In the Orenburg region head of the regional Federal Penitentiary Service General Major Vladimir Andreyev decided to initiate a litigation against the public monitors – he personally submitted an appellate complaint against the court decision which had previously declared that the Major’s subordinates violated the law on public monitoring by not allowing the public monitors into the penal colony. Member of the Public Monitoring Commission (PMC) for monitoring the human rights observance in the detention facilities Timur Rakhmatulin tells about the grounds of the Major General for turning to the court:
«From the very start the relationships of a number of members of the Orenburg region PMC third convocation with the regional Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service were not easy. In the beginning of the year me and my colleagues were repeatedly disallowed to access the penitentiary facilities for performing public monitoring. «Demonstrational» activities, in the course of which we managed to get beyond the barbed wire, became rare exception. The penal colony officers told us about rabbit-breeding, showed the production and even religious facilities. All this is nice and important, however, as soon as we received complaints from the convicts’ relatives that their close ones are being beaten or do not receive appropriate medical treatment, the doors (or gates, rather) of the colonies became closed for us.
Within less than half a year the court satisfied over ten of our complaints on failure to provide access for PMC members to facilities under the control of the regional Departments of the Federal Penitentiary Service, the Ministry of the Internal Affairs and the Federal Migration Service. And in every case the court acknowledged the violation of the Federal law #76 «On public monitoring». The Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Migration Service rectified their error, expressing their openness for the public activists and readiness for cooperating with us in relation to the observance of human rights of the citizens that are in their custody, but the regional Directorate of the Federal Migration Service is obstinately insisting on its unsubstantiated right to disallow the PMC members to perform their duty.
This time the head of the Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for the Orenburg region General Major Vladimir Andreyev submitted the appellate complaint against the decision of the district court which acknowledged the unlawfulness of his subordinates’ actions who obstinately refused to let the monitors pass their high fences.
The extraordinary argumentation of the General Major’s appellate complaint included the fact that the monitors, allegedly, failed to check whether he managed to review the notification of human rights defenders on their planned visit: «members of PMC for the Orenburg region, having sent the notification to the Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service for the Orenburg region, failed to check that their notification was reviewed by the head of the Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service for the Orenburg region. In the course of the hearing of the court of the first instance T.Z.Rakhmatulin confirmed the fact that having submitted the notification he did not check whether the head of the Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service was available in his office…»
This logics is strange for two reasons: firstly, the law obliges human rights defenders to notify the Federal Penitentiary Service of their visit and does not provide them either with rights or possibilities to monitor what is to become of this notification, secondly, notification’s precise purpose is to notify the state authority of the planned visit and assist in its execution, but not to authorize or prohibit the visit upon its review, since the right for such a visit is granted for the PMC members by the law.
Moreover, the Criminal and Procedural Code of the Russian Federation contain the list of persons who can visit the penal institutions without special permission: by the way, this list, apart from the PMC members, includes the State Duma deputies, the Council of Federation members and even the President of the Russian Federation himself. It would be interesting to see the reaction of the State Duma deputies, for example, if some head of the regional penal institution did not allow them to visit his facility…
But why does the regional Federal Penitentiary Service so obstinately resist to public monitoring freely functioning in its facilities? After all, during all the «demonstrational» visits of the Commissions it is reported everywhere that everything is fine. But the recent news shows that from time to time the rights of the convicts are violated.
I’m looking forward for the court hearing of the appeals instance, which will, possibly, convince Major General Andreyev that, firstly, the public monitoring and execution of the federal law should not be at his discretion and depend on his free time, and, secondly, our work is beneficial to all, and not in the least – to the penal institution itself».