A group of lawmakers from the lower house of Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, introduced a bill that would ban lawyers from recording meetings with their convicted clients inside penitentiaries, a move that sparked sharp criticism from human rights activists as a way to muzzle such prisoners. as opposition politician Aleksei Navalny.
Civil society advocates say the initiative is linked to online statements by Kremlin critic Navalny, a growing number of political prisoners and a number of other high-profile torture cases in Russian penitentiaries that were brought to the public’s attention via video recordings. done in prisons.
The bill, which was placed on the State Duma’s website and registered for debate on May 6, would prohibit lawyers from bringing “any communication device” into penitentiaries.
Such a ruling would run counter to a recent Supreme Court statement asserting that lawyers have the right to enter prisons and prisons with all types of mobile communication, pointing out that attempts by guards in some penitentiaries to implement such a ban in their establishments was illegal.
Several lawyers who spoke to RFE / RL on the matter said the bill would also violate the rights of detainees and eliminate the last tool detainees must use to document violations of their rights such as torture.
Maksim Olenichev of lawyer group Team 29 told RFE / RL that written complaints about torture in Russian prisons were never enough to bring such cases to justice, meaning that photos and videos are essential to help successfully defend the rights of detainees.
“We believe the main reason the bill was introduced is the emergence of multiple instances of evidence of violence [against inmates] in prison in various regions. Yaroslavl, Karelia, Priangarye, [incidents] which came to the attention of the public and caused polls to be launched, were solely due to photos and video recordings made by lawyers … The bill would also end statements Navalny made from prison ” , said Olenichev.
Lawyer Dmitry Dmitriyev from the Siberian city of Irkutsk told RFE / RL that many penitentiaries do not allow lawyers to have cell phones or cameras when visiting their clients in prisons and prisons since years, but some lawyers have fought against such bans citing current law that allows them to bring devices inside penitentiaries.
“Only well-known lawyers have succeeded in enforcing the law by prison administrations and had a cell phone with them when they met their clients. These lawyers were mainly those whose clients were involved in high-profile cases, like Navalny’s, because their words were quoted. [by media] and the public reacted to it. Because of this, the opposition politician was able to communicate with people even from his cell. Every word Navalny sent from behind bars was discussed even more actively. I think this bill was rushed for debate to stop this, ”Dmitriyev said.
Gulagu.net’s human rights project leader Vladimir Osechkin told RFE / RL that his State Duma sources told him that the main purpose of the bill was to prevent the circulation of information about torture in prisons and to stop Navalny’s online statements. from prison.
According to the sources, the authors of the bill tried to push the bill for several months, and it is only now that it has obtained the ‘green light’ from the presidential administration and surrendered in the State Duma. And this comes at a time when statements about torture in Russian prisons have become systemic, where a new case of torture becomes public every week. And Navalny continues to irritate [the authorities] with his statements behind bars, ”Osechkin said.