Official appeal of the human rights organization "Man and Law" to the state authorities of the Russian Federation in connection with the spread of Coronavirus disease in Russia

10 April 2020

  • To the Deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation
  • To the Russian Federation government
  • To the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation
    (for notifying the Commissioners for Human Rights of regions of the Russian Federation)
  • To the Supreme court of the Russian Federation
  • To the Federal penitentiary service of Russia
  • To the head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation
  • To the President of the Federal Chamber of Lawyers of the Russian Federation
On 9 April, 2020, the official website of the Head of the Republic of Mari El published information: "Today it became known about the first case of death of a patient in the Republic with a confirmed diagnosis of Coronavirus. The patient was 37 years old and died in Yoshkar-Ola city hospital. As told by doctors, the patient had many chronic diseases. The doctors did everything they could, but unfortunately, they couldn't save her.”

According to information posted in the online media, the deceased woman was an employee of the UFSIN of Russia for the Republic of Mari El and worked in FKU SIZO-1 UFSIN RF for the Republic of Mari El. The officer had direct contact with both prison staff and prisoners.

On 6 April, 2020, in the media and on the official website of the UFSIN of Russia for the Ryazan region there was information on the detection of Coronavirus disease of the staff of FKU IK-5 UFSIN of Russia for the Ryazan region.

On 18 March, 2020, 50 non-governmental organizations asked international organizations such as WHO, the Council of Europe, and the United Nations to take immediate measures to protect prisoners as one of the most vulnerable groups during the pandemic, especially those suffering from chronic diseases, tuberculosis, and HIV. The set of principles developed by the European Committee for the prevention of torture states that any restrictive measures to prevent the dissemination of COVID-19 to prisoners must be based on the law and respect for human dignity.

Official information from the health services about the methods and speed of spread of Coronavirus infection suggests that tragic situations similar to those that occurred in the Republic of Mari El and the Ryazan region may be repeated. People in detention in Russia, who are already in the most vulnerable situation, are now at maximum risk in the context of rapid spread of infection.

Detention conditions and organization of activities of the penitentiary institutions in the Russian Federation do not allow fulfilling the requirements of self-isolation, which a significant part of the population of the Russian Federation perform.

Prisoners are constantly in a state of crowding: in cells, detachments, sanitary facilities, workshops, canteens, waiting rooms, medical units, etc. Prisoners are never completely isolated from each other or from employees of institutions. All aspects of prison life involve moving prisoners in groups of several people. Currently, prisoners usually continue to perform multiple mandatory daily procedures related to roll call, work, washing, eating, etc. The FSIN staff contacts a large number of prisoners on a daily basis, conducting searches. Prisoners are often unable to follow instructions on hand, face, and household hygiene. Masks for prisoners and staff with symptoms are not available in sufficient quantities.

Under the above conditions, employees of the Federal penitentiary service of the Russian Federation, as well as prisoners continue to be exposed to the risk of Coronavirus infection and its further spread to their colleagues, relatives or other prisoners.

In the situation with the spread of Coronavirus infection in the world, many international organizations, WHO, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Treaty bodies, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the European Committee for the prevention of torture have expressed a clear position that the measures taken by States to combat Coronavirus infection should use a value- based approach based on respect for human dignity and human rights.
The interregional non-governmental human rights organization "Man and Law" calls on state institutions to implement urgently a minimum list of actions that will reduce the number of prison populations and the risk of spreading Coronavirus infection in places of detention in Russia:
1. To the deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation: as soon as possible, adopt legal documents declaring Amnesty for people who have committed crimes of small and medium gravity, as well as for the elderly, people with chronic diseases, women with minor children, and pregnant women.

2. To the Government of the Russian Federation: when developing and implementing measures aimed at combating Coronovirus infection in the territory of the Russian Federation, apply a value-oriented approach based on respect for human dignity and human rights. Include the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation as a member of the Covid-19 Coordination Council.

3. To the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation: support the initiative of NGO "Man and Law" and apply with the own initiative to the deputies of the State Duma of the Russian Federation to take urgent measures against persons in prisons in order to prevent mass violations of the right to life and health.

4. To the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation: recommend initiating the inclusion of regional Commissioners for Human Rights in the regional composition of the Coordinating Councils to combat COVID-19.

5. To the Supreme court of the Russian Federation: amend resolution No. 821 of 8 April, 2020 of the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and the Presidium of the Council of judges of the Russian Federation, which should recommend lower courts to consider applications on the conditional early release of persons serving sentences in places of detention and on change of a regime of serving of sentences that will help to reduce the number of prison population in the prison in the current situation.

6. To the Federal penitentiary service of Russia: to provide daily reporting on the current situation in FKU SIZO-1 UFSIN RF for the Republic of Mari El and FKU IK-5 UFSIN of Russia for the Ryazan region to ensure a reliable informing of the society about the epidemiological situation in these institutions. In case of detection of new facts of the disease, notify timely about it on the official website of the Department.

7. To the head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation: recommend the investigators of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation in all regions of the Russian Federation to consider possibility of a release with a petition to change for the suspect or the accused of the measure of restraint for house arrest, taking into account the severity of the crime and the investigation in connection with the changed conditions in society.

8. To the President of the Federal Chamber of Lawyers of the Russian Federation: recommend the lawyers in the regions of the Russian Federation in all cases where their clients should be taken to prison, to go to court with a petition to change the measure of restraint for house arrest in connection with the changed conditions and high risk of infection in prison.
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