Key activities of the Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture “Empathy” are identification of cases of torture and inhuman treatment, documentation of such cases, rehabilitation of victims of torture, fighting with impunity and prevention of torture. The center Empathy is internationally recognized organization of experts. 6 experts of the center Empathy are represented in the composition of National Preventive Mechanism established under the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia. It should be noted, that after observing activities of the NPM during the last year, the group of experts have arrived to decision to withdraw from the composition of the NPM due to the following circumstances:
1. According to the statement of the Public Defender of Georgia Ucha Nanuashvli and the head of special preventive mechanism Nika Kvaratskhelia the functions of NPM have been revised and NPM’s function shall not be identification of cases of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and their documentation and that activities of the NPM shall have so called “preventive” character.
2. Consequently, it is not clear for the group for experts what is implied under Georgian understanding of “prevention” and how such prevention is in compliance with international standards of documentation of torture – i.e. the Istanbul Protocol.
3. The group of experts tried to clarify this issue on December 22 of 2014 with the Public Defender during the meeting of NPM, although this attempt was not successful. Unfortunately, to say the least, the meeting was held in the atmosphere of the soviet spirit, where experts were called upon in extremely aggressive manner to be obedient.
4. Aggression of the Public Defender was caused by the statement of the President of the Center Empathy, made on November 12 of 2014 in regard to the fact of torture of convicts in Penitentiary Facility N8. The Public Defender made this information public only on November 19 of 2014 (see below complete text of the statement of Mariam Jishkariani).
5. We consider, that activities of the Public Defender’s Office and NPM are not in compliance with international standards of OP CAT and national standards and it is unacceptable for experts when the Public Defender requires from them to “control their thoughts”, and at the same time demonstrates uncontrolled aggressions towards the experts, which to say the least is unethical and reminds us of the soviet nomenclature approaches. We, the experts: Mariam Jishkariani – psychiatrist, the President of the Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture Empathy; Shorena Bekauri – psychiatrist, Board Member of the center Empathy; Tamar Nioradze – neurologist of the center Empathy; Gela Menteshashvili – neurosurgeon of the center Empathy; Joseph Khatiashvili – lawyer of the center Empathy; Kakhaber Mikadze – psychologist of the center Empathy, leave the composition of NPM as a sign of protest.
We call upon the Parliament of Georgia to immediately start considering adoption of the law on lustration, so that it becomes clear to population of Georgia who is who in this country; also, the Parliament should consider compliance of activities of NPM with international standards.
On November 19 of 2014 on the official website of the Public defender’s Office of Georgia was published a press-release, from which it became clear, that on November 12 of 2014 in penitentiary facility No8 took place the fact of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment towards convicted persons, which was witnessed by the representatives of the Public defender’s office of Georgia. Namely: “both convicts lay on the floor in wet clothes. M.U’s hands and legs were tied together with a special chain. Both convicts at visual inspection had signs of violence, including on their faces. M.U. had a cut in the area of his forehead and the wound was bleeding. He had some other injuries as well, while M. F. had a bruise in the area of the right eye”. According to the statement on the website of the Public Defender’s Office the convicts were kept in the so called shower room and in the hallway was a pool of blood.
Unfortunately, this factual aspects of the incident were qualified as “alleged fact of ill-treatment”, which does not comply with the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
We consider it extremely concerning, that the response to alleged fact of torture was not immediate or effective and similarly ineffective investigation of the fact of torture was initiated only at a later stage, which is another violation of the requirements of articles 12 and 13 of the UN Convention, stipulating for timely, effective and impartial investigation of cases of torture.
We also consider, that current practices and functions of experts of the National Preventive Mechanism are not in compliance with the requirements of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) and obligations, provided by the law of Georgia on the Public Defender and Istanbul Protocol (Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment).
Taking into consideration all the above mentioned, the center Empathy:
1. Call upon the General Prosecutor of Georgia to conduct all necessary measures, including measures provided by Istanbul Protocol for the purpose of conducting effective, timely and impartial investigation of given incident;
2. Calls upon the Ministry of Penitentiary and Probation to ensure transfer of the alleged victims of torture to another penitentiary facility and prior to completion of investigation suspend authority of all staff of prison No8 who participated in committing or concealing of the alleged fact of torture in compliance with the requirements of the Istanbul Protocol;
3. Calls upon the Public Defender of Georgia to ensure functioning of the National Preventive Mechanism in compliance with the requirements of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) and use experts of the National Preventive Mechanism effectively for the proper documentation of facts of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment in compliance with international principles;
4. Applies to international intergovernmental organizations, diplomatic representations and embassies to Georgia and the President of Georgia to support the initiative of NGOs on setting up of independent monitoring mechanism;
5. Applies to the Chairman of the Sub-committee on Prevention of Torture to (SPT) to provide clearer explanations on correlation between the Istanbul Protocol and OPCAT.
6. Calls upon the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia to revise amendments in to the Code of Imprisonment on August 1 of 2014 on the use of so called special means, as we consider that such means, namely the chains are effectively used and abused by the penitentiary system.
The Center Empathy is applying to all the above mentioned addresses in writing.