516. By letter dated 2 September 2002, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received further information on the conditions of detention in Georgia (E/CN.4/2002/76/Add.1, para. 533) and on the relevant legislation regarding the treatment of prisoners. According to this information, although the Criminal Procedural Code and other legislative acts prohibit torture and degrading treatment, the existing laws are not properly implemented. It was reported that according to the legislation a person is not considered to be detained from the moment of arrest, but from the moment he or she is brought to a police station and a detention order is issued. As a result, persons under arrest are said to remain unprotected by the law guaranteeing detainees’ rights for a lapse of time that might last for several hours. Moreover, it was alleged that the Criminal Procedural Code does not specify the status of a detainee within the 12 first hours of police custody. Reportedly, a detainee must be interrogated within 24 hours after he or she is recognized as a suspect and may be required to undergo a medical examination only after interrogation. Finally, it was reported that law enforcement officials responsible for acts of ill- treatment are not punished. It was alleged that, according to article 242 of the Criminal Code, as amended in May-June 1999, accused persons are deprived of the right to make a claim to the Court in relation to ill-treatment perpetrated during investigation.
517. By the same letter, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had also received information according to which Jehovah's Witnesses, and other minority religions such as Baptists and Pentecostals, have become targets of violence. The deputy head of Tbilisi police was reported to have refused on three occasions to confirm that police forces would protect Jehovah's Witnesses from further attacks in an interview with a journalist on 8 February 2001. A Supreme Court decision on 22 February 2001 upholding a lower court's decision to revoke the registration of two Jehovah's Witness entities with the Georgian Ministry of Justice is feared to have further contributed to a climate encouraging subsequent attacks on Jehovah's Witnesses. On 16 March 2001 the Procurator General of Georgia reportedly issued an instruction for an investigation to be carried out by Tbilisi City Procuracy into allegations of violence committed by Basil Mkalavishvili and his followers (E/CN.4/2002/76/Add.1, para. 564). However, none is said to have been punished for any of the attacks on religious minority groups, despite testimonies by eye-witnesses and video evidence. Several Protestant leaders are said to be reluctant to publicize incidents of harassment as a result of the apparent impunity for such attacks.
518. By letter dated 15 November 2002, the Government informed that in conformity with the Law on Imprisonment of Georgia and corresponding subordinate relevant legislation, prisoners are entitled to living space. Food, clothes, medical service, safe labour conditions, unrestricted meetings with a lawyer, telephone conversations, to receive and sent correspondence, packets, parcels and money under the control of the administration. The Government also informed that prisoners have also the right to enjoy to their leisure time and have access to a series of activities, including religious activities. The Government further assured that they enjoy the right to lodge complaints on illegal activities allegedly committed against them. According to the Government, upon arrival to the penitentiary, the prisoners must be informed in written of their rights and rules of treatment. Further, the living space for the detainee must be correspondent to constructing-technical, sanitarian and hygienic norms and has to ensure conditions needed for health protection of prisoners. On the other hand, the Government has acknowledged that living conditions in penitentiaries give rise to serious concerns mainly due to financial restrictions. This is particularly true in jail no. 5, where the poor and overcrowded condition deteriorated after the April 2002 earthquake. The Government also informed that the current medical service in penitentiaries needs urgent settlement. However, according to the Government, despite the hard living conditions in Georgian penitentiaries, torture or inhuman degrading treatment does not exist.
519. Regarding the criminal procedure, the Government confirmed that a person is only considered detained from the moment s/he is brought to a police station and an arrest order is made. The Government also acknowledged that as to the rights of a person deprived of liberty during first 12 hours following arrest, the current legislation is rather vague. Indeed, the law gives no definite provisions as to the rights of the persons deprived of their liberty before criminal proceedings are opened. Equally, it is not clear why a detainee is not allowed to require medical examination upon arrival to the place of inquiry and before the first interrogation takes place. Further, the Government admitted that recent amendments to the Criminal Procedural Code have not improved it. Conscious that its procedural legislation is currently not satisfactory, the Government has informed that a new Criminal Procedure Code is presently being elaborated.
520. Regarding allegations on violence against minority religions, while the Government informed that activities of various religious groups are to be regulated by passing a specific law, it has also acknowledged that a change of mentality of the Georgian society, which sees the Georgian Orthodox Church as a keystone of independent Georgian State and other religions as a threat against the foundation of the State, is needed. The Government is currently considering urgent steps to guarantee the equality and freedom of all religions before the law. In addition, a series of criminal proceedings were instituted following assaults against various religious minorities. In accordance with a decision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor-General’s Office, seven criminal cases were joined in a single one, which was heard by the Tbilisi Circuit Court on 25 October 2002. The latter decided to continue the trial. A criminal case against defrocked priest Basil Mkalavishvili was also transferred to the Tbilisi Circuit Court on 5 October 2001.
521. By the same letter, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information on the following incidents, to which the Government responded by letter dated 11 November 2002.
522. In an attack on 6 March 2001 in the town of Sachkhere, the mayor and local police reportedly refused to intervene when alerted that Jehovah's Witnesses were being attacked by a group of about 150 men. Four Orthodox priests are reported to have led the group of men, who were said to have invaded the home of Alexi Ichkitidze, a Jehovah's Witness, and assaulted him and his wife Nana, as well as a friend, Savle Gotsadze. The day before, a smaller group of about 20 men was reported to have physically assaulted four Jehovah's Witnesses in Sachkhere.
523. The Government informed the Special Rapporteur that on 11 April 2002, criminal proceedings had been instituted on illegal interference in performing religions ritual and violence. However, the preliminary investigation was ceased because of lack of evidences. This decision was later reexamined by the Regional and General Prosecutors Offices who found it legal.
524. On 17 June 2001, a group of around 60 supporters of the defrocked priest Basil Mkalavishvili reportedly attacked the Ortachala congregation of men, women and children in Tbilisi. The group reportedly illegally entered a private home where a religious meeting was being held, by smashing down the front door and breaking windows. Several items of furniture, personal belongings, and hundreds of pieces of religious literature were reportedly seized and burned outside. Reportedly, men were beaten with wooden clubs, and one woman had her dress ripped by an attacker who then threatened to strip her and parade her naked in the street. Giorgi Kiknavelidze, along with a number of others, allegedly required medical treatment for bleeding and bruising after having been severely beaten. Two police officers when arriving at the scene of the attack reportedly stated: “If we had known that this was an attack on you ‘people’ we would not have bothered to come.”
525. The Government informed the Special Rapporteur that criminal proceedings had been instituted on 22 June 2001 by Prosecutor’s Office of Mtatsminda-Krtsanisi district for interference with performing religious rites by Jehovah Witnesses, on damage and destruction of property and physical violence. The case was subsequently sent to Prosecutor’s Office of Tbilisi, where similar cases were already under investigation. The case was sent back to Mtatsminda-Krtsanisi district Prosecutor’s Office where investigation was underway at the time the Government transmitted this response.
526. Further, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had also received information on the following individual cases to which the Government also responded by letter dated 11 November 2002.
527. Zezva Nadiradze was reportedly arrested in the village of Samtavisi in Kaspisky region on 16 November 2001. It was alleged that he was subjected to electric shocks to his genitals, burned with a cigarette and beaten in an attempt to force him to confess his participation in a robbery. It was also believed that one officer attempted to rape him. A medical examination carried out on 19 November 2001 allegdly found bruises, burns and abrasions. At the first court hearing, the judge reportedly ordered his release because of the injuries but the criminal case against him was said to remain open. An investigation was allegedly opened into the case but no one was said to have been charged.
528. The Government informed the Special Rapporteur that criminal proceedings had been instituted on 20 November 2001 by the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia against those policemen allegedly involved. The investigation was still underway at the time the Government transmitted this response.
529. Alexander Guguneishvili, a student, was reportedly arrested by ten police officers on 20 April 2002, when he was talking to his friends in the yard of School No. 16 in Rustavi. It was alleged that on 25 May 2002 police threw him to the floor and tried to push a sawn-off gun into his trousers to fabricate a case against him. He was allegedly handcuffed and hung on an iron bar attached between two tables, for around five or six hours. A gas mask with the openings for the eyes covered was reportedly pulled over his head so that he could not see anything. He was allegedly beaten while in this posture. He was also belived to have been subjected to electric shocks. No medical examination was reportedly carried out at the police station. According to the information received, upon request of the lawyer, the director of the Expertise and Special Research Centre at the Ministry of Justice examined Alexander Guguneishvili at the end of April. The expert reportedly documented a laceration of his lower lip and abrasions, which could have resulted from beatings with a heavy, blunt object or objects, and injuries on the upper part of his feet resulted from electric shocks. At the time of writing, Alexander Guguneis hvili was detained at the investigation-isolation facility No. 5 in Tbilisi and no investigation was reported to have been opened. It was alleged that none of the police officers involved in these facts had been suspended from duty.
530. The Government informed the Special Rapporteur that criminal proceedings had been instituted on 10 July 2002 against policemen of Rustavi Police Department for abuse of authority. The case was later transferred to Kvemo Kartli District Procuracy where investigation was underway at the time the Government transmitted this response. However, according to the Government, factual circumstances of the case have not been stated yet. The case was also transferred to Isani Samgori Procuracy of Tbilisi.
531. By the same letter, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received follow-up information on the following individual case.
532. Concerning Mamuka Rizhamadze (E/CN.4/2002/ 76/Add.1, para.579), the Kutaisi procuracy reportedly set up a commission composed of forensic experts to reconsider the case in autumn 2000 and concluded that he had committed suicide. According to an independent forensic expert appointed by the family, the commission had not examined all the evidence, in particular a piece of skin which had been sealed by Kutaisi procuracy after the post- mortem examination it had carried out in June 2000, and which had reportedly not been opened since. In December 2000, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee reportedly stated that she had received a letter from a prisoner who claimed to have seen how Mamuka Rizhamadze died, and how he was hanged, and that he was threatened with a view to making him testify that Mamuka Rizhamadze had committed suicide. She allegedly made these statements in an edition of the “60 minutes” programme. Following the broadcast, the procurator of Kutaisi reportedly contacted Elene Tevdoradze, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, and stated he would open a new investigation into the death of Mamuka Rizhamadze. However, no new investigation had been opened as at the end of June 2001, and no fourth post mortem had reportedly been carried out, as allegedly requested by the Kutaisi procuracy.
533. By letter dated 11 November 2002, the Government informed the Special Rapporteur that a third court medical expertise confirmed that he died by asphyxia caused by him hanging on the loop. Expertise also concluded that there were light injuries on his corpse but investigation could not prove that they were a result of violence committed by police staff members. Reportedly, the injuries were too old and it was not excluded that the deceased got them before being placed in the isolator. The Government further informed that the Procuracy of Georgia studied the decisions on the case and found them lawful.
534. By letter dated 2 September 2002, sent jointly with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that he had received information according to which Pridon Pirtakhia, a pre-trial detainee in the Isolator No. 5 in Ortchala Prison, reportedly died on his way to hospital on 16 November 2001. He had reportedly been found with slit wrists on his bed in a communal cell. According to the head of the Isolator, Pridon Pirtakhia had reportedly informed him 24 hours before his death that he intended to commit suicide. No steps were said to have been subsequently taken to place him under observation. No autopsy was reported to have been carried out.
535. By letter dated 30 October 2002, the Government informed that he was suspected an attempt of sexual intercourse with minors using threat and abuse to their life and health. On 15 November 2001, he was sentenced to three months of detention. According to the evidences given by the nine defendants who resided in the same cell than the above- mentioned person, Prison Pirtakhia committed suicide by cutting his veins with his own razor. He was immediately given a medical care and transferred into the hospital of penitentiary where he died. Based on evidences of the personnel of the jail no. 5 and issued medical certificate, it is stated that no violence took place against him, he enter in the jail with no body injuries, he told the prosecutor that he did not want to remain alive. For providing his security, he was put in the cell no. 47 and a special control had to be exercised over the cell. Because of the lack of evidences, the criminal case on driving Pirtakhia to commitment of suicide was ceased.
536. The Special Rapporteur acknowledges the responses provided by the Government. He notes the concerns of the Committee against Torture expressed in May 2001 after its consideration of the second periodic report of Georgia under the Convention against Torture as follows: [t]he admitted continuing acts of torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in Georgia committed by law-enforcement personnel; [t]he failure to provide in every instance prompt, impartial and full investigations into the numerous allegations of torture, as well as insufficient efforts to prosecute alleged offenders in non-compliance with articles 12 and 13 of the Convention, resulting in a state of impunity of alleged offenders; [t]he instances of mob violence against religious minorities, in particular Jehovah's Witnesses, and the failure of the police to intervene and take appropriate action, despite the existence of the legal tools to prevent and prosecute such acts, and the risk of this apparent impunity resulting in such acts becoming widespread; [t]he unacceptable conditions in prisons, which may violate the rights of persons deprived of their liberty as contained in article 16.” (A/56/44, para. 81 (a), (b), (d) and (g)) These concerns were also most recently echoed by those expressed by the Human Rights Committee after its consideration of the second periodic report of Georgia under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as follows: “[t]he Committee expresses its concern at the still very large number of deaths of detainees in police stations and prisons, including suicides and deaths from tuberculosis. (…) The Committee remains concerned at the widespread and continuing subjection of prisoners to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by law enforcement officials and prison officers.” (CCPR/CO/74/GEO, paras 7 and 8) The invitation issued by the Government to the Special Rapporteur to visit the country remains on his agenda.
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This report has been published by Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights on August 2, 2005.