why particular regime penal colonies are thought of the direct legacy of gulags | EUROtoday

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HASlexei Navalny died on February 16, within the frozen hell of the IK-3 penal colony, or “Polar Wolf”, the place he was serving a nineteen-year jail sentence. A “special regime” penal colony, the strictest of Russian detention regimes, inherited from the Stalinist gulag – Alexeï Navalny's jail was really constructed within the Sixties on the location of a former gulag camp , the 501e.

“In Russia, there are four detention regimes,” explains Anna Karetnikova, member of the NGO Memorial and defender of prisoners’ rights till her departure from Russia a 12 months in the past. Institutions with a comparatively versatile detention regime and penal colonies with a common, strict and strengthened regime. Special diets are the toughest. They are meant for these sentenced to life imprisonment and for repeat offenders deemed notably harmful. There are thirty-five in Russia, six of that are reserved for all times prisoners, just like the one the place Navalny was. »

Legacy of the Gulag

Convicted of fraud, then of extremism, Alexeï Navalny was despatched final December 1,900 kilometers from Moscow, to the Polar Circle. He arrived there on the finish of December, after a three-week prepare switch, throughout which his supporters and legal professionals misplaced observe of him. A observe inherited from the Soviet system, which tortures detainees and their family members, left in uncertainty for an indefinite interval.

“Russian penitentiary geography is reminiscent of that of the gulag, particularly because of the climate and the inaccessibility of certain regions, which are used to punish and to further reinforce the distress of prisoners,” underlines historian Emilia Koustova , lecturer on the University of Strasbourg and specialist within the Russian world. “Continuity with the Soviet past also exists during the transfer, and in economic terms: the villages that were built alongside the gulag, to house the guards for example, still exist. »

Alexeï Navalny was thus sent to Kharp, a small Arctic town of 5,000 inhabitants hosting two penal colonies, those of the Owl and the Polar Wolf. The thousand detainees that Polar Wolf can accommodate endure extreme climatic conditions – winter lasts 200 days a year and it can be as cold as -40°C – but also “terrible detention conditions”, underlines Anne. Le Huérou, researcher at Paris-Nanterre and specialist within the Russian jail system.

Three visits per 12 months

Placed two or 4 in small cells, the prisoners see their contacts with their households and their legal professionals turn into rarer. They are solely allowed to obtain three visits per 12 months, two quick and one lengthy, are poorly fed and poorly cared for: entry to care is nearly non-existent.

READ ALSO “Alexei Navalny was a true leader”: in Moscow, tons of of Russians honor his reminiscenceThey should additionally adjust to strict procedures, which stay topic to the evaluation – ​​and arbitrariness – of the jail administration, one other legacy of the Soviet system. “In the colonies, everything is governed by strict internal regulations, which can further be manipulated by the staff. The convicted person has no rights or means to exercise them, explains Anna Karetnikova. The harshness of prisons therefore depends a lot on the head of the establishment and the colony guards, who can make already very difficult detention conditions completely unbearable. »

A “prison within a prison”

Alexeï Navalny noticed his detention circumstances additional tightened by his repeated placements in solitary confinement, known as “Shinzo” in Russia. “A prison within a prison,” explains Anna Karetnikova. “Normally, time in solitary confinement is restricted to a most of 15 consecutive days, however this was not the case for Navalny. Concretely, he was locked up for a 3rd of his detention in a 6 sq. meter room, the place it was both a lot too scorching or a lot too chilly. »

Awakened at 5:30 a.m., detainees positioned in Shinzo should fold their beds alongside the wall in the course of the day and can’t lie down there till the night, 9 p.m. Everything is confiscated from them, except for a board hooked up to the wall, a stool, a sink and a bathroom, the dishes are taken again instantly after their meal, and they don’t seem to be allowed to learn or write just one hour a day.

Walks are additionally lowered: already restricted to at least one hour per day within the particular regime, they solely final half an hour for prisoners in solitary confinement. They can solely depart their cell at 6:30 a.m., in the course of the polar night time, to stroll, arms behind their backs and eyes glued to the bottom, in a small enclosed and lined courtyard. Visits, parcels and communication with different prisoners are prohibited.

Currently, 266,000 prisoners are imprisoned in Russia in 700 work camps, based on the newest figures from the Russian Ministry of Justice, dated on the finish of 2023. One of the very best imprisonment charges in Europe, however a traditionally low degree for Russia, which had 893,000 detainees in 2008 and 420,000 in 2022, simply with the beginning of the battle in Ukraine. The decline is defined by the sending of prisoners to the entrance and by a number of penal reforms, which shortened the period of sure detentions.

The variety of political prisoners, however, has enormously elevated: 19,855 folks have been imprisoned for having expressed their opposition to the battle in Ukraine, based on the NGO OVD-Info, which additionally lists 888 legal proceedings initiated in opposition to dissidents.

The opponent Vladimir Kara-Murza, sentenced to 25 years in jail final April and imprisoned in Omsk, in Siberia, was additionally positioned in solitary confinement in January. He is anticipated to remain there till May.