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Prison riot in Vladikavkaz over alleged torture

19 October 2021
Photo: Filipp Kochetkov/TASS.

A prison riot has taken place at a penal colony in the North Ossetian capital, Vladikavkaz, over the alleged torture of prisoners.

The Russian Federal Penitentiary Service stated that the protests on 15 October were suppressed on the same day, with a number of inmates transferred to penitentiary institutions in other regions. Local special police units were brought in to storm the facility. 

The Investigative Committee of North Ossetia has launched a probe into the riots.

The riot erupted against the backdrop of a scandal about alleged torture and sexual abuse of inmates in the Saratov Oblast, in southwestern Russia.

Earlier this month, Gulagu.net, a project fighting human rights violations in Russia’s penitentiary system, published footage appearing to show FSB and Penitientary Service staff humiliating and sexually abusing inmates. The Russian Investigative Committee has launched multiple criminal cases after the tapes were published.

Around 200 prisoners took part in the riot at the First North Ossetia Correctional Colony. According to the penitentiary service, the riots were provoked by two inmates in a punitive isolation ward who refused to obey ‘the legitimate demands of the staff’.

Several prisoners told journalists that the riot occurred because prisoners held in punishment cells were beaten with clubs by the institution’s staff and special forces. According to them, several detainees slit their wrists in an attempt to stop the abuse before beginning the riot and breaking CCTV cameras.

On the morning of 16 October, Tamerlan Tsoyev, the Human Rights Commissioner for North Ossetia, said that the situation in the correctional facility had been stabilised and the unrest had stopped without the intervention of special forces.

However, the Commissioner also noted that there were a number of ‘infrastructural problems’ in the prison that should be addressed. According to him, no injuries were reported during the riots.

The Investigative Committee of North Ossetia has opened a criminal investigation for ‘organising and participating in mass riots’. Investigators have not yet published details on any suspects.

According to local media, 30 inmates were transferred to a maximum-security penal colony in the Republic of Daghestan after the riots, while a number of other prisoners are awaiting transfer to other regions.

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