Prisoners in Rustavi prison have gone on hunger strike in protest against cruel treatment by staff.

The new director at Rustavi Prison Number 16 has been implicated in cruel treatment of prisoners, as have some of his staff.

Representatives of Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association ( GYLA), Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT) and International Reform of Prison visited Rustavi Number 16 facility on October 31. They have a right to visit any correction system facility without going through the otherwise strict procedures. According to prisoners, even priests now are prevented from entering.

The representatives of the organizations met with the new director Levan Aburjania, prisoners and relatives of the prisoners, who have been holding a vigil at the facility’s entrance.

After observing conditions on the inside, the visiting organizations said there is no confrontation between prisoners. According to them, two inmates went on hunger strike on October 31while in solitary confinement, and several of their cellmates followed suit as a sign of solidarity.

444 prisoners signed a statement addressed to the ombudsman’s office about psychological pressure by the new director and about the appearance of old employees who were implicated in cruel physical abuse against prisoners.

One of the prisoners managed to call from prison. He said that the church of the prison is closed now, the administration has forbidden hanging washed clothes in the cell, the new director treats inmates with additional punishment or special forces.

The director of Rustavi N 16 facility denies the accusations and says that he has just started his job and plans to change old staff. He thinks that this process will take one week.

Ombudsman’s office made a statement about the situation in the facility.

“No inmates are being beaten in Rustavi Number 16 facility. Prisoners say that they will not use the right of dates as a sign of protest. The reports that the prisoners are confronting are wrong,” ombudsman’s statement says.

Inmates request a new director “who will be morally and spiritually balanced. In other case we will go on hunger strike,” the prisoners said.

Now 22 prisoners are on hunger strike. Some of them are HIV positive.

The relatives are supporting inmates outside the prisons. They tried to block Rustavi-Marneuli auto magistral on November 1.

The ombudsman’s office, GYLA, GCRT and International Reform of Prison call the heads of Penitentiary System to study the situation and hope there will be paid sufficient attention to the prisoner’s complaints.