
The inquiries conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office as well appeared formalistic and gave no results.
At the end of 2013 the information on the outrageous situation in the colony was confirmed by statements of two other prisoners – K. and D. (we are not publishing the names for ethical reasons) – who complained about systematic violence they were subjected to by the colony staff. They addressed the Committee Against Torture in despair. One of them, after systematic battery, attempted to escape, but was caught and raped by a prisoner acting under the colony staff’s instructions. The servicemen were watching and recording a video of the abuse.
This video was demonstrated to the other prisoner in order to warn him against any attempts to complain. Fearing for their lives, K. and D. worked up the courage and decided on seeking help of human rights defenders. Lawyers with the Committee Against Torture immediately found advocates to interview the applicants inside the colony, lodged relevant crime complaints with the Investigative Committee, and brought the situation to the attention of the Ombudsperson for Orenburg region Anatoliy Chadov.
Despite numerous requests to provide adequate state protection and remedies for the alleged victims, submitted by human right defenders to the Investigative Committee, investigators discerned no reasonable grounds to believe that such measures were needed. All the refusals issued by the authorities stated that a certain pre-investigation inquiry had been carried out, and the allegations against the colony staff had proved inconsistent. The fact that those decisions were subsequently found unlawful by competent authorities made no difference.
«I have no doubt that the outrageous unlawfulness and violence in this penal colony is possible due to the fact that the investigative authorities and the Prosecutor’s Office fail to perform their duties and prefer «not to notice» what is going on», stresses the Acting Head of the Orenburg regional branch of the Committee Against Torture, Mr Timur Rakhmatulin. «From the very beginning we have been striving to attract the authorities’ attention to the tragedy, applying to the Prosecutor’s Office, even to the General Prosecutor’s Office, to the regional Investigative Directorate and the Investigative Committee of Russia. All our submissions and complaints were «sent down» to the local authorities, which each time failed to find any grounds for criminal investigation. In the end, a criminal investigation was initiated into the allegation of forced labor only, and only after Moscow authorities had at last paid their attention to the poor situation in the region as regards investigation into ill-treatment complaints. We are determined to struggle for more serious charges to be brought against the offenders».