State Duma deputies from United Russia have blocked an initiative from the Communist Party (KPRF) to launch a parliamentary investigation into the rape and torture of inmates in Russia, following public outcry in response to the release of a large video archive containing scenes of violence at a prison hospital in the Saratov region.
In a speech on the Duma floor on Thursday, KPRF lawmaker Alexey Kurinny argued that the leaked evidence and regular reports of such assaults in federal penitentiaries justify an inquiry by the State Duma’s Security and Anti-Corruption Committee and formal questions sent to Russia’s Justice Ministry, Investigative Committee, and Attorney General’s Office. By law, the parliament is empowered to investigate egregious violations of constitutional rights and the causes and consequences of manmade disasters. (The actions of the president, the courts, and investigative agencies, however, are not subject to parliamentary inquiries.)
The committee’s deputy chairman, United Russia deputy Anatoly Vyborny, objected to KPRF’s proposal, pointing out that the Justice Ministry is already reviewing the torture incidents and federal investigators have already opened multiple felony cases. Involving the parliament, Vyborny added, could interfere with judicial procedures, which would be illegal.
Lawmakers rejected KPRF’s initiative, 261 votes (including 258 United Russia deputies) to 96 (including one United Russia deputy, Alexander Polyakov).
In early October, the human rights group Gulagu.net released several video clips that show incidents of physical and sexual abuse in Russian prisons. According to Gulagu.net founder Vladimir Osechkin, these videos were just a fraction of a 40-gigabyte “archive” leaked to human rights activists by a former inmate, and the group has received even more videos since then.
After Gulagu.net’s revelations, federal officials launched seven felony investigations into sexual assault and abuse of power. Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service subsequently dismissed five officials in the Saratov region, including the local division chief and the head of the prison hospital where the torture footage was reportedly recorded.
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