Russia's Systematic Prison Rape And Torture Exposed
In October 2021 the human rights project Gulagu.net, released leaked videos detailing Russian prison torture and rape. Gluagu has been working for nearly a decade against corruption, abuses, and torture by Russian police and in Russian prisons. It is made up of nearly 18,000 human rights defenders.
What was leaked?
At least 40 gigabytes of video material graphically documenting beatings, rape, and torture of inmates in prisons and pretrial detention centers was leaked. Vladimir Osechkin, founder of Gulagu.net, told Reuters that the abuses were nationwide. He also stated that, "A system of torture has been and is still operational ... They (the authorities) are afraid to admit the truth in public, and the truth is awful because the truth is that their special services have been torturing people en masse."
Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer and human rights defender connected with imprisoned opposition leader Alexi Navalny, wrote on Telegram on October 8. "Torture again," ... "Irkutsk Remand Prison No. 1 (SIZO-1) is the main torture center of the country. One of the perpetrators had admitted on camera to everything and speaks about the torture and rape of prisoners. This is pure hell. The whole FSIN system needs to be dismantled and prosecuted. Fascists."
Within hours of the leak becoming public, the Russian Federal Prison Service (FSIN) reported that it had fired the head of the prison service in the Saratov region, as well as several other top prison officials. It also announced that it was investigating the torture videos, which were filmed in prisons and detention centers in the Irkutsk, Vladimir, and Saratov regions between 2018 and 2020. Russia's Investigative Committee also announced it had opened an investigation into sexual violence and abuse of authority.
Sergei Savelyev, a programmer who helped to operate the local computer network and video cameras while serving time in the prison was revealed to be the person behind the leak. He became disgusted by the sadism he was witnessing on surveillance and body cameras carried by guards. Authorities would direct Savelyev to delete most video footage but at times kept some for themselves, for reasons unknown. Determined to expose the horrors he was witnessing, Savelyev began to collect footage in a secret USB drive which he later hid near the prison exist. The documents, photos, and videos that Savelyev showed that hundreds of people across the Russian prison system have been tortured or raped by other inmates directed by prison officials.
Savelyev later hatched a plan to escape Russia after intelligence agents approached him and threatened him with arrest. They attempted to threaten Savelyev into falsely claiming that Gulagu.net was a foreign funded entity in order to crack down on it. Savelyev reported, "They told me that they had been watching me for six months," ... "They threatened to put me away for treason for 20 years." In order to get him to co-operate the agents claimed they could reduce his sentence. They also warned him he would "die very quickly" in jail. Savelyev quoted them as saying, "First, you will confess everything, and then you will be found dead in a cell,".
Savelyev agreed to help Russian authorities but instead fled and sought asylum in France. Russia's interior ministry placed Sergei Savelyev, among its most wanted and has called for his arrest. Savelyev says that the Kremlin might want to charge him with disclosing state secrets: "Given the information that we have already made public, I would like to believe that they will acknowledge the facts of the torture and try to resolve the issue of torture while trying to deal with the issue of disclosure of state secrets."
According to Russian law, inmates should not be treated harshly or in a way that diminishes their dignity. Prison officials who abuse their position can face up to a decade in prison.