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Physical Assault in Detention Settings

23.09.2009
Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti

Although Dimitri Shashkin, Minister of Penitentiary, Probation and Legal Aid, claims that inmates are not beaten, tortured or kept hungry in the prisons nowadays, the situation is getting worse in the detention settings. Several criminal prosecutions were initiated concerning physical assault and inhuman treatment of prisoners; however, despite enough proofs, the prosecutor has not punished anybody. Consequently, the personnel of the detention settings treat prisoners even more severely.

We Serve Georgia

According to the information of the Penitentiary Department released July 7, on July 6, 2009 seven juvenile prisoners raided a cell to protest the court judgment; they broke equipment in a cell in Kutaisi Prison N 2. Nobody was injured during the incident. An investigation started of the damage to state property. All seven inmates were taken to the strict regime prison in Tbilisi based on the decision of the penitentiary department. www.dop.gov.ge 

On July 7 a former Public Defender of Georgia Sozar Subari sent his representatives to the Kutaisi Prison N 2 .They studied the situation there. They investigated the reasons, details and result of the incident.

The representatives of the former Public Defender met the juvenile prisoners. According to their explanations, on July 6, 2009 at about 9:00 pm a jailor noticed that iron pieces had been taken out from the grating of cell N 102 and he called an employee of the department. The prisoners say they had a TV-set in their cell before and then gave it to the inmates of the next cell. Consequently, pieces of the lattice were removed for that reason.

About five employees of the department checked the cell however and could not find the pieces that were removed from the lattice. About 20 minutes later the employees of the department returned together with other colleagues and took the prisoners to the so-called quarantine building. At the entrance to the building prisoner L.L joked with another prisoner and an employee of the prison slapped him in the face. Other prisoners looked back at the noise and saw that one of the officers was holding L.L and another was beating him. Then the personnel of the prison took one of the prisoners by force to the wall and tried to strangle him.

Other juvenile prisoners protested the physical assault on the prisoner. They were ordered to return to the cell and then to meet the director of the prison. Finally, the juveniles were put back in their cells but they started to knock on the doors in protest. Inmates of the neighboring cells also joined them and created a huge noise in the prison. Afterwards, the prison director met them and the prisoners complained to him. The juveniles claimed they had insulted only the officer who had beaten the prisoner. After the meeting the juveniles calmed down and some of them even went to bed.

Although everything was calmed down, at about 2:00 am masked special unit soldiers rushed into the cells and ordered the prisoners to go out. Juveniles said they threatened to injure themselves in order to protect themselves; some of them even cut their arms.

The juveniles from three cells were taken into the corridor, ordered to put their hands on the wall and then were insulted and assaulted.

The prisoners were beaten with wet towels and locks. They were not allowed to move. They were made to put on the hats of the policemen and to say: “We serve Georgia.” Prisoners say the special unit soldiers beat the inmates of Cell N 102 the most severely--among them was L.L who fainted and fell down. After taking him out in the corridor, the special unit soldiers read the names of the seven prisoners of Cell N 102 and beat them most severely.  According to the prisoners, those 7 juveniles were standing with their hands on the wall for 5 hours. If they had moved, the special unit soldiers threatened to urinate on them if they moved and threatened to put them in the cell of so-called “hens” (the most cowardly inmates). After that, the juveniles were ordered to go through the so-called “corridor”—the space between lines of prison personnel and soldiers of the special unit--two times where the prison personnel and soldiers of the special unit beat them ruthlessly. Finally, they were taken to the quarantine building.

There were injuries on the bodies of the inmates; some of them did not have clothing, others lost shoes on the way to the quarantine building. Prisoners say the process was recorded by video-camera.

Official information released by the penitentiary department stated that nobody was injured during the incident.  The assertion was denied by Sozar Subari, .the former public defender. He stated that on July 7 his representatives examined the juvenile prisoners and discovered various injuries on the bodies of 12 inmates in Kutaisi Prison N 2 and the prison of strict regime.

According to him, representatives of the public defender visited 12 juvenile prisoners on July 8 too. Inmates of one of the cells were beaten several hours before their visit. Those prisoners said in explanatory letters to the public defender’s representatives that on July 8 at about 11:00 am they called the jailor because the sewerage system was stuck. Four men entered the cell ten minutes later; they ordered the juveniles to turn around and then started to beat them. Besides that the strangers were beating and spitting on them. Afterwards the four men threw everything away from their table and compelled them to clean the floor. Subari thinks the intimidation of the juvenile prisoners was degrading treatment and torture.

Prisoners Are Beaten in the Office of Prison Director

According to the Public Defender’s Office, several complaints about the previous 2 years were filed in their office from the Ksani jail N 7. The complaints were about the director Robert Arakelov and the prison administration who intimidate the prisoners. One incident happened on May 10, 2009.

Convict Nugzar Tabagari said in his explanation to the representatives of the public defender that on May 6 2009 he had applied to Robert Arakelov and informed him that he was going on an hunger-strike because of unbearable conditions in custody. On May 8 the administration moved him to another cell where he was alone. Then, convict Mikheil Chikhladze, who was on a hunger-strike, was put in his cell for the same reason.

Later, Mikheil Chikhladze felt ill and although Tabagari tried to call the doctor nobody paid attention to him. Mamuka Kenkebashvili, an employee of the administration, said he had called the doctor but he did not care whether the doctor would come. Ten minutes later prison personnel entered the cell and took Tabagari from it by physical assault.

Tabagari, the convict, stated that about 15-20 men were beating him. Among them were Mamuka Shalamberdize, head of the social service at the prison, and Lasha, the operator of the day. He was beaten in the head and neck. Tabagari explained that Mikheil Chikhladze witnessed the incident. Tabagari said other prisoners protested his physical assault and started shouting and demanded that the men leave him alone.

Tabagari was taken to cell N 22 where the assault continued. He was put in irons and taken to the office of Robert Arakelov. Mikheil Chikhladze also confirmed in his explanatory letter to the representatives of the public defender that Tabagari was beaten by the prison administration in the director’s room.

The Public Defender sent the convicts’ explanation letters to Mamuka Gvaramia, chief prosecutor of Georgia, for further reaction. Based on the ombudsman’s appeal an investigation was initiated and officially it has been going on for three months already, though in vain.  Nobody has been punished yet.

“Prisoners Are Taken to the Roof, They Take off and Then They Are Beaten”

The lawyer of the non-governmental organization Human Rights Centre Nino Andriashvili says that prisoners are beaten for different reasons.

“A few days ago I visited Tbilisi detention setting N 8 where prisoners said the prison personnel are always eager to find some reasons to beat them. Prisoners are taken to the roof, they are forced to take off their clothes and then they are beaten. A few days ago one prisoner requested meeting with the public defender to see the roof of the custody because trace of intimidation was still seen there. Yesterday prisoners said they are taken to the bathroom to be beaten. Prisoners are taken to the single cell, one prisoner was taken to the single cell because he wore short trousers”, said the attorney.

-When prisoners inform you about similar facts, are they subjected to more intimidation?

-When I get information about prisoners’ physical abuse or inhuman treatment, I appeal to the public defender’s office. As you know the public defender is allowed to visit detention setting any time and carry out monitoring there. After representatives of the public defender visit the custody prisoners are under the pressure: the prison personnel shout at them: “How did you dare to complain?” “What do not you like here? “, etc? The fact is that after complaining, the prisoners are treated more severely; consequently, many prisoners do not complain despite serious intimidation.”

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