TBILISI, DFWatch — The Georgian Prosecutor’s Office has concluded an investigation of a handful of videos showing torture of prisoners which sparked protests two weeks before the election in October, 2012.
The videos were published September 19, and showed prisoners who were verbally, physically and sexually abused. One of the clips showed a prisoner being raped with a broom, and it was claimed by some that this scene was staged.
But Chief Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili on Tuesday said that according to their findings, the footage containing the scene with the broomstick had not been staged and consequently is not fake.
The investigation into the torture and mistreatment shown in the videos is not finished, due to the large number of victims.
Georgia is still searching for Vladimer Bedukadze, the former employee at Prison No 8, where most of the cases were filmed. He was the source for all but one of the prison torture videos, the exception being one published by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which the Prosecutor’s Office recently said was an enactment.
After the scandal broke, the interior minister and prison minister resigned, and Giorgi Tughushi was appointed new prison minister. He set up 51-member monitoring group, consisting of journalists and civil society activists. They are allowed to enter any prison at any time without having to apply for permission, in order to monitor the situation in prisons. This monitoring pool system expires in January 2013.
December 22-23, a meeting was organized by the Prison Ministry and United Nations Development Program about this issue, which was attended by representatives of local and international organizations. Participants decided to no longer allow journalists and active lawyers to be member of the monitoring group.
The reason being given was that journalists try to bring exclusive information from the prisons and do not share it with others who do not have free access to jails. Participants also argued that journalists are mostly oriented at creating a scandal.
The decision is not final and the ministry will still review how a new monitoring group will be set up. But the decision to deny journalists from being members of the group has already caused an outrage among journalists and the government’s opponents, as well as around Georgia’s social networks.
On Tuesday, the ministry explained that it wasn’t its idea to kick lawyers and journalists out of the monitoring group.
“The ministry only had a role of moderator at this meeting,” the statement reads. “The ministry had a good intention of allowing the civil sector to regulate the issue regarding formation of the alternative monitor group.”