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Georgia’s Prosecutor’s Office has charged five former employees of Tbilisi and Rustavi prisons with ‘inhumane and degrading treatment’.
In a 21 November statement, the Prosecutor’s Office asserted that between 2011–2012, the Legal Regime Chief of Tbilisi’s Gldani District Prison #8, responsible for directly supervising all prisoners, and two of his subordinates would routinely ‘physically assault prisoners and put them in degrading conditions to punish and intimidate them’.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the three subjected prisoners to violence ‘of a systematic character, aimed at their unquestioning obedience’.
They claim prisoners were ‘illegally denied the right to walk, make phone calls, were denied medical services, and their time for sleep and rest was limited’.
In addition, two employees of Rustavi Prison #6 have been charged accused of ignoring rules and ‘developing their own rules of treatment to prisoners’.
The Prosecutor’s Office claimed that the prison administration would confiscate personal hygiene items and bed linen, forcibly removed prisoners’ clothes, and keep prisoners naked in isolated cells with low temperatures for several days at a time.
The abuse was systematic in this case as well, the Prosecutor’s Office added.
According to them, 800 prisoners who served their sentences in a number of different prisons were questioned as part of the investigation.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, criminal investigations have been launched into 72 former employees of Georgia’s prison system, including 7 prison heads and 8 deputy heads.
They say that ‘all the above-mentioned crimes were committed before October 2012’.
In the run-up to 2012 parliamentary elections, a number of videos depicting abuse of prisoners were leaked to Georgian TV channels. This resulted in large protests, and have been widely attributed to contributing to the defeat of the ruling United National Movement party, with billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream party winning in a landslide.
Despite promises of reform, the prison system has still faced criticism from independent watchdogs such as the Public Defender. In a 2016 report, the Public Defender pointed to 2013 proposals to establish an independent investigative body to investigate incidents of deprivation of life, torture, and inhumane and degrading treatment allegedly committed by law-enforcement bodies and in prisons.
‘This recommendation has yet to be fulfilled’, the report added.