Exposing Putin’s Prisons with Anastasia Zotova

Russia – Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy
Anastasia Zotova, wife of jailed Russian dissident Ildar Dadin, addresses the 9th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracysee quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.

Reading letter by her husband, political prisoner Ildar Dadin, then imprisoned in the Karelia prison:

“On Sept. 11, 2016, they came to me with three employees. Together they started beating me. Over the course of the day, I was beaten 3-4 times by 10-12 people at a time. On Sept. 12, I was handcuffed and suspended from the ceiling for half an hour. After, they took of my underwear and said they would send another prisoner to rape me…”

On state-sanctioned torture in Russian prisons:

“Firstly, the jailed are beaten once they arrive and then they are supposed to go through different forms of violations, forced to do things banned by their religion, like Muslims are forced to eat pork… Those who start complaining, get placed in individual cells. Those punishment cells are the worst for the prisoners. Every day, twice a day, each prisoner is taken out of his cell, morning and evening and beaten. First, he is taken to a place where there are no cameras, and then he is beaten. I should stress this is twice a day in morning and in evening every day to each prisoner… All injured are refused medical aid. One prisoner was consistently handcuffed and hung from the ceiling even after they broke his arm.”

“For prisoners in Karelia, there are no human rights at all.”

Full Remarks

Thank you very much that now I can stay here and tell you about our problems in Russia and ask for help.

It is no secret that we in Russia have plenty of problems in sphere of human rights. It will not be exaggeration to say, we have no police to protect citizens, no fair courts, no enforcement bodies that would work for people.

All mentioned institutions are not protecting human rights but consistently oppressing them. Russian government that actually seized the power jails its critics (just like in case of my husband) or even murders ones who strongly oppose (like they’ve done to Boris Nemtsov).

Those are the issues that are widely talked about both here in Russia and beyond.

What seems to be the most stunning for the world community, is the fact that repressions touch not only political opponents but also unpoliticized people. Even Russians, who were never politically active, complain that police are now operating to protect
the ruling regime, not their rights: police arrest innocent people because they need to fulfill the plan they had been given.

It is well-known that about 30 percent of all prisoners in Russia’s jails did not commit crimes they’d been sentenced for.

There’s one more thing that became evident – the tortures are officially legalized in Russian prisons.

There are about thousands of colonies in the country, but not each of them practices tortures. We found out what real tortures were about, only after my husband had been transferred to prison number seven in Karelia.

Let me quote the part of his letter which I received last October.

“On September 11, 2016, the colony head Kossiev came to me with three employees. Together, they started beating me. Over the course of that day, I was beaten a total four times, by 10-12 people at once. On September 12, 2016, [several] employees cuffed my hands behind my back and hanged me up by the handcuffs. I was suspended like that for half an hour. Then they took off my underwear and said they would bring another prisoner to rape me.”

After Ildar’s letter had been published, dozens of other former and current prisoners found us. They are all from different parts of the country. Before sentence they were living separately from each other so they could barely plot the same story. Anyway they all say similar things.

Prisoners of Karelian prison number seven were tortured. There’s no doubt about that. The colony has built the system of violence: first the jailed are physically abused once they arrive there. Then they are supposed to go through various kinds of humiliation, including the ban to openly express their religious views. For example, Muslims are forced to eat pork: colony officers tie prisoners and forcefully feed them with pieces of pork.

We are also informed about other cases of violence. Those who try to save their pride and start complaining are being placed in individual isolation cells. This is what happened to Ildar. Those so-called punishment cells are considered to be the worst for a prisoner. It works the following way: firstly a prisoner is taken out of his cell, then he is led along the prison corridor where there are no cameras. So this lets prison officers beat and torture a prisoner. Every prisoner is tortured twice a day: in the morning and in the evening. I’d like to stress that the fact of tortures doesn’t depend on political views or the reason a person was jailed. All prisoners, sent to punishment cells, are exposed to physical assaults by colony staff.

We are in touch with people who had suffered from various injuries: broken arms and legs, broken jaw, broken spine which made a 35-year-old man use a stick to move around. All the injured got refused in having medical aid. One prisoner had consistently been handcuffed and hanged over the floor even after they broke his arm. The most unwanted and “rebellious” are basically
sent to tuberculosis hospitals where they are deliberately infected with tuberculosis. They also may undress a prisoner and him forced outside in the freeze, so he can die from cold.

I know all these things may sound fairly unreal, but the fact remains. This is exactly how Karelian prisoners are being treated and this is what exactly makes us state: tortures in Karelia have a lot to do with crimes in Nazi concentration camps.

On the victim-list, I have in my computer I see dozens of names. And those are people who can prove that I don’t lie. But there’s nothing we can do about it.

We have applied to different institutions including the Prosecutor’s Office. It did not work. Instead they tend to initiate new cases in revenge. Human rights advocates are not allowed in Karelia colonies. It’s strange that they still use lawyers help as an instrument.

I’ve no idea of how we could help tortured prisoners as in Russia there’s no real democracy, no real justice and human rights are violated. So let me just name the people who are now being tortured in Karelia’s colony.

– Hazbulat Gabzaev
– Anzor Mamaev
– Zelimkhan Geliskhanov
– Koba Shurgaya
– Murat Nagoev
– Ali Islamov
– Mischa Mgoian
– Alexander Zaitsev
– Gennady Kerdalev
– Artem Ruhtaev
– Peter Primerin
– Vitaly Belsky

Thank you.

Speakers and Participants


Political Prisoners

Fighting for my Dad with Peter Yang

Peter Yang, son of Guo Feixiong, imprisoned Chinese “barefoot lawyer” and civil rights activist, addresses the 15th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see below for his remarks. Full Remarks I am here today, speaking for my father, Yang Maodong, who is more known for his pen name, Guo

Political Prisoners

Escaping Arrest in Venezuela with Antonio Ledezma

Antonio Ledezma, Venezuelan opposition leader and political prisoner who escaped in November 2017, addresses the 10th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks. On being an opposition leader in Venezuela: “In January 2014 we took to the streets and a wrote

Political Prisoners

China After Liu Xiabo with Yang Jianli

Chinese dissident and former political prisoner Yang Jianli addresses the 10th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks. On China’s harassment of human rights activists: “In mid- January 2018, a Beijing–based human rights lawyer, Yu Wensheng, while walking his son to

Political Prisoners

My House is a Prison with Antonietta Ledezma

Antonietta Ledezma, daughter of former Mayor of Caracas and political prisoner, Antonio Ledezma, addresses the 9th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks. On the arrest of her father Antonio Ledezma, Mayor of Caracas: “For the longest hours of my