Clearly no chance of a let up for Strasbourg
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group has had several reasons to mention the Isyaslav Penal Colony this year. There was first of all the brutal beating of a number of prisoners by a special unit of the State Department for the Execution of Sentences on 22 January. KHPG has given legal assistance to some of the prisoners involved, including help in making applications to the European Court of Human Rights.
Having received information suggesting biased treatment by the administrations of some penal colonies to prisoners transferred there from the Izaslav Colony, we addressed a letter dated 8 November to both the Department and the specific colonies. We assured them that KHPG would be providing any of the above-mentioned prisoners with the assistance of a lawyer on each occasion where the administration deemed it necessary to impose disciplinary penalties or to take other actions which worsened the prisoners position. We asked to be informed in advance of any disciplinary proceedings in relation to the above-mentioned prisoners so that our lawyer would be able to ensure effective legal representation for the prisoner
The administration of the Pervomaisk Colony No. 117 in the Kharkiv region did not inform us about several disciplinary proceedings with regard to one of the prisoners – Anzor Tovsuptavnov. Since the middle of November he has twice been placed in a disciplinary isolation unit. On 18 December, having ended the second such period, he was immediately placed in cell-like accommodation for 3 months. Despite the fact that our lawyers visited this colony several times during November and December, we were not once informed of the imminent disciplinary procedure enabling us to provide Mr Tovsuptanov with legal assistance.
The same thing is happening in other colonies where prisoners from Isyaslav were moved to. Not only have fairly serious disciplinary penalties been applied, but KHPG was also not informed that some prisoners were facing criminal charges for persistent violation of the regime. This could mean additional periods of imprisonment for the prisoners.
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group sees no convincing reasons to warrant the administration of the colonies depriving the prisoners of legal aid provided without charge. This behaviour by State Department personnel only confirms the statements made by many prisoners that the penalties are being applied as revenge for attempts by the prisoners to complain about the administrations behaviour, and particularly that some of the prisoners beaten at Izyaslav in January have lodged applications with the European Court of Human Rights.
This behaviour provides quite weighty evidence of the States violation of Article 34 of the European Convention which guarantees that the State shall not interfere with attempts to efficiently enjoy ones right to make individual applications to Strasbourg.
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group reiterates its commitments made in the letter of 8 November. We confirm that any case where disciplinary penalties have been applied without allowing the prisoner the opportunity to receive legal aid will be used to demonstrate violation of Article 34 of the European Convention.