A brutal video showing Russian prison guards beating a prisoner has emerged, again raising questions about safety inside the country’s justice system.
The recording, published on Friday by opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, dates from 29 June 2017. It is an uncomfortable watch.
It apparently shows a prisoner, identified in the video as Yevgeny Makarov, being held down on a table and beaten repeatedly with batons on his legs and the soles of his feet.
The man is stripped and beaten further, before prison officers begin a waterboarding technique. He is heard howling, shouting and begging for mercy and appears to lose consciousness. From the dialogue in the video, it appears the brutal punishment was meted out after Mr Makarov insulted a prison officer.
The recording ends after 10 minutes, when the naked Mr Makarov is returned to the table. The torture at this point does not appear to have finished but the video is turned off.
Prison officers are obliged to wear recording devices – and keep them on at all times in prisons. In practice, however, the requirement is only partially observed and it is highly unusual for evidence of alleged torture to reach the public.
The recording was reportedly passed to Novaya Gazeta after being leaked to lawyer Irina Biryukova, of advocacy group Public Verdict. Ms Biryukova told The Independent she could not divulge information about how the video was leaked but confirmed it was filmed by a prison officer. Her group received the recording, along with “several other” videos, around two weeks ago, she said.
The lawyer had already been investigating reports of torture at the IK-1 colony in provincial Yaroslavl, northeast of Moscow, where the violence is alleged to have taken place. IK-1 has a reputation for violence. It was used to hold opposition activists jailed after the Bolotnaya rally against Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2012.
According to several reports, “difficult” prisoners were routinely beaten by police officers, starved and worse. Until now, there had been no video evidence to support prisoners’ claims and prison authorities have previously dismissed requests to start an investigation.
He could hardly walk. His heels were badly beaten and already infected. His skin was broken, his buttocks beaten
Irina Biryukova, lawyer
Ms Biryukova said she travelled to the Yaroslavl prison five days after the June 29 incident. It was the second time her client – jailed for grievous bodily harm – had been beaten, she said. The lawyer was initially denied access to Mr Makarov, but state ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova intervened, and prison authorities relented.
She recalled what she saw: “He could hardly walk. His heels were badly beaten and already infected. His skin was broken, his buttocks beaten. His [anus] had been beaten. He had bruises in his eyes and his arms were damaged where the handcuffs had dug in.”
The lawyer says the incident is far from an isolated one.
“I’m afraid this is widespread practice, but in some regions the authorities manage to cover up their tracks more successfully,” she said.
A short while after the publication of the video, the Russian State Penitentiary Service and the Yaroslavl State Investigative Committee announced they would begin an investigation into the incident.