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Kazakhstan: President Orders Detailed Follow-Up In Prison-Torture Video Scandal

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev announced on Twitter on July 31 that he has ordered a “thorough” investigation into the “torture” of inmates at a penitentiary in the village of Zarechny outside of Almaty. The scandal came to light after a series of videos were published on YouTube.

Toqaev tweeted that he has commanded the Ministry of Internal Affairs to “modernize” correctional institutions and to “strengthen civilian monitoring to prevent similar incidents.”

Interior Minister Erland Turgumbaev told reporters on July 30 that five prison employees have been placed in pre-trial detention over the incident at prison LA-155/8. He did not specify under which criminal charges. He stated that two of the 40 video and audio recordings made within the prison show the torture of prisoners, while the others depict abuse of power and authority and the violation of prison regulations.

In a July 30 interview with Current Time, Konstantin Gudauskas, head of the Coalition for Prisoners' Rights, predicted that a few more detentions could be expected shortly.

Interior Minister Turgumbaev also stated that the Ministry of Internal Affairs will check other correctional facilities and prison colonies about which there have been claims of torture. He maintained, though, that such behavior does not exist in other Kazakh penitentiaries.

Fourteen prison employees have been disciplined over the videos; seven have been fired.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has not released information about the condition of those prisoners beaten and tortured in the videos.

Gudauskas said that these inmates have been moved to a detention facility in Almaty for their safety.

Twenty-six-year-old prisoner Dmitry Artyushenko, who, in a video, stated that the abuse had led him to consider suicide, has been hospitalized at LA-155/8. He is under doctors’ supervision after swallowing “a foreign object,” Gudauskas said.

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