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Public Defender for Liquidation of Prisons

05.09.2011

Eka Kevanishvili, Radio “Liberty”

Prevention and monitoring department of the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia finished monitoring of penitentiary institutions in the western Georgia by visiting Batumi Prison # 3 and Zugdidi Prison # 4; the preliminary report of the monitoring was also prepared. The Public Defender of Georgia has been requesting to liquidate those two institutions since 2009.

Public Defender Giorgi Tugushi said the situation in Zugdidi and Batumi penitentiary institutions are equal to the situation in Khoni prison where poor and outdated infrastructure became reason for the Public Defender to request liquidation of the custody long ago. The monitoring team members said Batumi and Zugdidi prisons cannot be renovated. Relatively, the prison administration cannot clean the institution from rodents and parasitizes.

Giorgi Tugushi said the treatment of inmates in Batumi and Zugdidi prisons is less problematic but the conditions there are as grave as physical assault of prisoners. “I cannot say that prisoners are seriously abused in Batumi or Zugdidi custodies; but, Zugdidi prison is one of the oldest and most amortized institutions in Georgia; the Batumi prison does not comply with any standards either and there are no conditions for prisoners to serve their terms. I have been requesting to close those institutions for the last few years already.”

The limit of inmates in Batumi prison # 3 is 557; though today 652 convicted people are serving their terms there. The Zugdidi prison # 4 can receive maximum 305 prisoners but during the monitoring there were 378 prisoners there.

According to the Public Defender, the prisoners have limited access to communication; they receive only newspaper “Kviris Palitra” and several magazines; other newspapers are not available for them. Batumi prison has had phone problem for several years already. “The prison administration has been claiming for the last five years that the phone cables were stolen, or got damp and damaged, etc. In fact, the prisoners cannot call by phone and the situation about foreign prisoners is particularly urgent who can contact their family members only by phone.”

Eka Beselia, leader of the movement Solidarity with Illegal Prisoners, responded to the preliminary results of the planned monitoring of the Public Defender’s Office on September 2. She said the situation in penitentiary institutions has been beyond all limits for a long time already and today the situation is almost critical. “The information released by the public defender proves our allegations. According to their information, the number of dead prisoners in first half of 2011 (67) is more than the mortality level in the first half of 2010. We should pay particular attention to facts of physical assault and torture as well. We have been investigating the facts for several months already but no results yet. For example, one of the most recent prison incidents is torture of prisoner Arkania in Gldani prison…”

Eka Beselia repeatedly petitioned to international organizations with their requests which were raised two months ago. These are punishment of the Minister of Corrections and Legal Aid of Georgia Khatuna Kalmakhelidze and directors of Gldani prison # 8 and Rustavi prison # 6. Their second request is to set up public monitoring council and the third is thorough investigation of torture and death facts of prisoners.

Radio “Liberty” has been trying to get replies from the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Aid about all the problems which are largely discussed by human rights defenders. We were curious about communication between the public defender and the penitentiary department or between Eka Beselia’s organization and the penitentiary department. Apparently, not only media encounters problems when referring to this institution.

Giorgi Tugushi: “We send official letters to each other. Part of their replies is complete; sometimes we receive incomplete replies and sometimes absurd letters too.”

Eka Beselia: “We have sent 250 letters to the Ministry and received replies on half of them; however most of their replies are very obscure…”

The head of public relation department of the Ministry Thea Sukhishvili promised us to reply to our questions, though she did not keep her promise again.

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