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Tradition of torture

October 17, 2017
Natia Gogolashvili

Information about the alleged torture and inhuman treatment of Sergo Mamasakhlisi was disseminated on September 27, after the Human Rights Center held press-conference and informed journalists about it. At the same day, Public Defender of Georgia made a statement and called on the Chief Prosecutor to open investigation into alleged inhuman treatment of the accused person.

“A polyethylene bag was over his head and rope on his neck. He has many injuries on the body; he cannot move one hand at all; he has slight brain concussion and serious bruise on the eye … What shall I say?! I could not imagine that similar fact would happen today, during this government,” Lela Mamasakhlisi, sister of the detainee Sergo Mamasakhlisi said. 

On September 22, police officers detained Sergo Mamasakhlisi for the alleged participation in the group robbery and took him to the Vake-Saburtalo district police unit # 5. The citizen reported that as soon as he was brought to the police office, the officers started his intimidation to force him admit the crime which he had not committed. Namely, the police officers, through verbal and physical intimidation demanded him to sign the preliminarily drafted confession statement. The detainee refused to admit the crime and asked for the lawyer, though police officers did not satisfy his request. 

HRC lawyer Eka Lomidze visited Sergo Mamasakhlisi in Gldani prison # 8 on September 25. The lawyer said the accused person had signs of battery and violence on the face, body and limbs.

Eka Lomidze said the accused person recalled all details of the incident in the police unit with her. “Early in the morning of September 22, Sergo Mamasakhlisi was brought to the police unit. They pushed him down on the sofa on the ground floor, where there were no cameras installed. One of the police officers started kicking him in the back and the second was beating with fists in the head. They were beating him during one hour. The accused person said that after they got tired of beating him, one of them took off the boot and started beating him with it in the head. An hour later, he was taken into another room on the second floor. As he recalled, he was taken into the working room of the chief police officer. There he was tortured with different methods. Sergo Mamasakhlisi said the law enforcement officers put three polyethylene bags over his head and imitated his suffocation.”

As Sergo Mamasakhlisi’s lawyer said the police officers threatened him with the “punishment” of his underage child. Finally, the accused person was compelled to sign the preliminarily drafted confession statement. As a result, he was charged under the Part 2 of the Article 179 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, that is aggravated robbery by group. On September 24, the Tbilisi City Court sentenced Sergo Mamasakhlisi to two-month pretrial imprisonment based on the prosecutor’s motion. The prosecutor saw him beaten and tortured during the trial, which was easily seen on his face. 

“At the trial the detainee publicly stated that he was beaten in the police office. I underline that these facts were recorded in the court ruling, though are left without any reaction until now,” the lawyer said.

Public Defender’s Office was also informed about the alleged torture and inhuman treatment of Sergo Mamasakhlisi. On September 26, the Public Defender addressed the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia with the proposal to open a probe into the alleged ill-treatment of S.M from the side of police officers. On September 27, the Criminal Justice Department of the Public Defender’s Office reported to the media. 

“PDO representative immediately visited the detainee, who had injuries on the body and stated that he had received the injuries by police officers. S.M said when examination protocols were prepared, he said he had received the injuries after he fell down during the detention but it was said because of fear,” head of the Criminal Justice Department at the PDO Eka Khutsishvili said. 

The Minister of Internal Affairs responded to the statement of the Public Defender on the same day. “I always get surprised with similar attitude of the Ombudsman. He could double check this information with us. He could receive full information. We need more attention and cautious, when making similar statements about the police officers. I do not want the authoritative institution, like the Ombudsman’s office, to become the acquitting body for criminals,” the Minister of Interior Giorgi Mgebrishvili said.

Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary responded to the statement of the Minister of Interior. As their statement reads, problem of the abuse of power by law enforcement officers and effective investigation into ill-treatment facts have been significant challenge for years. 

“There are no institutional guarantees in the country, which could ensure prevention, investigation of these facts and punishment of perpetrators. Increased number of ill-treatment facts in police offices are particularly alarming, which are also reflected in the reports of the Public Defender. The government still has not taken measures to fight against the impunity. Instead, the responsible person for the problems in the police system, the head of the institution tries to discredit the constitutional body and degrade the status and activities of this institution in front of the society.  The Coalition underlines that similar public position of the Minister hinders business discussion about significant problems and aims to hide away them. At the same time, similar statements encourage the attitude that it is not important to speak about alleged violation of rights of “criminals”,” the statement reads.

Prosecutor’s Office has already opened criminal case into alleged exceed of power by the officers of Vake Saburtalo district police unit # 5. It is noteworthy that it is not the first case, which was launched against the officers of this unit. In 2015, lawyer Giorgi Mdinaradze was ruthlessly beaten in the same police unit # 5, when he was carrying out his professional duties.  

“It is a pity that similar facts still happen: violence against people, torture to obtain the testimony. I think it happens because nobody was punished for my physical assault, which happened two years ago. Deputy Head of the police unit, who personally harassed me, is now head of one of the departments. It is incredible fact and very insulting for me. He may not personally participated in my physical assault but he was there and assisted others who were beating me. The other police officers too, who gave fake testimonies in the court, are still working in the police. It is what encourages the violence in the police,” Giorgi Mdinaradze said. 

HRC executive director Aleko Tskitishvili said this incident once again proved that this system is weak to effectively respond to the crimes committed by law enforcement officers. 

“Torture and inhuman treatment of Sergo Mamasakhlisi demonstrated serious problems in the system, which are accumulated for years. It indicates at serious challenges, which the nongovernmental organizations discussed for years. It is necessary to establish an independent investigative body in the country, which will investigate the crimes committed by law enforcement officers. It is also alarming that there is doubt that this fact happened with the participation of the police officers, who were suspected in the torture and inhuman treatment in the past too,” Aleko Tskitishvili said.

Lawyer of the detainee Eka Lomidze said Sergo Mamasakhlisi was examined in Prison # 8. The expertise will show how the detainee received injuries – when he fell down as the MIA claims or as a result of torture.