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Human Rights in Imereti

22.05.2007
uflebas.gifAlthough local and international non-governmental organizations have severe reactions on human rights violation in Georgia, the number of people with violated rights is quite large. Consequently, the representatives of the Georgian Public Defender in the Western Georgia, whose office is in Kutaisi and its stuff serves the whole region, have a lot to do.

Since January 2007 their office has received two hundred letters. There are always a lot of people in the waiting room. They need legal assistance.

The Human Rights Center interviewed Theona Kuchava, the head of the Public Defender’s Kutaisi Office, regarding the cases they are discussing currently. 

“We can divide last year into months and quarters when we were discussing one kind of problem and most of the appeals we received dealt with that problem only. For example, late in 2006 it was social problems and we received a lot of letters about it. Before that we discussed the subscribers’ rights violated by the Power Distribution Company. We also received letters about arbitrary detention and investigation. However, this year I cannot say that we are discussing only one kind of problems. There are a lot of questions and they all are very urgent and serious,” said Theona Kuchava.

Social Issues  

“A lot of people apply to us and say that although the court has passed verdict in their favor, the verdict is not followed yet and they complain about the executive bureau. Social issues are still urgent. These are particularly demands on pensions that should have been granted to people with employment injuries. This problem remained unregulated by the legislation for some time and the pensions were not given out. Then the authority adopted a new resolution which regulates the problem in a new way. Former employees of out-of-function factories still complain about their allowances. Those enterprises are Kutaisi Auto-factory, Electro-mechanic and tractor factories as well as Coal Mines in Tkibuli and Chiatura. Former workers of those enterprises apply to us because they have employment injuries and demand their allowances because of the fact. However, currently, those industrial centers do not work and consequently cannot pay their pensions at all.  Our office studied the situation in general but we failed to assist those people individually. It is necessary to make some changes in the legislation to resolve the problem.

One more problem should have been resolved by the government that dealt with the Radioactive Laboratory located in the village of Anaseuli in the Guria Region. As far as we know, the lab was closed down and radioactive substances were not sealed up properly. One of the journalists informed us about the fact who also added that none of the governmental bodies made comments on the situation. It is well-known fact that the information on environment is absolutely public and it cannot be kept in secret. We received information from the Ministry; the territory was examined and it proved that the level of radioactive pollution was high. People do not reside in the area but when we arrived there a lot of cattle were in the place and they were grazing in the polluted area. Subsequently the people might have got ill of infected cattle. After the examination proved the high level of radioactive pollution in the area, we prepared all necessary recommendations which were sent to the Environmental Ministry to neutralize the dangerous zone,” said Kuchava.

Eco-migrants, IDPs and Religious Minorities

“The problem regarding eco-migrants is particularly urgent in Adjara Region. As for IDPs, we observe their problems and we will assess everything properly,” said Theona Kuchava.

Some time before, human rights were violated in the village of Zoti in the Guria region on religious grounds. Zoti is a mountainous village which is settled by Muslim Adjarian people. As we have found out, law enforcers carried out some investigation in the village and local people claimed that the head of the police insulted the villagers on religious grounds. We studied the station.”

Problems which emerged during detention

“We must point out that detainees are not beaten and tortured while arresting that was too common during previous years. We cannot compare the present situation with the past. However, there are some facts when detainees are harassed. In this situation, the fact that the number of harassment has been reduced is not a great relief for those who were assaulted while detention.

There were several facts when the detainees were not allowed to enjoy their rights to defense. The accused had no access to lawyer and the attorney could meet the client after we involved the case. It is strange that soon the lawyer changed his attitude towards the accused and declared that we made him take over the defense of the detainee,” said Theona Kuchava.

Prisoner’s Life in Prisons

“We receive a lot of letters from the prison. Their petitions deal with tendentious preliminary investigation.  Unfortunately we cannot interfere in the field. However, there were several applications and important cases where we interfered and investigated the case. The accused was assaulted during and after detention and the Public Defender personally prepared recommendations regarding the fact.

As for the situation in the prison, we observed the last fact of physical assault in the Kutaisi Detention Setting # 2 in March. In this case, the prisoner named who had beaten him and other prisoners also claimed that the person was too aggressive to them. They spoke about physical and psychological suppression, threats, etc. The problem is that the condemned seldom wish to cooperate with us. The reason is that they are afraid to be revenged for complaining. It is very common for similar institutions. They think they do not have any guarantee that the person, they blame for mistreatment, would not plant some forbidden things on him and grave his situation. The prisoners speak openly about all violations in private talks but they urge us to keep their names anonymous and categorically deny starting investigation on the basis of their statements. It is serious problem.”

Rights of Juveniles

“We observed two occasions when the court sentenced juvenile accused to administrative imprisonment. It is not envisaged by current legislation. The most surprising is that since we learned about the situation and applied to corresponding bodies to take measures according to the law, the Samtredia District Judge appealed against his own verdict. It was kind of curious in judicial system.

Similar fact was observed in Batumi when a juvenile girl was brought to the police station as a victim and then the policemen assaulted her. This girl had adequate reaction on the policemen’s behavior and it resulted into her detention.

Most urgent problem for Kutaisi is Gypsy children. Although nobody applies to us about them it is real problem for our city and it is not necessary to speak much about it. Although the problem is too urgent, we have not thought of any way to resolve it. The city authority thinks that the problem will be resolved if we kick the Gypsy children out from the area; though it is not an optimal way out. The situation is aggravated by the fact that those children do not contact with anyone in order to explore the situation. There are occasions when these children are exploited by their people and society too. It is great problem.”

Conversation with Theona Kuchava showed that the problems regarding the human rights are great in number in the Western Georgia too as well as in the whole country. As for the law enforcers’ attempt to restrict the activities of the Public Defender’s representatives in the region, which was too common recently in Imereti, does not take place any more. The situation has changed since quite high sanctions have been introduced in the field. The maximum amount of the fine is 2000 lari. Subsequently, the society has guarantee that they will be protected by “well-protected Public Defender.”

Lela Khidasheli, Kutaisi 

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