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Human rights group Gulagu.net releases video evidencing abuse in Omsk prisons

Source: Gulagu.net

The prisoners’ rights group Gulagu.net (No to the Gulag) has released a new video evidencing the abuse of inmates in prisons in Russia’s Omsk region. 

Gulagu.net published the recordings on YouTube on Tuesday, January 18, describing the release as “part one of a video archive” obtained from the Omsk regional branch of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN). 

On Telegram, the rights group wrote that the footage was taken from surveillance cameras in quarantine cells for new arrivals (Gulagu.net has yet to confirm the exact prison facility). The activists claim they “had the opportunity to observe online” what was happening in these quarantine cells for a period of two weeks, which revealed “a totalitarian system to suppress the will of newly arrived prisoners.” 

The incidents were recorded from November 1–14, 2021. Among other things, the footage shows that the inmates were made to work on weekends. The video claims they did so under threat of torture. 

Citing testimony from former inmates of this same prison colony, Gulagu.net maintains that more than 500 prisoners were subjected to torture and rape while in custody there. The abuse, they claim, was recorded on official camcorders by FSIN staff and other prisoners (working on behalf of the prison administration), and then sent to the head of the prison.

Gulagu.net noted that the recordings from the detention facilities in the Omsk region are reminiscent of the videos leaked from the penitentiary service’s Tuberculosis Hospital No. 1 in Saratov in October 2021. 

In early October 2021, Gulagu.net published three video clips leaked by a whistleblower that evidenced the torture and rape of inmates at the penitentiary service’s Tuberculosis Hospital No. 1 in Russia’s Saratov region. Following the video leak, the hospital’s leadership was fired, along with 18 employees of the local penitentiary service department. Investigators opened several criminal cases on charges of sexual assault and abuse of power. 

Later, in November 2021, President Vladimir Putin fired Federal Penitentiary Service Director Alexander Kalashnikov, appointing Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Gostev as his replacement. Unofficial reports linked Kalashnikov’s dismissal to the torture scandal.

In December 2021, a bill was submitted to the Russian State Duma that would reclassify torture committed by officials as an “especially grave crime” and make it punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

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