In 2012 hundreds of prisoners from the penitentiary colony No 6 of Kopeysk, in Russia, Oblast of Chelyabinsk, have protested against systematic practices of torture and racketeering. In april 2018 after a trial that lasted two years and ten months, the Chelyabinsk Regional Court sentenced seventeen of them to sentences ranging between 4 and 5 years. While the events of 2012 sparked at the time a broad debate in society about the use of torture in Russian prisons, the verdict against the 17 prisoners has been an alarming signal of impunity for perpetrators of torture practices in prison.
Building on the monitoring work of Chelyabinsk human rights defenders, who in 2012 made broadly public the protest of Kopeysk prisoners and the system of torture and extortion of money organised by the prison administration in the colony, EPLN set up in 2015 an international monitoring mission and observed between 2016 and 2018 the trial at first instance.
The monitoring mission found serious violations of the defendants’ human rights. According to the report, these are due first of all to the conviction of the defendants ignoring the state of necessity of the persons concerned, given the systematic torture practices. The detainees had no other option to complain about the ill-treatment than to take collective action in protest. In these circumstances, their action have to be considered as part of the protection of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
You may read more on the Kopeysk case, its context, the structural causes of the protest as well as the reprisal against the protesting prisoners in the form of a trial for “mass riots” on our dedicated website site