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Tugushi presents his first human rights report

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, April 2
Public Defender Giorgi Tugushi presented his annual report on the Human Rights Situation in Georgia to the Parliament on March 31. The report addressed the situation in the country during the second half of 2009, when the Public Defender’s Office encountered a variety of violations of human rights.

The report detailed all the results of monitoring conducted by the Office as part of the National Mechanism of Prevention in prisons, psychiatric clinics, orphanages, etc. The Public Defender outlined areas of concern and gave the Government recommendations.

“The monitoring highlighted the fact that the penitentiary system remains among the most burning issues for the country. Problems in this direction are generally caused by the huge number of prisoners and the non-provision of an appropriate infrastructure for them, which can be regarded as inhuman and an abuse of their respect. There is also a lack of availability of medical services in the penitentiary system which prevents prisoners receiving effective treatment. All these facts [of violation the human rights] have been demonstrated through appeals to the Public Defender’s Office and decisions made by the European Court,” the report said.

Tugushi’s report stressed that the number of complaints from prisoners who claim that their rights are being violated by the prison administration had risen. The monitoring also revealed a rising number of inadequately explained deaths in the penitentiary system, among which cases of doubtful suicide have become frequent. The report also discussed the functioning of the Interior Ministry and outlined a number of violations committed in previous years which had been the subject of procrastinated, inefficient investigations. Tugushi said that appeals made to his office had demonstrated procedural violations and violations of ethical codes by policemen.

“It is vital to ensure the fairness of the courts in each country in order to defend the rights of the citizens not only in a theoretical but actual way. Despite the claim that court reform is among the top priorities of our Government, there are still violations within this system,” said the report.

A variety of violations were found when monitoring psychiatric clinics. Bad living conditions there and a negative environment hampered the rehabilitation of the patients and reduced their chances of starting a new life within mainstream society. The report said that there were too many cases of violations of international standards in the orphanages. Old buildings, bad living conditions and an unsafe environment are all affecting children in the most negative way. The Public Defender said that this problem can’t be dealt with without ensuring that a thoughtful attitude is taken towards each child at the orphanage.

The Public Defender mentioned the issue of protests. “Attention is drawn to the report's comments on the possibility of efficiently implementing the laws on protests and the assessment of these. The second half of 2009 didn't see many protests, unlike the first half of the year, and therefore the situation in this respect was stable,” Tugushi said, stressing however that there are still some shortcomings in this area which need to be dealt with as some opposition activists were accused of violating the law on manifestations on November 23, 2009.

The report also mentioned restrictions on media workers conducting their professional activities and other violations in the social sphere, discussing the rights of IDPs, people with disabilities, property owners etc. “Despite particular positive steps by the Government of Georgia, IDPs are still facing a variety of unresolved problems such as a lack of information, medicine, food and financial support. The Ministry of Refugees should address all those problems and ensure safety in the conflict zones along with the International Community,” Tugushi stressed. “I hope that the Government will take active steps to eradicate all violations of human rights and generally try to improve the situation in this direction, which is the most important precondition for developing a fair state which has rule of law,” he concluded.

Gia Arsenishvili, Chairman of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee of the Georgian Parliament, couldn’t give specific opinion to the Defender’s report when asked by The Messenger, saying that the report is a very serious document which requires time to study. Davit Darchiashvili, Chair of the European Integration Committee of Parliament, explained that he would make comments as soon as he became more familiar with the whole report, adding that Members of Parliament have around a month to acquaint themselves with the report before starting to discuss it.

Asked for a general overview of the current human rights situation in Georgia, political analyst Malkhaz Chemia told The Messenger, “I can’t give specific examples from the Public Defender’s report but I can say the one thing for sure, that there are serious violations taking place in the judiciary system, which is so much biased towards the law enforcement systems nowadays,” Chemia told us.