12.05.2006 | Gennady Zherdev

Open letter regarding conditions in Ukrainian penal institutions


To:  I G F M – Internationale Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte

International Society for Human Rights

International Society for Human Rights – Ukrainian section

Autonomous member of the ISHR-US Gennady Zherdev

The European Court – to Pavel Pushkar – dossier No. 7484/06;

The European Court – Sally Dole – dossiers Nos. 17674/02, 39081/02;

To President of Ukraine Yushchenko;

State Department on Penal Issues – to the Head V. Koshchinets;

To human rights activists and the mass media

Dear Sir or Madam

I have received from the State Penal Department (hereafter the Department) letter No. 3/4-Ж-1136 of 11 April 2006 signed “Department Head O. Kislov”. I think that this letter is most probably connected with the claims now under review by the European Court of Human Rights (7484/06 Bulavko and Others v. Ukraіne; 17674/02 and 39081/02 Druzenko and Others, Davydov and Others v. Ukraіne) and is aimed at discrediting myself and the claimants.

Firstly, I would note that this letter, like all letters from the Department, the Prosecutor General’s office and Secretariat of the President of Ukraine, is written by uneducated and ill-mannered people. I say this as a person who moved from being a metalworker to the main technologist of a ministry, who has worked both in state administration and on the post of chief state inspector of Ukraine.

1. As usual, there is no explanation in the letter from the State Department, which request they mean. There have been many requests. Why can’t you mention the date of the letter you are responding to? Is it so difficult? This question is addressed to all state organs, including the President’s office. You are working badly!

2. The letter from the Department begins with the address: “citizen”, as if to somebody being arrested. Should I then answer “To citizen V. Koshchinets”?

3. As usual, stock phrases are used: “the information does not correspond with the facts”, “illegal actions and biased attitude of the administration to prisoners were not found”, etc. Which information? What actions and of what administration were considered? Does O. Kislov know? This “information” of the Department also does not give the opportunity to understand which of my requests they’re answering.

And then the most interesting part begins, which is probably intended for the European Court. In this part the authors try to demonstrate to the European Court that all claimants, as well as Zherdev, are lying, and the European Court should trust only the Department which insists that the appropriate checks have been carried out and there are no violations.

In particular, this is reflected in the following phrase: “It should be noted that your letters contain absolutely one-sided information, which you obtain from prisoners’ letters. Furthermore, you, a human rights activist, have not taken measures to check this information and never met with prisoners and administration of penal institutions”.

So, I would like to state to the European Court (Kislov and the Department know that): this is a lie!

1. I obtain information not only from letters of prisoners, and this information is not one-sided. Maybe the Department is eager to learn the names of my informants? I, for example, know that scandal is raging in the central apparatus of the State Department, and its workers are grassing on each other as they do in penal zones. Is that not so, Mr. (Oh, sorry! citizen) Koshchinets?

2. My information from prisoners is confirmed by various, unrelated, sources in many media outlets. I also have information about the situation in penal establishments, and this information is got not only from prisoners.

3. There is official data from many Ukrainian and foreign, state and non-governmental organizations, including human rights ones: reports by Nina Karpacheva, the European Committee for Prevention of Torture, OSCE and many others. Not only me, but also the Department knows about these numerous documents. They coincide with the letters from prisoners. Or would the Department want to say that these respected people and organizations are also lying?

4. I also have evidence of relatives of prisoners, who have seen them beaten and maimed. I know of cases when, in order to conceal the traces of torture, relatives are not allowed to see the prisoners. There are results of medical examinations of people released and people still in custody. Sometimes medical cards with such data are “lost”. For instance, the card of claimant Sergey Davydov “disappeared” during his transfer from one penal zone to another. All documents were there except the medical card with doctor’s notes after torture applied by officers of a special police squad!

Here is a simple example. The mother of Aleksandr, a prisoner of TB-zone No. ZhYK-17 in the Kharkiv region, approached me. He was brutally beaten with injuries to his feet and legs. There was a threat of gangrene and that his legs would have to be amputated. Aleksandr needed long and complicated treatment. Yet the humiliations lasted.  His mother received permission to see her son, naturally, through glass. When the operator went to switch on the phone, Aleksandr quickly lifted his trouser-legs, and the mother saw his legs black and blue from beating. Aleksandr gave a sign to be silent. So, the woman made sure personally of the frequent beatings that she’d heard about from different people.

This is only one example how I receive information from prisoners’ parents. They are afraid to make this information public, they fear for the lives of their children. They know that beasts work in the Department; that penal institutions resemble Gestapo torture chambers, and that prosecutors and judges are monsters too. So who should parents complain to about these fascist butchers? Who will protect them? Maybe President Yushchenko, who has become a defender of the Department? That is why the parents are afraid to divulge the names of their children. They have seen the results of revenge upon those who dared to give their names. There is no protection in Ukraine, ruled by impudent and brutal officials! IT DOES NOT EXIST!

5. Former prisoners visited me for many times and told about the life in penal establishments. So, it is not true that I “never met with prisoners”.

6. I have also made attempts to meet the prisoners in zones, to talk to penal administrations. On several occasions I visited Buchanskaya zone No. 85. Nobody wanted to speak with me. The first time I was stopped from seeing claimant Sergey Davydov while the next time they simply “couldn’t locate him”! Representatives of the administration answered that they did not know whether such a prisoner was kept in zone No. 85! So, is there any sense in such visits?

Or maybe the Department will deny the fairly frequent visits by special squads to penal institutions to beat up the inmates? Such cases were observed in establishments Nos. 47, 50, 53 and 83. The beating was extremely brutal. On 15 April 2006 I sent letters to 30 e-mail addresses, including the media, about the actions of a special squad in colony No. 47 on 14 April 2006. On 16 April 2006 the zone was besieged by journalists and parents of prisoners. As a result, the administration had to release from isolation cells many prisoners, who’d been put there after the beating.

However, respected judges of the European Court, you know the real value of words of officials of the Department. They are lying! You also know about the reports of international commissions on situation in our penitentiaries. Former incarcerated come to me after release, I receive many phone calls from the entire Ukraine, I meet with prisoners’ relatives. On this background the letter by the Department seems to be somewhat foolish and childly naïve. Or maybe they have become absolutely insolent because of impunity? Because they feel the support of President Yushchenko?

If you want to prove that I am not right, gentlemen from the Department, then act as you promise in your letter: help to organize meetings with the convicted. I agree. I will gather several groups of human rights protectors, journalists, cameramen, medics and lawyers. And these several groups (together with me) will visit several penal establishments. The establishments that we will choose by ourselves. We will announce about our choice only after arrival to the place. We will meet with whom we want, but not with “dummies”, like Karpacheva. And not through glass by phone, but entering the cells that we will select (including penal cells). The talks and telephotography will be carried out both in presence of representatives of administration of penitentiaries and tête-à-tête with the prisoners. I ask to organize the meetings with groups of incarcerated in presence of administration and some workers of penal establishments. I would be happy, if supervising prosecutors would join us. We will listen and record everything, what the prisoners will say to them. And do not rely on the usual procedure of intimidation described, in particular, by the prisoners of TB-colony No. ЖИК-17:

“2-3 days before the arrival of a prosecutor the officers gathered unit No. 15 and warned: “You dare! The prosecutor will go away, and you will remain and you will croak!” Naturally, the prosecutor did not reveal any violations”.

If you are so honest, as you write, and you have nothing to conceal, then it would not be difficult for you to fulfill your promise on my terms.

Since this letter will be published in mass media and the Internet, I announce the “competition” for participation in the meetings with incarcerated, which have been kindly proposed by the Department. I am inviting human rights protectors, lawyers, journalists, cameramen and medics for participation in this action.

Besides, I appeal to the prisoners reading this letter to offer penal establishments and persons for this “competition”.

Contact me by the mentioned phone number, e-mail and cellular phone 8(067)232-88-45 (it would be better to send an SMS, since my hearing is not good). I prefer communication by e-mail. I will inform you about the wish of the Department to help us, as well as about other organizational questions. I also will accept your propositions concerning organization.

Besides, I appeal to the European Court: do not trust the letters of the Department!

Yours sincerely,

Gennady Zherdev

Enclosure to the letter of G. Zherdev of 29 April 2006:

Excerpt from an appeal from Sergey Gomeniuk to the General prosecutor’s office (European Court dossier No. 17674/02, Druzenko and Others).

I, Sergey Gomeniuk, confirm in this appeal that the claim by G. Zherdev concerning violation of my right to correspondence is a real fact. During January of this year four my letters were not received by him. In February there were 3 such letters, in March – 2…

When will you, prosecutor’s office, stop lying that you cannot find any violations? When will you at last force the administrations of penal zones and the Department to cease brutal beatings and humiliation of prisoners? Special squads have come to zone No. 47 three times now – on 29 September 2005, 16 January 2006 and 14 April 2006.

I, Gennady Zherdev, want to add to Gomeniuk’s words about the violation of his right to correspondence that, in spite of my numerous requests, the Department has not called off a blockade of prisoners’ correspondence with me, but even toughened it. EVERYBODY, who has managed to evade this blockade in illegal ways, complains about that. Sometimes my registered letters are not given to the inmates, for example in zone No. 18 of the Luhansk region.

I also want to point out that, according to Law of Ukraine No. 3166-IV of 1 December 2005 and the corresponding order of the Department of 25 January 2006 (it approved the Instruction on revision of correspondence, registered by the Ministry of Justice on 11 April 2006), those convicted have the right to send me correspondence in sealed envelopes, and this correspondence must be directed to me without being read within one day. Yet, the prisoners cannot use this right, except in some cases in penal establishments Nos. 70 and 52.  Officers of all other penitentiaries say that they know nothing about this Law and this order. Moreover, they allege that they do not know me, although the letters with my name are monitored specially and are mostly seized. Even Karpacheva does not frighten them so much, although her authorities are considerably wider.

Scandalous cases occur. On 3 April 2006 convict of zone No. 70 Viktor Bulavko (dossier of the European Court No. 7484/06) sent me documents in the closed envelope for passing to the European Court. I did not receive this package. This was the second theft by administration of this colony of documents for the European Court from claimant Bulavko. I am sure that these documents are kept in the Department. The Department gave the order to steal the documents for the European Court, since these documents contained the information about crimes of the Department.

Claimant Ichenko (dossier of the European Court No. 39081/02) cannot send me the materials for the European Court from colony No. 52. He is blocked completely. Sometimes, after my letters, he manages to mail one or two letters, but after that he is blocked again for many months.


Complaint of a group of prisoners of zone No. 47 to President of Ukraine and to human rights organizations

Respected human rights activists!

Specially for you I will describe everything in details, and you will make a conclusion, whether I am right calling the actions of the Lviv department fascist and cruel.

On 29 September 2005 and 14 April 2006 our colony No. 47 was visited by a special unit in full equipment: black masks, flak jackets, batons, handcuffs, tear-gas, etc.

This special squad, including about 60 persons, was headed by top officers of the Lviv department. These “warriors” opened the cells and cried “Lie down on the floor!” When we lay down, they started to trample us, kick and beat us with batons on bodies and heads. Then they raised us one at a time and ordered to run along the passage between two rows of soldiers. And while we were running along the passage, they were beating us with batons, after which somebody was made to squat, and somebody – to make the splits.

Although we fulfilled all orders, they sometimes hit us on backs, legs and sometimes even heads. Yet, it seemed not enough for them, and they forced us to crawl or make difficult gymnastic exercises. If somebody refused, they brutally beat him and threw to punishment cell. Some prisoners were made to dig earth barehanded and to gnaw ropes.

Several people, including me, cut their veins in order to avoid this humiliation. Yet, we were beaten even more cruelly and flung to punishment cells. This was done despite the fact that many of us lost much blood and needed medical aid. However, instead of aid, we got another portion of beating. At that, it was written that we, allegedly, resisted to a search.

Yet, it is not all.

While one part of the “warriors” was beating us, the rest conducted the so-called “search” in cells, during which they arranged terrible chaos and did their best to spoil maximal quantity of things and food. Although we may keep in the cells calendars and posters with landscapes, they were torn to tatters, as well as posters with portraits Yulia Timoshenko and Yushchenko.

Besides, many things were stolen: watches, socks, cigarettes, lighters, chewing-gums, spam and so on. In short, they did everything they could. Even our bowls, spoons and mugs were either broken or stolen. Photographs and clothes were also torn.

As you understand, it is merely impossible to describe everything we suffered. Yet, it is clear all the same that fascist and cruel methods were used. If, of course, to reason from human point of view, but not from the standpoint of President Yushchenko, his clique, government and General prosecutor’s office.

If some people’s deputy is beaten, clamor is raised for the whole world. Because the deputy has money. However, when hundreds of prisoners are beaten, it is normal for the President and government, they do not see any crime, although, according to the Constitution, the incarcerated have the same rights.

This is not idle talk, but plain truth. Although such crimes are committed regularly during many years, not a single worker of the Department has been brought to criminal responsibility.

Let us recollect presidential election-2004. Officers of the Department beat us repeatedly in order to force us to vote for Yanukovich. Was anybody of them punished? NOBODY! All of them are still working on their jobs, somebody has been even promoted, and they continue to beat and humiliate us.

Whether the horror will ever end? I was punished because I voted for Yushchenko, but not for Yanukovich, as administration of the colony demanded. However, Yushchenko and his government neglect this situation, although it is rather usual.

I ask you, on behalf of all incarcerated: take the measures to stop cruel and motiveless beatings ands humiliations! Stop this arbitrariness! And explain to world community, how laws are observed in Ukrainian penal establishments.

Prisoner Gomeniuk, signature

20 April 2006


We, the undersigned, confirm everything communicated by Gomeniuk – signatures of prisoners B. Vlasov, O. Usovik, A. Khivrenko.


Fragment from Gomeniuk’s letter to G. Zherdev:

“Now many prisoners want to sign the complaint. Yet, we will not collect many signatures, or everything would happen like in Iziaslav: commission for check of the complaint would come, prisoners would be intimidated and they would deny their signatures. That is why only we signed the complaint, and others will confirm in case of a check”.

Along with this complaint I, G. Zherdev, have several other similar complaints from incarcerated of colony No. 47 signed by several persons each. I am sending them to state organs and human rights protecting organizations, although I understand that state organs will not react. They are organizers of these disgraceful things! My goal is to inform the world community about this crying shame.

Moreover, I have got phone calls from relatives of prisoners not only of colony No. 47, but also colonies Nos. 50, 53 and 83. They tell that in other colonies situation is the same.

Sincerely yours, Gennady Zherdev

29 April 2006


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