TBILISI, DFWatch – For the last 24 hours, the whole of Georgia has been concerned about five videos released by different sources that show physical and sexual abuse of prisoners.
People spontaneously took to the streets to show their disgust, and protests are still continuing against a system and a government which allowed such violations against inmates in a prison system which has been hailed as one of the great successes in former Soviet countries.
The footage shows physical, sexual and verbal abuse of prisoners, some of which are forced after being beaten to sign a statement saying that they will cooperate with the investigation.
As shocking as they may be, these stories are not isolated incidents. Far from it. As DF Watch has reported, there have been many cases of suspected prisoner abuse in Georgian prisons in 2012.
In May, 2012 Zurab Delianidze’s (39) case was reported all over Georgian media. He was officially reported to have dies of a heart attack. However, his family claimed that he had been tortured. Delianidze died at Gldani’s prison hospital in Tbilisi. One of the online media outlets released exclusive photos of the corpse showing a number of bodily injuries and bruises.
“I woke up in the same room chained and lying on the floor. Then they transferred me to solitary confinement. After several days, I tried to injure myself to attract somebody’s attention, but it had no result, and for sixteen days I was in absolute isolation and in extreme desperation,” the prisoner wrote in a letter, which also described the horrible conditions at the prison where he was serving time.
In the beginning of June, the ombudsman described mistreatment of prisoners at several prisons.
“The employees of the isolator had demanded that they undress and do squat exercises,” the public defender writes, adding that there was also verbal abuse. The same actions are one of the new footage posted on Facebook on Tuesday, where a prisoner is naked and then beaten by employees.
At the end of June, the ombudsman revealed certain names at Ksani prison: the chair of the facility, Shota Tolordava, and his deputy Dima Chkhaidze, as well as other staff members, Levan Lezhava, Gela Iosava, have been involved if violation of prisoners’ rights.
In previous years, prisoners named several employees of this prison including Levan Lezhava and Gela Iosava, who were said to be especially abusive.
In June, 693 prisoners signed a petition about the terrible situation in their prisons.
June 26 Tamaz Chikhradze was reported dead, also from a heart attack. July 7, Mikheil Bazaziani was also reputed dead, also officially reported of heart attack. August 3 ministry informed of death at prison hospital; the death was officially caused by a heart attack. He served at Prison Number 8 in Gldani.
On of the most controversial cases was the death of Solomon Kimeridze, who was suspected to be have been killed at the police station in Khashuri, a town in eastern Georgia. The ministry claimed that Kimeridze felt bad during interrogation and felt down the stairs. He died at the hospital. But the photos of his corpse, which were published by Georgian media, caused many to suspect that he had in fact been tortured before he died.
Despite a number of protests and recommendations from civil society no independent inquest was ever conducted into the circumstances surrounding his death.
In all of the above mentioned cases, the government promised to conduct an investigation and an inquest, and publish the official causes of death, but no results were ever published.
In 2011, 140 prisoners died in prisons. 40 percent of them had bodily injuries and the majority died at Prison Number 8 in Gldani. This was the findings of the annual report of the Public Defender which this year was extremely critical towards the penitentiary system, requesting and demanding from th egovernment to take measures and avoid death and torture in prisons. However, his report was ignored until now.