Joint letter to the Georgian authorities concerning cruel and humiliating treatment and lack of investigation thereof in Georgia

Open Letter

In a joint letter addressed today to the Georgian authorities, FIDH and its member organisation in Georgia, Human Rights Centre (HRIDC), express their concern over a growing number of allegations of cruel and humiliating treatment inflicted in places of detention in Georgia.

Dear Prime Minister,
Dear Minister of Internal Affairs,
Dear Prosecutor General,

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) has been alerted by our member organisation in Georgia, Human Rights Centre (HRIDC), of a growing number of allegations of cruel and humiliating treatment inflicted in places of detention in Georgia.

According to a report of the Public Defender of Georgia presented to the Parliament in 2016, among 35 cases referred to the Public Defender, up to date no alleged perpetrator was brought charges and no complainant received a formal victim status. In five cases, the investigation discontinued due to the absence of corpus delicti. In other cases studied by the HRIDC, investigation was either not opened or has been delayed without substantial reason. We have been recently informed that the number of alleged ill-treatment cases as of today has reached 60. Below you will find a description of one of the most recent ill-treatment case S.M. that requires your utmost attention. For the purpose of victim’s protection, his identity is rendered anonymous but available upon request to the Human Rights Centre.

Our organisations would also like to express our utmost concern regarding the statement by the Minister of Interior concerning the work of the Public Defender of Georgia in defence of S.M. We would like to remind that it is namely the role of the office of the Public Defender - as conceived in democratic political systems - to address complaints of maladministration or a violation of rights of any citizen.

By the same token, we would like to draw your attention to the case of physical assault on lawyer Giorgi Mdinaradze by former head of the Vake-Saburtalo district police unit No. 5 Lasha Kvirkvaia4. On 23 October 2017, Tbilisi City Court found Lasha Kvirkvaia guilty under Article 333, part I of the Criminal Code of Georgia on abuse of power and imposed a fine amounting to GEL 10 000.

While the judgment confirms the concerns mentioned above over the rooting of the practice of cruel and degrading treatment by police officers, the case is illustrative of the fact that instances of the use of excessive physical force are not qualified by the prosecution as such but rather as "abuse of power" that conceals the element of violence used by police officers and discharges them thereof. Secondly, the fact that lawyers whose integrity is protected by law find themselves as targets of physical assaults while performing their duty implies the extent of the problem on average citizens.

Our organisations remind that in accordance to the Article 17 of the Constitution of Georgia5 and in accordance to the Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights6, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment are absolutely prohibited actions, and the state has positive and negative responsibilities with regard thereto. Thus the state is not only obliged to prevent torture, inhuman and degrading treatment but also to impartially and effectively investigate allegations thereof.

Our organisations thus call on the Ministry of Interior to ensure a prompt and impartial investigation of cases brought to date to the attention of the prosecutors and to ensure efficient investigation of any future complaints.

Our organisations also call for the establishment of an independent mechanism to investigate and prosecute facts of inhuman or degrading treatment. We would therefore appreciate if you could meet representatives of our member organisation for that purpose. A meeting would also allow discussing the most urgent cases of ill-treatment that for the sake of concision were not mentioned in this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Dimitris Christopoulos
President of FIDH

Aleko Tskitishvili
Director of Human Rights Centre (HRIDC)

Annex: Description of the case of S.M

On 22 September 2017, police officers tortured S.M in the police unit in order to obtain his confession. Upon bringing S.M to the police office, the officers started intimidating him with an aim to force him to self-incriminate a crime he had not committed. Namely, the police officers, through verbal and physical intimidation demanded him to sign a confession statement that has been drafted for him by police officers. The detainee refused to admit the crime and asked for the lawyer, yet police officers did not satisfy the request. During the trial, marks suggesting S.M has been subject to physical violence were clearly visible, yet the prosecutor did not request for a forensic expertise. The investigation into the ill-treatment fact is being protracted. S.M still has not received a victim status. S.M is legally represented by Human Rights Centre’s lawyer.

Moreover, instead of opening an investigation into the alleged fact of ill-treatment, the Minister of Internal Affairs responded to the statement of the Public Defender1 in an insulting manner calling, calling the latter an “officer who justifies criminals”.

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