Public Debate: Ill- Treatment in Penitentiary Establishments - How Adequate is the State Response?

On January 30, 2015, the Public Defender held a public debate on the topic: “Ill-treatment in penitentiary establishments – how adequate is the state response?” The debate was moderated by representative of the international organization Human Rights Watch in Georgia Giorgi Gogia.

In the opening speech of the event, Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili briefly talked about acuteness of the topic and importance of holding discussion on the issue; representative of the EU to Georgia Eva Pastrana stated that the European Union supports the Public Defender in realization of activities aimed at protection of human rights, including activities necessary to prevent ill-treatment in penitentiary establishments. Also, she spoke about necessity of establishment of the independent investigative mechanism.

Head of the Department of Prevention and Monitoring of the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia Nika Kvaratskhelia presented a special report in where he made generally reviewed state obligations on prevention of torture and other ill-treatment. Also, he stressed importance of conduction of effective, independent and impartial investigation and provision of safety protection for potential victims. He discussed shortcomings that were revealed during inspection conducted by the National Preventive Mechanism in penitentiary establishments, including inadequate keeping of a journal of damages, delays in conduction of medical-forensic examination, short-term keeping of surveillance camera recordings. All these factors prevent from finding important evidences.

The First Deputy Minister of Corrections of Georgia Kakha Kakhishvili said that facts of ill-treatment only occur in separate cases. Though, he agreed to the position of the Public Defender that the problem needs comprehensive examination and systemic changes. With this respect, an important step forward would be to establish guiding principles of video-monitoring that are already developed and are be put in practice in the near future. At that, the Deputy Minister talked about future structural changes in the Ministry of Corrections and the Penitentiary Department.

Head of the Division of Human Rights Protection of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia Maia Kvirikashvili discussed investigation-hindering conditions; the most frequently encountered ones among such are: refraining from giving a witness statement on the part of a convict; also, non-existence of video materials and comprehensive medical records.

Regional Director for the South Caucasus Office of the Penal Reform International Tsira Chanturia talked about necessity of conduction of complex events aimed at elimination of violence culture established in the penitentiary system; as well as, international standards of combating torture and other kinds of ill-treatment and prospects of establishment of these standards in the Georgian context.

Other issues discussed at the conference included necessity of establishment of independent instigative mechanism, the issue of granting the National Preventive Mechanism the right to conduct photo-video and audio recordings for prevention of torture and other ill-treatment.

At the end of the debate, the attending representatives of the public, government and non-governmental, students became engaged in a discussion.

The monthly debates of the Public Defender of Georgia are held with the financial support of the EU project “Support to the Public Defender”.

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