Protests erupt in the Republic of Georgia after the release of secret videotapes documenting physical, sexual and psychological abuse against prisoners.
Former prison guard Vladimir Bedukadze has leaked videos of the massive human rights abuses happening in prisons in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. He alleges the tapes were recorded in secret, while he was working in the prison. The videos, showing graphic footage of abuse and rape at the prison Gldani aired on Georgia’s television networks on Tuesday night. Protests and riots have reportedly broken out in multiple cities across Georgia in response to the videos, which spread virally throughout the nation and the world.
“While working in prison, I used to witness beating of prisoners, torture of prisoners, humiliation of prisoners on an everyday basis,” Vladimir Bedukadze told CNN.
The acts were recorded in four videos that were made public this week and show prisoners being physically and sexually assaulted, humiliated and verbally abused by prison officers.
Bedukadze left the country three months ago and is now seeking political asylum in Belgium in the wake of the tapes’ release.
The story is much bigger than that of a few bad guards, allegedly reaching all the way to the president, whom Bedukadze believes allowed the abuses to happen… Which is why Bedukadze is seeking political asylum in Belgium.
Bedukadze slammed the administration of President Mikheil Saakashvili, accusing the leader of allowing a “campaign of torture, humiliation” under former Interior Minister Bacho Akhalaia.
“I have been working in the system since 2001, but since 2005 when Akhalaia was put in charge, he introduced his criminal elements of leadership,” Bedukadze said.
Akhalaia stepped down from his position on Thursday, after the tapes were released, as has the minister of corrections. At least 3 prison employees have also reportedly been arrested.
Not everyone believes that Bedukadze has the purest intentions in exposing this abuse, claiming this is all a part of scheming by the opposing party, and that Bedukadze was paid off. CNN explains:
The country’s interior ministry on Tuesday blamed certain prison employees for the degrading treatment.
The ministry said a prisoner at the facility offered “substantial reimbursement” to employees for their actions and the video recordings. Its statement did not elaborate on the prisoner’s motivation.
The payment allegedly coming from the opposition party is denied by Bedukadze, who says he is leaving the country independently.
While the situation in Georgia is a confounding mess, one thing seems true: Prisoners were abused, humiliated, beaten and raped, and it was all caught on tape. This seems like a bizarre way to create a scandal for your political opponent (one would think that there would be much less confusing, dangerous and traumatic means of getting your opponent out of office), and beyond that, we know that prisons are often places of gross human rights abuses—violence, rape, murders—so it isn’t hard to imagine these things are true.
What do you think of the prison scandal in Georgia? Do you believe that an exposé like this could change the apathy of Americans toward the human rights abuses allegedly happening in the United States’ prison systems?
Image of the president of Georgia courtesy of Wikipedia