Mass Brawl and Hunger Strike Reported at Notorious Chechen Prison

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 17

Kavkazky Uzel reported on April 25 that inmates of the notorious Chechen correctional colony No. 2 in Chernokozovo had announced a hunger strike following a mass fight between inmates. While the Chechen department of the Federal Service for the Execution of Punishments (FSIN) denied that prisoners were on a hunger strike, Kavkazky Uzel quoted the relative of a Chernokozovo inmate as saying the strike had begun on the morning of April 24. “I was at a meeting with my brother, and he told me that the whole zone was on a hunger strike,” the source told the website. “The fact is that following the fight which took place two days ago, their cells were searched and all their personnel belongings taken away. I think it is scandalous that everyone should suffer as a result of the actions of a small group!”

According to the source, the brawl between prisoners took place on April 22 and left 11 people injured. The source said that around 100 people were involved in the fight. “It was not simply a fight; knives, forks and iron rods were used [and] 11 people were taken to the hospital with broken arms [and] legs, internal hemorrhages; someone’s kidney was punctured with a spoke.” The source said that the fight was caused by a dispute involving an inmate who previously worked as a law-enforcement officer. “A former ORB-2 employee was sent to the colony to serve his sentence, and our guys thought that he needed to be punished,” the source said. “The disturbance began because of that. Those who used to work for the police and are now in prison took his side. A fight broke out.” Employees of ORB-2, which is the federal Interior Ministry’s Second Operational Investigative Bureau, have been accused of widely employing torture at detention facilities in Chechnya. reported on April 24 that the entire population of Chernokozovo facility had joined the hunger strike and that the inmates refused to eat that morning and planned to continue refusing food.

The head of the FSIN’s Chechen directorate, General Ali Iriskhanov, denied reports that a hunger strike was taking place and said the prison colony was operating in a normal mode. Iriskhanov admitted that a fight had taken place, but gave a different version for why it started. According to the general, a fight took place between the inmates’ relatives. “A conflict arose over watching a television program,” on April 25 quoted him as saying. “One wanted to watch one program, another [wanted to watch] another one. After beating each other, they were taken to the hospital for examination. One of them remains in the hospital.” He said that the fight’s instigators would spend five to ten days in a punishment cell in order to ensure that the fight did not flare up again. “In the morning, some convicts stated that they were announcing a hunger strike and wouldn’t take food if the punishment of the [fight’s] instigators wasn’t reversed, but at lunch all to a man came out to stand in formation and took food. These are not political prisoners; most of them were convicted on narcotics charges and a demarche along the lines of a hunger strike is inappropriate. At the moment, there are no problems whatsoever in the colony; the organizers of the fight have apologized to one another, shaken hands, and we expect no consequences from this fight.”

Meanwhile, on April 26 quoted Chechnya’s human rights ombudsman, Nurdi Nukhazhiev, as saying that the rights of prisoners are observed more conscientiously in Chechnya than in other Russian regions. Nukhazhiev said in a statement that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov “has visited the colony in Chernokozovo on more than one occasion,” after which the inmates were given “a modern gymnasium” and “musical instruments” and the impoverished families of prisoners were given assistance. Nukhazhiev said the media had greatly exaggerated the dimensions of the fight that took place in the prison colony, insisting that only eight people were involved, that no one was seriously injured and that no prisoners refused to take food in protest. According to Nukhazhiev, three instigators of the fight were put in a punishment cell and one who received moderate injuries in the fight remained in the prison’s medical unit.