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Prison Rape Scandal Rocks Georgia

By Etuna Tsotniashvili and Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, September 20
Penitentiary system failure

The President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili has called the latest prison abuse scandal a “horrific affront to human rights and human dignity,” while referring to the Gldani No. 8 prison abuse video released late on Tuesday night.

“I tell all the victims of these inhuman actions and the whole nation that the Georgia we have built and we are all building together shall not and will not tolerate such behavior in its prisons or anywhere else,” Saakashvili said.

The President emphasized that he will not let “criminals commit such crimes in the penitentiary system.”

Saakashvili, who has frequently underscore that criminals, corruption and torture have already been eradicated in the country, stated that the whole idea of our new Georgia stands against this violence, which is a reminiscence of our past that shall be and will be eradicated.

A special sitting has also been held with various government members after the statement. During the meting the President stated that the penitentiary system should be completely modified and opened, there would be a permanent representative of the public defender in prisons, (the public defender has been asking for this for years), patrol police should come to prisons temporally instead of prison employees and the family members of prisoners should be enabled to see and talk with their family member detainees.

The president gave a task to the prime minister to look after the system and make order there as he did in Interior Ministry.

NSC chief says it was authorities “big” mistake

Secretary of the National Security Council (NSC), Giga Bokeria, said that the authorities made a “big” mistake when they did not assess the prison conditions in a period where there have been so many alerts from the public defender. Bokeria noted that everybody is shocked to see those videos and stressed that all those involved will be strictly punished.

Prison Minister resigns

Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia, Khatuna Kalmakhelidze has notified the prime minister about her resignation and he has approved this request.

According to her, she had no information regarding the “horrifying” incidents occurring within the system. She claimed that she had done her best during her ruling period to ensure the protection of prisoners’ rights and for establishing European standards in Georgian prisons.

However, according to her, this was not enough.

Kalmakhelidze did not speak about her responsibility regarding the incidents. However, she hoped that all those responsible for the shocking crime would be punished.

In the meantime, Deputy Interior Minister Gia Lortkipanidze has been appointed as the acting Minister of Corrections.

PM guarantees to eradicate torture in prisons

Prime Minister of Georgia, Vano Merabishvili, claimed that he will personally ensure the eradication of torture and humiliation in Georgian prisons. He called the latest incident “outrageous” and promised that all criminals will be arrested and will stand trial.

“I personally guarantee that like we did in the police system - you know that no such facts are taking place in police for a long time already – I will personally secure that torture and acts against human dignity are eradicated in this [penitentiary] system,” Merabishvili said while meeting with the President.

Public Defender releases a special statement

Public Defender of Georgia, Giorgi Tughushi, who responded and condemned the horrifying prison incidents, immediately emphasized that the Gldani prison No. 8 is not an exception in the system of corrections in terms of ill-treatment.

The public defender reminded law enforcement bodies that such facts take place in the Gldani Establishment No. 8 “on a regular basis”. Practically from the day the prison opened.

The public defender also expressed hopes that this time, law enforcement bodies will do their best to identify and punish all those who took part in the beatings and those who were complicit in the inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners.

NGOs slam prison abuse

16 NGOs operating in Georgia have made a special statement concerning the videos. According to them, the problem of inhumane treatment persists not only with the penitentiary but with the system of the Interior Ministry as well, as confirmed by acts of mass violence perpetrated by the police arrested in relation to the significant political events of May 26, 2011, June 15, 2009 and November 7, 2007.

The NGOs repeated the claims of the public defender that prisoners’ rights have been violated for years without adequate responses from state structures. The NGOs underscored that the government “must take” concrete measures immediately. Those measures include a fair investigation of violation facts in prisons, ensuring the safety of those persons who spread the videos, punishment of all involved individuals, including high ranking officials, as “it is virtually impossible that such a systemic and massive violation of human rights occurred without their involvement” and addressed international organizations, diplomatic corps and the public defender to monitor the investigation process.

Patriarch makes special statement

Georgian patriarch Ilia II has made a special statement regarding the prisoner torture incident in Gldani prison yesterday. Ilia called on the government to form a special commission, which will be in charge of investigating torture in prisons and guarantee the protection and rights of inmates.

“On my behalf and on behalf of the Holy Synod, we have addressed all of Georgia. Yesterday and today, we have seen horrifying video footage depicting what is going on in our prisons. We condemn this and call on society to form a special commission, which will investigate these facts and work to provide defense of the rights of prisoners. We are deeply sorry that such incidents have taken place in Georgia,” the patriarch announced.