The messenger logo

Public Defender stands by prison concerns

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, April 13
The Public Defender’s office made a statement in response to Tato Kelbakiani’s (assistant of the Chair of the penitentiary department) interview, on April 12, where the office presented figures and facts against Kelbakiani, who had described the bulk of the Ombudsman’s report regarding the Ministry of Probation and Legal Assistance as groundless.

“A significant part of Ombudsman’s report has been dedicated to the problems existing in the Ministry and these problems have been represented based on concrete facts and arguments. The first issue is the increase in prisoners’ deaths; we categorically deny the viewpoint that the growth of death rate is proportional with an increase of prisoners’ numbers. The average level of prisoners' deaths in prison per year in Europe is 33.2 for every 10 000 imprisoned while this indicator is 53.3 in Georgia, “the statement reads. The second issue the statement touched upon was the alleged artificial decrease of the number of dead prisoners, “the list of dead prisoners delivered by the Ministry of Probation and Legal Assistance does not include the names of those prisoners, who died in different hospitals of the city. This happened with the dead prisoner, Nadim Tsetskhladze, who was not in the list. The US State Department’s Human Rights report, which used the data given by the Ministry, says that a total of 75 prisoners died in 2010 in Georgian prisons, which is not the correct figure, as the number was 142.” Significant part of the statement has been dedicated to health related problems of the prisoners, where it has been mentioned that the prisoners are taken to hospitals with complicated forms of illnesses, when treatment is belated, “in most cases if treatment were carried out timely, the prisoners would have been alive.” Thus, more and active involvement of health servants in the Ministry’s issues would be recommended by the Ombudsman’s office.

As , Giorgi Targamadze, leader of Christian-Democratic Movement, has stated , the same issue was very prominent in COE’s 40 page report on monitoring current Georgian issues (the discussion of the report started yesterday), “ the document directly underlines that the criminal code in Georgia is too strict , as a result of which Georgian prisons are full with prisoners, which imposes a violation of human rights. There are direct recommendations for courts not to adopt inadequate punishments on small crimes.”

According to analyst Mamuka Areshidze, the US will have a strict conversation with Georgian authorities, “the US administration does not like when its voters say- why is the money I pay for taxes being spent on that country which violates human rights? “The analyst stated and mentioned that Georgian Ombudsman’s report has played an important role in US state departments human rights report, “it is known that Giorgi Tughushi (current Ombudsman of Georgia) was a government’s candidate. However Tughushi has chosen Sozar Subari’s way (former Ombudsman) and he does not hide the truth. It is a serious blow for the Government; however he is an interesting part of the diplomatic missions, which are observing the processes ongoing in Georgia. I cannot say anything on these results, however I am sure that the US administration will not create discomfort with its voters and will have serious talks with the Georgian ruling forces.”

Based on the interview given by Kelbakiani, a significant part of the report dedicated to the penitentiary system has no arguments, “the figure is real (meaning that 142 prisoners were dead in 2010) however the percent indicator is wrong. The increasing of the death rate is proportional to the growth of prisoners’ numbers. For example, in 2004, 43 prisoners died when the total number of imprisoned people was 8000. There will not be the same death rate indicator for 15 000 and for example, for 24 000 prisoners.” He has also called it an “irresponsible statement” that the exact number of dead prisoners is being hidden,” it has no bearing where the prisoner dies; he will be in the list. These statements are just speculation and nothing more, I could not hear any concrete facts.”