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Statement on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is marked on June 26. Given that the Public Defender performs the functions of the National Preventive Mechanism under the OptionalProtocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,InhumanorDegrading TreatmentorPunishment, we would like to once again underline the main challenges in this direction.

The effective fight against torture and ill-treatment implies both the existence of proper legislation and its effective enforcement. Legislation should clearly prohibit any form of torture or ill-treatment, and all persons deprived of their liberty should be provided with appropriate safeguards, while legislative norms should be strictly enforced.

The Public Defender often refers to the importance of implementation of the Istanbul Protocol, which provides for the timely and complete documentation of the injuries of all detainees and provision of information to the relevant independent investigative body. In this regard, the quality of documentation of injuries remains a challenge in the system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia; the detection of cases of alleged ill-treatment and provision of information to an independent investigative body remains problematic in the penitentiary system as well.

Detainees continue to report the use of excessive force during detention and the cases of physical and psychological abuse after detention. Such cases are especially common in relation to persons under administrative detention. Out of 429 suspicious cases examined by the Special Preventive Group, each third person under administrative detention indicated that they were injured during and/or after detention. In addition, the timely access to a lawyer and information on the rights are still not adequately ensured. The lack of obligation of using body cameras and the fact that the premises of law enforcement agencies, where detainees/citizens are placed, are not fully covered by video surveillance system, also remain problematic.

Some prisoners point to violence by staff in penitentiary establishments. At the same time, according to the Public Defender, the isolation of a prisoner for a long time, including in the de-escalation room, lack of proper conditions and/or the failure to timely provide them with necessary medical services equals inhuman and degrading treatment. Another challenge is violence among prisoners, the risks of which are exacerbated by criminal subculture and informal governance in some of the establishments.

The situation in psychiatric institutions is equally worth noting in terms of ill-treatment. Large-size psychiatric facilities, where people with mental health problems have to live in poor sanitary conditions, represent a challenge. The insufficient number and low qualifications of the staff lead to rude treatment and neglect of patients, as well as conflicts and violence between patients. Chemical and/or physical restraints are often used.

One of the main challenges over the years has been the effective investigation of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. In 2019, the Public Defender's Office examined in detail the case materials of several dozen investigations carried out by the Prosecutor's Office. The examination showed that the investigation failed to meet the standards of effective investigation.

On November 1, 2019, the State Inspector's Office was granted the function of an independent investigative mechanism. It is welcome that the Office actively cooperates with the Public Defender's Office and provides detailed information on the activities carried out in individual cases. The Public Defender's Office continues to closely monitor the activities of the State Inspector's Office and hopes that the Office will respond adequately and transparently to the challenges of effective investigation of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

The Public Defender once again reminds and urges the state authorities, in addition to effectively investigating torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and ensuring rehabilitation of victims, to take systematic and individual measures to prevent torture or other forms of ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberties.

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