Ildar Dadin was jailed for protesting about his right to protest. Now he is being punished for speaking out about the torture he has endured.
In a few days’ time, Ildar Dadin will phone his wife Anastasia Zotova to tell her in which colony he’ll be serving the remainder of his sentence (due to expire this summer). It’s already clear that Zotova and Dadin’s lawyers will be forced to fly thousands of kilometres to see him – either to the Altai region or somewhere close by.
Dadin will be transferred neither to Tula or Ryazan Region, where Bolotnaya Square defendants have been incarcerated. He’s been moved from transit prison to transit prison for over thirty days. Why?
We can only guess who decided that one of the most famous political prisoners of our time should be carted across Russia for a month on end. I’ve no doubt that this is the system’s way of taking revenge on Dadin for having spoken out about the use of torture in the Karelian prison colonies. And that this is its way of demonstrating its immunity to societal pressure. But this revenge – just like all revenge, for that matter – is counterproductive. It merely serves to draw attention to the legal nihilism in which we all live.
How many times over the last few years have we awoken to the shocking news that yet another well-known prisoner has been transported under guard “in an unknown direction”? Much to everyone’s relief, the prisoner tends to be “found” a week or two later, prompting parcel-laden relatives and meeting-seeking lawyers to dash off to the new colony.
As far as I know, no one has ever challenged in court the routine violation of the law on the disclosure of information regarding place of imprisonment. The law is outlined in both the Criminal Procedural Code and the Criminal Executive Code, yet these stipulations are almost never enforced.
Article 394 of Russia’s Criminal-Procedural Code reads as follows: “Upon the entry into legal force of the sentence in accordance with which the convict […] has been sentenced to arrest or deprivation of freedom, the administration of the place of detention, acting in conformity with Article 75 of the Criminal-Executive Code of the Russian Federation, shall inform one of the convict’s close relations of where he is due to serve out his sentence.” And here is that selfsame Article 75: “The administration of the detenition unit must inform one of the convict’s relatives, selected at his discretion, of where he is due to serve out his sentence.”
In the case of Ildar Dadin, we have something of a different issue: he was transferred from one colony to another for security reasons.
But, in this specific instance, no law says anything at all about any obligation on the part of the colony adminstration to keep the convict’s relatives informed of his whereabouts – and this is a lacuna that must be urgently addressed.
Human rights ombudsman Tatiana Moskalkova, as it turns out, has been closely monitoring Ildar Dadin’s movements across Russia throughout this month; she has repeatedly questioned the need for such excessive secrecy, inquiring of FSIN [Federal Penitentiary Service] officials as to why they couldn’t inform Dadin’s wife and mother of his whereabouts. FSIN personnel explained to her that this was exclusively a security issue, since there have been cases of convicts being snatched en route. Moskalkova tried to reason with them, arguing that they needn’t worry about that happening in Dadin’s case: no one is about to “abduct” him.
But FSIN personnel remained adamant: “There’s one law for all”. Let us note, however, that, in this case, there is one unwritten law for all.
The second issue here is that Dadin, a Moscovite, has been sent to the back of beyond, making it difficult for lawyers and relatives to visit him. Yet Article 73 of the Criminal-Executive Code states that “[p]ersons sentenced to imprisonment must serve out their sentences in a penal institution sited within the federal subject of the Russian Federation where they resided or were convicted.”
A well-known violation of Article 73 occurred when ex-FSIN director Yuri Kalinin decreed that Mikhail Khodorkovksy and Platon Lebedev must serve out their sentences in Chita and Kharp, respectively – very far away from home. The Article was subsequently violated in respect of other convicts as well. Khodorkovsky’s lawyers contested the decision in court, but the court ruled that “everything was lawful and sound” since local penal colonies were allegedly full at the time.
In March 2016, meanwhile, Ernst Mezak, a human rights activist from Komi, won a similar case following an appeal by Ukrainian political prisoner Gennady Afanasiev: citing Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Syktyvkar City Court ruled that Afanasyev must serve out his sentence in a facility sited as near as possible to his place of residence.
However, there was insufficient time to transfer Afanasyev from Komi to another colony closer to Crimea. He was transferred instead to Moscow’s Lefortovo prison before being pardoned by President Putin and dispatched to Ukraine by plane.
The story of Dadin’s enforced peregrinations is an extremely important one, serving as yet further proof of the fact that we’re living in a new Middle Ages. We must either amend the relevant legislation as a matter of urgency or else force agencies to comply with existing regulations.
For example, Tatiana Moskalkova has devised a law that would oblige FSIN to transfer the convicted invididual to whatever region of the country he resided in prior to sentencing.
And there’s another significant lacuna that requires immediate attention: currently, convicts can remain in prison transit for as long as the prison authorities desire – the law stipulates no upper time limit. What can be done about this?
We must contest in court any non-compliance with existing regulations – or legal lack thereof. It is my hope that this challenge will be taken on by lawyers who defend political prisoners. Before political prisoners materialised in Russia, the public knew and cared little about what was going on in the country’s detention facilities. Now, however, the issue of courts and prisons frequently tops the news agenda.
We are in dire need of two laws: a “Tolokonnikova Law”, which would prohibit slave labour in penal colonies, and a tripartite “Dadin Law”, which would prohibit torture, put a limit on the maximum prison transit period, and ensure that convicts’ relatives are informed of their whereabouts.
This article was first published by Open Russia