Primary Detention Breeds Human Rights Abuse

An ordinary preliminary detention cell (PDC) of the Interior Ministry is a dark room of 2 meters wide and 3 meters long, with a tiny window with bars near the ceiling. This formidable accommodation has to host the suspect for three days during which a decision on detention or release should be taken by the court.

As human rights observers and the detainees themselves say, “terrible things” happen in these very cells. According to the most reports, most of the grave human rights violations occur there, including beatings and torture. Some even say that a suspect in the PDC has only two choices – to bribe the police or to give the evidence the police operatives ask for – sometimes including confessions in crimes they did not commit.

“Conditions of the prisoners in the district preliminary detention cells are absolutely unbearable. The very conditions that exist there can be qualified as torture,” Nana Kakabadze of the NGO “Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights” tells Civil Georgia.

The international pressure matches the words of the national human rights activists. The UN Human Rights Committee sharply criticized the penitentiary and detention systems in spring 2002 and recommended the Georgian government to take urgent measures within one-year period. The recommendations specifically accent the need to prevent torture in the cells.

The Justice Ministry is also concerned with situation in the PDCs. During the meeting of the Council of Justice on July 8, Justice Minister Roland Giligashvili stated that detainees are being brought from the PDC to the penitential facilities of the Justice Ministry with various types of injuries. It was also stated that the detainees are transferred in violation of the upper ceiling of 72-hour pre-detention.

Nana Kakabadze says that inarguably, detainees are receiving injuries at the Police. The Justice Ministry experts frequently confirm this notion.

In 2002 the Justice Ministry submitted the General Procuracy 39 cases connected with the facts of beating of the detainees in these cells, but the Procuracy reacted or invoked investigation only on four of them.

“We all know that conditions in the PDC are not ideal and the human rights are being violated there. And reason of this is lack of funding,” Koba Narchemashvili, the Interior Minister told Civil Georgia and added that conditions in the PDCs of European states are not perfect either.

But the representative of the same ministry says: “you will not see a detainee that has any kind of objections about violation of his or her rights. I would agree that such statements are being made, but could assure you that the rights of the detainees are not violated” – says Shota Kobadze, head of Preliminary Detention Isolator of the Interior Ministry.

The budget allocates 2.25 GeL (approximately $1) for each detainee that is kept in the PDC for three days. However, even this miserable amount does not translate into benefit for the detainees.

As Nana Kakabadze says, the detainee will starve unless relatives bring food. In some cells there are no mattresses or blankets and a detainee has to sleep on a wooden board, laid right on the concrete floor, or on the steel bed in the best case.

The Public Defender Nana Devdariani claims Interior Minister’s explanation of the grave conditions at the PDCs by the lack of funds is inconclusive and illegitimate. “You do not need financing, transport or material-technical base to not to beat a detainee” – says the Public Defender in her report.

 “The Government shall make every form of torture or similar mistreatment of the human being punishable by the law as an offense of the grave nature” – reads the recommendation of the UN Human Rights Committee, however human rights activists and some government officials agree that specific action to improve the conditions of the detainees is lacking. Unless such action is taken, Georgian primary detention would continue to be associated with cruelty and torture and the credibility of the police will remain as low as ever.

By Salome Jashi, Civil Georgia