HC Deb 20 March 1997 vol 292 cc768-9W
Mr. Stern

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the conditions prevailing in Russian prisons. [21327]

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

We have made no separate assessment of the conditions, but follow closely the work of the Russian presidential commission on human rights, the Council of Europe, and non-govemmental organisations, in this area.

On 25 February, Vladimir Kartahkin, head of the presidential commission on human rights launched a report on conditions in Russia's prisons, which found "grave violations… and inhuman conditions". On 3 March, the Prosecutor General, Yuri Skuratov, warned of a "social explosion" unless urgent measures were taken. He highlighted overcrowding and the rising incidence of illness, especially tuberculosis, in prisons and remand centres.

These assessments are supported by independent human rights NGOs such as Human Rights Watch/Helsinki.

A programme for reforming the penal system has been adopted, but the lack of funds is a continual brake on progress.