Lawyer with the Committee Against Torture and member of the Public Monitoring Commission of Moscow Dmitry Piskunov has been trying to pass the quest “Get a visit to the Moscow City Court approved” for over half a year now – he intends to check the information that in the court building there are rings to which the defendants’ handcuffs are buckled on. Here is his story on how various authorities’ representatives have been promising him “jam tomorrow”, and the fate of the notorious rings remains unclarified.
“For over half a year now I have been trying to clarify a rather simple issue: whether the convoy premise of the Moscow City Court has metal rings to which the defendants are buckled up, or not. The question seems to be simple enough, but bureaucratic hurdles, involving numerous approvals and their unexpected cancellations, have been preventing me from answering it still.
This story started when in the end of April of this year an anonym sent me a photo of convict Komron Usmonov who was buckled on a ring mounted into the wall. Later on, when I visited Matrosskaya Tishina prison facility in the capacity of a member of the Public Monitoring Committee, Usmonov told me that this photograph was made in the Moscow City court by one of the security guards who had sympathy for him (after Komron slashed his wrists right in court, the guards several times buckled him onto this ring in an uncomfortable pose and kept like that for several hours in a row).
On 1 June MediaZona wrote about this case in detail and published Usmonov’s photo. The reaction of the Moscow City Court was prompt and highly ambiguous. At first, in one and the same paragraph it was mentioned that the “photo is prearranged and does not reflect reality; there in no premise, shown in the photo, in the Moscow City Court”, and then “in the room for familiarization with the materials of the case, located in the Moscow City Court, equipped in accordance with the requirements of the regulatory documents of the Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation, in reality there are two tables, 2 chairs, and 2 rings are mounted at the level of the writing-table”. I.e., it turns out that the photo with Usmanov buckled on is made not in the Moscow City Court, but the rings are still there.
Formally the members of the Public Monitoring Committee have no rights to attend the detainee holding rooms of the courts, the State Duma for some reason forgot to include them in the law on public control. But my colleagues from other regions told me that they still manage to attend the courts, as well, but they obtain provisional approval. I decided that the if such an opportunity exists it cannot be missed, so I submitted requests to the Moscow City Court and the Chief Directorate of the Interior of Moscow asking to organize a court visit for me and my colleagues.
The Moscow City Court replied promptly and sent me to the Regiment of security and convoy, which reports to the Chief Directorate of the Interior. Allegedly, nothing depends on the Moscow City Court itself. In its turn, the Chief Directorate of the Interior treated my request in a much more creative manner. At first, they readdressed the application to the Directorate of the Interior for the Central Administrative Area, which has nothing to do with either the convoy or the Moscow City Court, that locates in the Eastern Administrative Area. For the whole month, the Department for the Central Area was trying to come up with some answer, and as a result, came up with some bullshit that the convoying to the Moscow City Court is performed by the Federal Penitentiary Service.
It was the warm month of July already when I submitted a complaint to this answer to the Chief Department of the Interior with a nervous smile on my face. Luckily, this time they decided not to send my application somewhere like Troitsk and for a month managed to create an answer on their own. The answer said that “attending the premises in the jurisdiction of the Federal courts is not provided”. Thank you, Captain Obvious! Had it been provided, I would have simply come to the convoy premise and everything would have been clear.
A picturesque orange sunset was seen from the window, so typical for late August in Moscow, when I decided that I had enough of submitting written requests and I should arrange a personal meeting with the Chief Directorate superiors and discuss the issue which bothered me, in person. A month passed and at last I was blessed with a telephone call from the reception room of the Chief Directorate. Colonel Andrey Zakharov, to whom, among other things, the Regiment of security and convoy reports, agreed to see me. On 29 September, I met with him and told him about my intention to see the convoy premises of the Moscow City Court. He was not very enthusiastic about my idea, but after some dispute he agreed, but on one condition. The visit should be organized on the cleaning day, when the defendants are not brought to court and the security guards are busy with additional trainings. Since it was the architecture of the premise that was important to me, I agreed without any doubts. After a week, I learned that the visit was assigned on 10 November. It meant I would have to wait for another month.
November snow changed to rain, and my speech interspersed with outbursts of discontent in conversation with Colonel Zakharov, when he told me about the rescheduling the visit for another month. He explained it was due to festivities which were organized by the Chief Directorate of the Interior to commemorate the day of the Interior Affairs Officer Day. As if the Chief Directorate did not know that there would be holiday on 10 November, and they decided to celebrate it just a day before. Having swallowed this bitter pill, I agreed to reschedule the visit to 8 December. On the same day I called to the press-service of the Moscow City Court and confirmed that they were in the course of events and everything was approved.
Another month passed, and poor Mr Usmonov went to serve his sentence to Altai. And so, in the best traditions of this story, as you may have probably guessed, two days before the visit I received a call from the press-service of the Moscow City Court and was informed that the court superiors ordered to cancel the visit, despite that only a month ago everything was approved. The press-service failed to provide the explanation, however, they promised to do it later. During the next week, the representative of the Moscow City Court did not either call me or answered my calls. All that was left for me from the press-service was tasteless jam that I was promised “tomorrow” on the phone: “Let us count on January”.
And here I am, looking sadly at decorated Christmas trees in the streets, and a thought comes to mind that all this cat and mouse game only delays the inevitable. After numerous applications from people who are not connected to each other, I have no doubts anymore that the convoy premises of the court have the rings mounted in the wall which may be used for abuse of the defendants. What is left is to give this fact an appropriate legal evaluation during an official visit. Or, maybe, you never know, to disprove this. One thing I know for sure – we are not going to stop”.