Human dignity and “vagonzaki”: conditions for transporting prisoners in Russian literature and in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights

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Author: Tigran Oganesian

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2020-3-80-97

Keywords: a structural problem; conditions of transportation; effective remedy; European Court of Human Rights; general measures; inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; pilot judgment procedure; Stolypin carriage


This article is devoted to the analysis of the conditions of transportation of prisoners described in fiction and in the pilot judgment of the ECHR in the case Tomov and Others v. Russia. The article contains memoirs and essays by several writers on the conditions of staging in the so-called Stolypin carriage. In the course of comparative analysis, the author emphasizes that the description of vagonzak (prisoner transfer vehicle) in the literature and the ECtHR rulings do not differ much, since the Stolypin carriages are still not adapted for transporting prisoners in proper conditions. In this regard, the identified structural problem requires not only the revision of domestic standards but also the replacement of the vehicle fleet with new vehicles that meet European standards. The author examines the issue of terminology for the transport of prisoners used in Russian legislation and the ECtHR in this judgment. The article analyzes the case-law of the ECtHR related to the conditions of transportation of prisoners in the context of article 3 of the Convention, as well as the structural problem itself. The author analyzes the shortcomings of Russian legislation and domestic remedies identified by the ECtHR in this pilot judgment, and the associated prospects for changes in the conditions of transportation of prisoners. Separately, the author draws attention to the fact that currently, women prisoners are more likely to be subjected to a long detention in correctional colonies, since there are very few penitentiary institutions in Russia that provide for the placement of women. As the main proposal to amend the legislation on the conditions of transportation of prisoners, the author proposes to supplement article 227.1 of the Code of Administrative Procedure of the Russian Federation with a provision providing for compensation, including for improper conditions of transportation. In the final part of the article, it is noted that due to these general measures in the pilot decision in the Tomov case, the Russian authorities need to get rid of the “Soviet legacy” associated with infrastructure, dilapidated transport for transporting prisoners, but most importantly – to change the attitude towards the prisoner, making this attitude more humane.

About the author: Tigran Oganesian – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in law, Research Associate, Institute of Legislation and Comparative Law under the Russian Government, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Oganesian T. (2020) Dostoinstvo lichnosti i vagonzaki: usloviya perevozki zaklyuchonnykh v russkoy literature i v pozitsiyakh Evropeyskogo Suda po pravam cheloveka [Human dignity and “vagonzaki”: conditions for transporting prisoners in russian literature and in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol.35, no.3, pp.80–97. (In Russian).


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