PMC and the Chamber of Secrets


24 September 2015

Lawyer of INGO «The Committee for Prevention of Torture» Sergey Babinets: «On 22 September 2015 the State Duma withdrew a very important proposed law on access of the Public Monitoring Commission (PMC) to the courts’ holding cells. Why is it important?

It matters because the issue of monitoring of what is going on in holding cells is practically unresolved. There are no video cameras there, entry is prohibited to anyone except for the convoy. A defense lawyer would not be allowed in there. Even ambulance service access is restricted, there were cases when paramedics had to wait at the entrance to the holding cells to be allowed to get inside.

At the moment there is only one method for monitoring human rights in the holding cell – a check of the Prosecutor, which is conducted once in half a year. In addition, these checks were established not so long ago after the Order of the General Prosecutor’s Office dated August 8, 2011. What the Prosecutor is supposed to find if he goes there once in half a year? He would look through the logs, examine the premises, drink tea with bailiffs and leave – and the check is over. 

So far there is no control whatsoever and the convoy officers can do as they please.

Here are several examples from the experience of the Moscow office of the Committee for Prevention of Torture. Daniel Konstantinov told us that before announcing the verdict in December 2013 the convoy officers of the Chertanovsky Court held him handcuffed in a stretched position for several hours and were beating him up, hitting him with an electric shock device. In the beginning of March, and later on in September, Tamerlan Eskerkhanov, suspected of murder of Boris Nemtsov, submitted some complaints. The suspect described the convoy officers in the holding cell of the Basmanny Court insulted, poked, undressed and photographed him with their mobile phones. According to Eskerkhanov, the convoy officers and unidentified masked persons demanded that he confessed of Nemtsov’s murder, otherwise they threatened to publish his photos in the internet.  One can find a lot of similar examples.

For a long time PMC has been requesting to grant them the right to visit holding cells, but to no avail, until recently. In the beginning of 2014 deputy of the State Duma from the United Russia party Balashov developed quite a good draft of the law, in case of adopting which the PMC members would have a right of free access to the courts’ holding cells in order to perform checks (including military courts).

The proposed law was supported by deputies M.M.Galimardanov and R.Sh.Khayrov from Dagestan and a number of others, till its first reading. In April 2015 the Committee of the State Duma on non-governmental associations and religious organizations reviewed this proposed law and passed a ruling which was very vague in its wording: «Execution by members of public monitoring commissions of certain authority provided in the Federal law, can lead to delays in legal proceedings, as well as to violation of the other parties’ rights in the process». Due to that the deputies were requested to introduce amendments to the proposed law.
Almost half a year passed and on 22 September 2015 this proposed law has never been changed but withdrawn instead. Why?
There are no explanations on the State Duma web site. Another good initiative ended nowhere. In the mean time, access of PMC members to holding cells is still closed – to the premises where, quite possibly, another victim is being beaten up by the «valiant» convoy officers at this very instant».  

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