Georgia’s Public Defender Nana Devdariani and the human rights NGOs believe that the police persistently violates the rights of the citizens.
The situation in most critical in preliminary detention. Numerous cases of beatings and torture for obtaining the evidence are recorded.
Public Defender and NGOs indicate restricted access to the primary detention as a root problem. According to the law, only two persons are authorised to visit the preliminary detention cells – the President and the Public Defender. Human right NGOs demand to amend this law and grant them access to primary detention facilities as well to increase the transparency and alleviate appalling human rights violations.
NGOs report that extortion of money from the detained persons has become a lucrative business for many police officers. Usually the ‘fines’ are extorted by using the violence of the threats of beatings or torture – says Nana Kakabadze, Chairman of the non-governmental organization “Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights.”
For example, Tamaz Devsuradze, resident of Rustavi, a city near Tbilisi, has been illegally detained for 9 months. Policemen put small amount of narcotics in his pocket and then accused him in drug-dealing.
Although Georgian law provides with some safeguards against such abuse, the law is seldom upheld. According to the law detained person should not remain in preliminary custody more than 72 hours without lawsuit being openly submitted to the court.
But the courts require firm evidence for launching the case and quite often this evidence is acquired by beatings and torture in the preliminary detention. In other cases policemen just use detention to extort money – launching the court case is only used as a threat.
Even with the low transparency of preliminary detention, 191 cases of breaching the 72-hour limit for preliminary detention were recorded in the first half of 2001.
Tbilisi has the highest level of such violations (56 cases) – but arguably the capital is only most transparent to the Public Defender and NGOs. Blocks to independent scrutiny gloss over the situation in the provinces, which, according to some assessments, is much worse and the human rights violations go not only unpunished, but are not even recorded.
“Study of these violations led us to conclude that preliminary detention period is illegally extended to extort evidence through physical and psychological pressure. This is a cynical violation of the rights of detainees as defined by the laws” – says mid-year 2001report of the Public Defender.
To provide an additional proof to these words, 30 persons were brought to the prisons with various degree of injuries in 2001. Sometimes relocation of the detainees is being delayed for months.
Recommendations of the Public Defender to the Prosecutor General in this respect remain without due consideration to the date. Suggestions of the NGOs to the government institutions are also neglected.
The pressure on the government has also been mounting from the internaitonal community. The recommendations of the Council of Europe call for more liberal policies in preliminary detention. Detained person should have more contact with the outer world, more freedom to meet the family members, friends, relatives and other persons who do not hinder the process of investigation. The Georgian authorities left these recommendations wihtout due attention. Preliminary detention cells remain ‘closed’ for the outer world.
Despite all these problems persisting, Elene Tevdoradze, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights emphasizes one positive trend. She says that lately the number of incoming complaints regarding violations in the preliminary detention declined. Tevdoradze believes that improvements should be considered a success the new leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. She says that the new head of Tbilisi city police Kakha Bakuradze supports the bid of the Human Rights NGOs to visit the preliminary detention cells. However, Tevdoradze adds, there is still no progress in the provinces of Georgia.
Human rights violations in preliminary detention remain one of the most serious obstacles in Georgia’s bid to uphold the standards of the European Human Rights Convention. However, unfortunately this is by no means the only black spot on Georgia’s marred Human Rights record.
by Salome Jashi, Civil Georgia