Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Despite Certainty of Draconian Extended Sentences, Ever More Russian Prisoners are Being Driven to Revolt, Merkachyova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 22 – Despite certainty of receiving draconian sentences far greater for risings than for attempting to escape, ever more Russian inmates of prisons and camps are being treated so badly that the number charged for taking part in risings almost doubled between 2020 and 2022, Eva Merkachyova says.

            In 2020, the authorities brought 282 such charges; last year, they brought 320; and this year, they are on pace to bring almost 400, having brought 192 during the first half of the year, the human rights campaigner and journalist reports. Moreover, all who have been charged have been convicted (publizist.ru/blogs/114213/44489/-).

            Russian prisoners are very much aware of these realities but feel they have no choice: for flight, they will be made to perform forced labor but not given additional time in prison; for taking part in a rising, they can and often are sentenced to as much as 12 additional years behind bars, Merkhachyova continues.

            And she adds that even when it can be shown that it was the behavior of guards that drove the prisoners to the desperate act of resistance, “a sad tendency” has emerged in recent years. The guards are at most given suspended sentences, while those who revolt because of the guards’ behavior are given real sentences.

            Some judges are apparently appalled by the situation, but the best even these can do is reduce the charges against the prisoners but not find them innocent. The Russian political system will not allow that. Instead, it insists on punishing those who stand up for their rights even in the country’s prisons and camps.

            According to Mikhail Orsky, a specialist on the Russian criminal world, “today, there are ever more conflicts behind bars. The jail authorities demand from prisoners the scrupulous observance of the rules of behavior” but they don’t insist that jailors fulfill their obligations. And when prisoners ask for their rights to be observed, they are charged with taking part in a revolt.

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