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October 2004
7 October 2004

"My Dad Is In Prison: The Right of Prisoners and Their Spouses to Have Children"

The fundamental human right of married couples to procreate is the subject of an important case of first impression currently under consideration by the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation.

In their application to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, a married couple that have been refused conjugal visits, is challenging the provisions of the Russian Criminal Executive Code that prohibit conjugal visits ("long visits") during the initial 10 years of incarceration under a strict regime. Due to the medical condition of the wife, the extended denial of conjugal visits with her incarcerated husband will effectively assure that the couple will never be able to have children.*

The couple is represented by "Sutyajnik", an NGO Human Rights Resource Center located in Ekaterinburg with a long and successful record of litigating in support of the human rights of Russian citizens.** The couple claims that the prohibition in the Criminal Executive Code violates the guarantees of inviolability of private and family life guaranteed in the Russian Federation Constitution (Article 23) and the European Convention for Protection of Human Rights (Article 8).

The outcome of this case will have a wide reaching impact. Prisoners constitute a significant portion of the Russian population, with 665 Russians in jail per 100,000 population, giving Russia the 2d highest per capita prison population in the world (after the USA).***

The Constitutional Court is expected to rule on the admissibility of the case this month. For further information contact the representative of the applicants Anna Demeneva at demeneva@sutyajnik.ru

* Z. was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes involving robbery and homicide. He is married to I. They want to have a child. However I suffers from a medical condition that may lead to infertility. The administration of the penal colony has refused requests from both partners to provide them with conjugal visits for the purpose of having a child, on the grounds that condemned persons who serve their sentence in severe conditions have the right only to short visits. (The short visit is a visit during which a husband and wife can talk only for a fixed period under supervision of employees of the colony).  Under the terms of the Criminal Executive Code, a so-called long visit (during which a couple can exercise their conjugal rights) can be provided no earlier than in 10 years of serving the sentence in severe conditions.

** The Sutyajnik’s web-site www.sutyajnik.ru

*** The statistics is from “U.S. prison population largest in world” http://www.charleston.net/stories/060103/wor_01jailbirds.shtml

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