Civil Society, various non-governmental organization as well as the Ombudsmen of Georgia have been highlighting the existing problems in the penitentiary institutions of Georgia for years. i.e. the facts of torture and inhuman treatment of prisoners. According to the large scale research conducted by Open Society Foundation Georgia majority of the prisoners interviewed (50-85%) highlighted that they were victims of torture and inhuman treatment. According to the respondents 75.4% of them were the victims of physical and 84.2% of psychological torture. Based on the research, it became obvious that torture and inhuman treatment was not the practice implemented in one given institution but was widely used all over the penitentiary institutions in Georgia. The Ombudsmen of Georgia have been bringing the cases of harassment to the surface for years by including them in the annual parliamentary reports and not only.
The footage published in 2012, confirmed the existing practice of torture in prisons one more time. After the new government came into office in Georgia many, and particularly former and existing prisoners have been highlighting their hope that on the one hand the practice of torture in the prisons would be extinguished and on the other all the officials being directly or indirectly (via giving our orders) involved in the cases of torture would be held responsible.
Regardless of the fact that there is high public interest on the issue unfortunately, till to date the information on the number of persons held responsible for the facts of torture and inhuman treatment in prisons is still unknown, hence the public is not informed on the issue. What has reached the public though, is the information on several well-known cases. i.e the case of 17 persons been detained for the torture of prisoners, two of which were held criminally responsible, the rest were given the chance to sign plea bargain agreements and Vladimer Bedukadze was not held responsible for the acts committed at all. Number of prisoners were also brought before the court. e.g. see the article of IDFI _ Court Decision on the Cases of Torture in Prisons. The article describes the case of colonel Sergo Tetradze. IDFI was also calling upon the government to investigate the cases of the death of prisoners envisaged in Ombudsmen Reports (see our article: Death Statistics in Penitentiary Institutions in Georgia). Regardless of the above mentioned, we still have no information on the scale of investigation conducted. Hence, the question on the systematic character of the practice of torture still needs to be answered.
In November 2014 IDFI has referred to the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia, LEPL “Crime Prevention Center” and LEPL “Legal Aid Service” with the aim of obtaining different statistical information on the cases of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment in penitentiary institutions of Georgia. Inter alia information on the number of complaints received by the institutions, number of officials held responsible for the acts of torture committed, as well as the information on the number of victims of the above-mentioned crimes was requested.
In should me emphasized that the Prosecutor’s office, as well as the Ministry of Corrections have provided us with incomplete information, i.e. not covering the period requested and failing give answers on the questions sent.
As for the LEPL “Legal Aid Service” the institutions failed to provide us with the information on the number of beneficiaries of the service, being victims of torture, or inhuman and degrading treatment in prisons, the reason being the fact that the service did not produce requested statistical information.
The Prosecutor’s Office
According to the information received from the prosecutor’s office of Georgia within the period of October the 1st 2012 till December the 31st 2013 the office received 2787 complaints on the cases of ill-treatment and torture conducted by the officials of Police, Penitentiary Department and the Prosecutor’s Office.
In addition, according to the information received in the year of 2013 investigation on the charges of inhuman and degrading treatment was open against 48 officials of the Penitentiary Department. 28 of these were held criminally responsible, while one was declared not guilty. No information was provided regarding the rest 18 accusations, but the text of the letter suggests that these officials were declared to be guilty only in part.
The prosecutor’s office did not provide us with the information on the number of victims of the above mentioned crimes committed. The reason for the latter, was highlighted to be the lack of statistical data on the issue.
The Ministry of Corrections of Georgia
According to the information received from the Ministry of Corrections of Georgia within the period of October the 20th 2012 till the date of receiving the FOI request, 116 persons were dismissed from the ministry. 32 of these on the charges of being convicted in torture and inhuman treatment of prisoners taking place before the October 20th 2012. The cases were sent to the prosecutors office for further investigation.
The Ministry also provided us with the information on the complains received regarding the facts of inhuman, degrading treatment and torture. Regardless of the content of our request, the information was provided for the period of October 2012 till “the first half of 2013” (the institute requested information until the end of November 2014). During the given period up to 1000 complaints was received by the ministry. In 200 instances the cases of inhuman and degrading treatment were investigated. Hence the information was sent to the Prosecutors’ Office for further insight.
LEPL Centre for Crime Prevention
According to the LEPL Center for Crime Prevention the number of applicants, identifying themselves to be the victims of torture or inhuman treatment in penitentiary institutions was equal to 65. Each applicant was provided with the service in need, such as assistance in dealing with health or mental problems, anger management, financing of small entrepreneurship, were provided with free ID cards and medicines, received psychological assistance, and etc.
After the footage of torture from prison cells was published in 2012, the belief that the facts of torture and inhuman, degrading treatment was well implemented practice in penitentiary institutions was inculcated in the society. This was added inter alia by the public statements of high officials currently in office, highlighting the existing problems. Nevertheless, till to date society has no comprehensive information on the results and scale of the investigations.
It should be emphasized one more time that the Government of Georgia (The prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Correction) has the responsibility top provide society on with a full fledge information on the issues of high public interests. Inter alia on the number of complaints received, actions taken and the number of persons been held responsible on the charges of torture and inhuman treatment.
It is not acceptable, when public institutions refuse to disclose information on the ground of lack of statistical data. We find it crucial for the Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Correction to produce and disclose the statistical data on the given issue of high public interest. This will reinforce the existence of well informed society, will assist the process of estimating the scale of the problems and stimulating well-grounded public debate on the issue.
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