The way the President of Nizhny Novgorod University fights saboteurs in prisons


03 October 2016

Roman Grigorievich Strongin, the President of Nizhny Novgorod Lobachevsky State University, and according to Wikipedia, a full member of New York Academy of Science, and a part-time head of the Public Chamber in Nizhny Novgorod region, said at the meeting of this Chamber that my seven colleagues and me (practicing lawyers in the field of defending human rights) should not have access to exercise public control at the detention facilities; to put it simply, it means prisons, investigation cells and police stations.

(Roman Strongin, the source of the photo:

According to him, we are saboteurs. We work for the foreign-funded organization.

This is it. Nothing more, nothing less. Saboteurs. So he said.

We do not quite understand this sudden straight-out and feverish reaction of the head of the Public Chamber and its members who expressed full support on this matter and who previously had shown no interest whatsoever either to prisons, pre-trial detention centers and etc., or to us, people checking how the human rights are observed in these prisons.  

My colleagues and friends from the Committee for the Prevention of Torture have visited detention facilities a hundred times, responded to the violation of human rights, arranged training seminars for the officers of the law-enforcement authorities for eight years since the Public Monitoring Commissions controlling the observance of human rights at detention facilities were established. And now, according to Roman Grigorievich, all of a sudden, we have decided to do sabotage?

Is this the very person, the head of the Public Chamber who visited Sukhobezvodnoye settlement, or Prudy settlement, or pre-trial detention center No. 3 any time of the year or day?
Is this the very person who recorded hundreds of human rights violations reports with a pen or a voice recorder?

Is this the person who compiled piles of documents with crime reports which were sent to the Prosecutor’s Office or the Investigating Committee?

Is this the person who distributed the information on the discovered violations in the media?

Is this the person whom the colony employees expressed thanks to for sending the application to the Federal Penitentiary Service which resulted in financing the repair of the roof?

Is this the very person that the convicted women thanked for solving the problem with receiving child allowances?

Is this the person who helps the Ministry of Interior in the search of the former head of the colony suspected in committing a number of crimes…

(The sources of the photo: and the archive of the Public Monitoring Commission)

I have been a member of the Public Monitoring Commission for three years. This work is really unrewarding. Unfortunately, neither Mr Strongin nor members of the Public Chamber have ever been interested in the observance of human rights in the detention facilities. During my work there I never noticed any participation of the head of the Public Chamber or its members.

And now, all of a sudden, when new members of the Public Chambers are elected, our work which is for the benefit of the society and the state is called sabotage by the head of the Public Chamber of Nizhny Novgorod region.

I say once again that this work is unrewarding. Convicts expect that we can help them as simple as that, though we do not have the power of the Prosecutor’s Office or the Investigation Committee, and the employees of the law-enforcement authorities, in their turn, treat us as people who trample their kitchen with amateur sandals and wash dirty linen in public, and our relatives wish we never visited these places. Who in their right mind would wish that their husband, son or brother spend their time in the penal colonies instead of spending their time with the family?

But despite all these factors, for all this period of time we have been one of these rare sources of true information which we managed to make open for the public from the places against which as the saying goes, there is no fence.

Now the head of the Public Chamber of Nizhny Novgorod region refuses to give us the chance to work as observers and supports his decision with delirious arguments which are not typical for a scientist.

I don’t know… Perhaps, Roman Grigorievich has his own assumptions regarding our allegedly saboteur actions  …

So, I offer him to go with us 250 kilometers away from Nizhny Novgorod, talk to those suffering from AIDS or tuberculoses, inspect and smell the cell with fungus (the thickness of one’s finger) on the wall and non-operational sewage system in the public toilet, or listen to the stories of seriously ill people who are offered Citramonum or 15 days in the punitive isolation ward as options.

Roman Grigorievich, we need to go there since later on there will be no one to do it otherwise…

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