Georgia's entire prison staff has been suspended in a sweeping move by President Mikhail Saakashvili, after video footage showing guards allegedly abusing inmates sparked massive protests across the country.
The top official in charge of prisons in Georgia was one of several prison officials to resign Wednesday in the wake of the uproar, while 10 others were arrested in connection with the investigation, The New York Times reported.
The video shows prisoners being severely beaten by prison staff, and one prisoner being sexually abused with a broom, BBC News reported. The New York Times reported that the object used to sodomize a prisoner appeared to be a police baton.
Protesters in several cities including Tbilisi, Batumi, Poti and Gori took to the streets Tuesday, and relatives of the abused inmates tried to storm the Gldan detention facility where the alleged abuses took place, RT News reported.
Saakashvili has dispatched police to all the country's prisons, and also called on Georgia's Interior Minister and Mister of Justice to step down, Radio Free Europe reported.
"There must be zero tolerance to any violations of human rights, because we are building a civilized and humane country, rather than discipline based on violence," the President said in a televised broadcast.
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Georgia's Minister of Corrections Khatuna Kalmakhelidze stepped down Wednesday following news of the scandal, Radio Free Europe reported.
Human rights activists denounced the abuse, which some members of the ruling government have speculated is a ploy by the opposition to put the ruling government in hot water ahead of October 1st elections, BBC reported.
“The abuse captured in this footage is profoundly disturbing,” said Giorgi Gogia, senior Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities need to ensure full accountability—including criminal accountability—for this abuse and take measures to prevent it from ever happening again.”
On Tuesday, the Interior Ministry opened an investigation into the abuse, HRW reported.