Facts of Torture, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment in Georgia
In Georgia, the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment is enshrined in both national legislation and international obligations. Even so, all of these still occur in Georgia. Human rights defenders particularly point to 'the impunity syndrome,' which also results in ineffective investigation. The report of the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on the visit to Georgia in 2010, also annual reports of the Georgia’s Public Defender, notably the 2010 Report, highlights the same problem.
Friday, 29 July 2011
Human rights defenders note the main causes of ill-treatment on the one hand can be partial and biased investigation carried out by judicial and law enforcement bodies and on the other hand the legislation gaps in terms of fight against ill treatment, which further assists the ineffective investigation and impunity syndrome.
“After the Rose Revolution, in 2003-2004 the facts of ill-treatment increased, though in 2005 reforms started in the penitentiary system and since then the number of inhuman treatment in custodies has significantly decreased. Nevertheless, the problems still exists, as there is no political will to punish those responsible for the crimes,” said Ucha Nanuashvili, the Executive Director of the Human Right Center.
“According to the new Criminal Procedural Code of Georgia, victims are no longer part of the criminal procedures and now they are invited to the court as witnesses. The current situation about the facts of ill-treatment- the high tendency of impunity and on the other hand the obligation of state to fight against it - entitles Georgia to take significant steps to enhance its fight against the impunity on the legislative level. With this purpose torture victims shall have additional rights to sue the violator,” said the lawyer from the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Eka Khutsishvili.
According to the Public Defender’s 2010 Report degrading treatment and use of disproportionate force by law enforcement officers when implementing their duties, remain a pressing problem. The Ofﬁce of Public Defender revealed cases of using excessive force against detainees and cases of arbitrary detention of individuals, including juveniles. The reports of Public Defender for 2009 stated that facts of inhuman and degrading treatment by the MIA officers were speciﬁcally frequent in the Western Georgia. This tendency continues to be problematic in 2010 as well.
According to the Georgian law if law enforcement officer uses disproportionate force, he should prove that it was proportional and inevitable.
According to the information provided by Chairman of the Penitentiary Department of the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Aid of Georgia during 2010, 21603 person were placed in pretrial detention isolators in total, out of which 13009 were detained under criminal law; 7684 were detained under administrative law; 2839 were imprisoned under administrative law; 19 were female juveniles and 437 were male juveniles. Throughout 2010, 856 detainees complained about excessive use of force against them during the detention, out of which 85 detainees stated that injuries were inﬂicted during detention.
In 2011, the number of prisoners increased at 2,586. More precisely, by June 1, 2011 there were 23,968 inmates in the penitentiary settings of Georgia, out of which 22, 597 were male and 1162- female; 94 serve life sentence, 209 were juveniles, 368 of them are foreigner. By May of 2011 the number of inmates with conditional sentence was 35 152.
Lawyer Giorgi Gotsiridze from the Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association (GYLA) speaks about the use of disproportionate force by riot police officers during dispersal of the May 26 Rally. “Every eye-witnesses interviewed by the GYLA confirm that at 12:00 midnight and even earlier the police blocked all surrounding streets and roads from where the rally-participants could leave the area outside the parliamentary building. According to the OSCE guidelines on freedom of peaceful assembly, participants shall have reasonable time and safe exit to leave the area prior to the intervention of the police. The participants should have been informed about exit(s) and notified that if they choose not to dismiss they may be subjected to detention. In this particular case police blocked all streets and participants did not have an opportunity to follow the instructions of the police officers on willful dismissal which made the warnings completely pointless; in addition, excessive force was used against the detainees,” said Giorgi Gotsiridze.
July 15, 2011, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia reported to the Public Defender of Georgia that 16 police officers who participated in the dispersal of the protesters in the Rustaveli Avenue on May 26, 2011, were subjected to disciplinary punishment. The Ministry used different disciplinary sanctions against them, including dismissal of four police officers from their positions.
The Convention against Torture (OPCAT) entitles Georgia to undertake all effective measures to fight against ill-treatments, particularly investigate all facts of ill-treatments, punish offenders and give compensation to victims.
Investigation in general and particular of the facts of torture and inhuman treatment is responsibility of the prosecutor’s office. The lawyers state one of the main problems in relation with the investigation of inhuman treatment is incorrect qualification of the crime – mostly criminal prosecution is launched for the abuse of power instead torture and ill-treatment; the former is a professional crime and is punished by less severe sanctions.
“The ineffective investigation of ill-treatment facts is still problem in Georgia, which results into an impunity syndrome and frustrates to solve the problem. The impunity has already became systematic problem, which can hinder all other achievements of the country”, said Natia Imnadze, head of the department of prevention and monitoring in Public Defender’s Office.
“One of my clients, convicted I.M. has mental problems and he serves his term in the Rustavi prison # 17 together with other inmates. He tried to commit suicide three times in the custody; he permanently hears voices and shall be immediately placed in mental hospital but it has not been done yet,” said lawyer Nino Andriashvili from the Human Rights Center.
Another case about the inadequate psychiatric treatment was already sent to the European Court of Human rights.
Human rights defenders note that mostly prisoners avoid speaking about inhuman treatment openly. “In some cases, they are waiting for plea-bargain or more generosity from the prosecutor’s office and think complaining about ill-treatment might complicate their situation. So, they refuse to file complaints about it. However, the injuries on their bodies demonstrate ill-treatment towards them,” said Natia Imnadze from the Public Defender’s Office.
She added there is faulty practice when investigation is not launched without victim’s appeal regardless the injuries of the prisoner.
Psychologist Lela Tsiskarishvili said a person can be tortured in the 21st century without leaving any particular trace on his/her body.
“Torture is assault on the most important part of the person – on the body. Victims of ill-treatment, as a rule, feel themselves degraded and are angry because they became targets of ill-treatment and have feeling of injustice. In addition, they are extremely scared. If at least one perpetrator is punished for ill-treatment, the victims will feel themselves safer,” said Tsiskarishvili.
It is noteworthy that international society acknowledges that the right of a person not to be subjected to torture is absolute right and its prevention can be justified neither by high public necessity or emergency situation.