Giorgi Okroporidze – a convict, who suffered from something that authorities maintain “no longer happens”. He was tortured, writes Mikheil Ghoghadze, lawyer at Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association.

In late December 2011, Giorgi Okropirize’s mother came to us. She was scared. She said that Giorgi Okropiridze, who was to undergo a treatment for hepatitis C (as the European Court of Human Rights had ordered), had been tortured at a medical facility for pre-trial and convicted prisoners N18. It goes without saying that we rushed to visit Giorgi Okropirize.

During the visit, Giorgi was so scared and strained that he kept repeating – “get me out of here. I am scared that this will continue”.

During the interview he confirmed that employees of the medical facility for pre-trial and convicted prisoners N18 abused him both verbally and physically multiple times over several days. They punched him in the face and body. He also clarified that the doctor at the facility used harsh methods for treatment, injecting large needles in his vein. The situation is further deteriorated by the fact that Giorgi suffered a firearm wound in the past and he had to undergo a number of difficult surgeries, which significantly weakened his health in general.

Furthermore, at the time he was tortured, Giorgi Okropiridze was sentenced to a 30-day administrative imprisonment for allegedly hindering normal operation of the facility with his conduct (swearing and acting defiantly). He clarifies that employees of the administration tortured him, saying – you won’t be able to do anything about it; you won’t be able to prove as everything is in our hands, even court. The court will do as we say. No one will believe you.

Giorgi pleads guilty. At the trial he declared that he did not violate the law. He also declared that he had been tortured by employees of the medical facility for pre-trial and convicted prisoners N18 under the penitentiary department. Nevertheless, the court sentenced Giorgi to 30 days of administrative imprisonment.

Giorgi Okropiridze underwent physical and mental medical examination by means of the Psycho-Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Violence and Pronounced Stress Impact “EMPATHY” within the office of the public defender. The medical examination found that Giorgi suffered external injuries and furthermore, mental disorders:

Post-traumatic stress disorder;

Tic disorder, unspecified.

According to the medical findings, it is highly possible that the post-traumatic stress disorder is linked with the facts of torture and inhumane treatment alleged by the patients… further promoted by the non-exhaustion of the traumatic stress situation.

Hence, the foregoing findings corroborate the fact of torture.

The first action that we took was we applied to the penitentiary department of Georgia for transferring Giorgi Okropiridze to another penitentiary facility, in order get him away from the environment where he was subjected to illegal pressure and torture. However, it is safe for us to say that the state showed complete lack of interest and indifference. Giorgi, who had been tortured by employees of the medical facility, could not be transferred to another penitentiary facility for the period of one month. Although his torture did not continue for a month, Giorgi was constantly afraid that they would start torturing him again.

After a month Giorgi was transferred to a closed-type penitentiary facility N1 within the penitentiary department, which we protested. Due to his severe disease, Giorgi is in need of fresh air, more free space, i.e. an environment at half open-type facilities. We demanded his transfer to an open-type facility and after a number of such requests Giorgi was transferred to a penitentiary facility N6 within the penitentiary department, which also falls under the category of closed-type facilities. All of our efforts were in vain, as despie his severe disease, Giorgi is remains in an unhealthy, inadequate environment.

We applied to the chief prosecutor of Georgia, Murtaz Zodelava with a request to launch investigation.

Investigation was launched immediately after the information was received but it was launched into alleged facts of abuse of official authority, as opposed to the alleged facts of torture. Investigator questioned Giorgi and he was recognized as a victim. We applied to the investigator and the prosecutor a number of times for continuing the investigation into alleged fact of torture, threat, coercion and other crime but as it frequently is the case in Georgia, the prosecutor avoided qualifying the action as torture and rejected our demand. As the prosecutor clarified, in view of factual circumstances there are no grounds for changing the qualification of the offence. What more grounds are needed?

I assume everyone is interested in why Giorgi was tortured; probably because of the state’s fear of the ECHR’s decision. Giorgi believes that he has been unlawfully convicted. We have already filed a corresponding application in ECHR. Giorgi notes that during the beatings they called him a “Strasbourgian”, asking “what is your case doing in Strasbourg?” Clearly he was tortured for forcing him withdraw his application from the Court.

Regrettably, this is not an isolated incident as many other prisoners have found themselves in similar situations. It is quite alarming that the prisoner was tortured at a medical facility. The fact is that torture at a penitentiary facility, at a treatment facility in Georgia still happens.