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Public Defender Reports Widespread Abuse in Kutaisi Jail

By Salome Modebadze
Tuesday, September 27
Public Defender Giorgi Tugushi has requested the General Prosecutor Murtaz Zodelava start investigating cases of abuse of prisoners in Kutaisi #2 penitentiary facility. The detainees of the jail complained to representatives of the ombudsman’s office after a meeting on September 11, 2011, that most of them had been verbally and physically assaulted by special task groups on September 9th.

This followed Tugushi’s scheduled monitoring visit to Kutaisi #2 penitentiary facility in August this year when the detainees continued to complain about inappropriate attitudes from the administrative staff. As the prisoners claimed to the special Preventive Group of the Public Defender’s Office, they had been left in so-called 'boxes' for about 24 hours instead of solitary confinement for breaking internal prison regulations.

Even though they hesitated to make any written confirmation of the issue, several detainees claimed that they had even been beaten in those 'boxes'. “The absolute majority of the detainees (around 600) we have seen confirmed the existence of the abovementioned practice at Kutaisi # 2 correction facility which made the story more convincing for us,” the public defender said in his statement.

Tugushi also denied any possibility of internal confrontation among the prisoners because “Kutaisi jail is closed and the detainees from different cells have no contact with one another”. According to information released by the Public Defender’s Office, Tugushi had received several collective letters from the prisoners of the same jail complaining and accusing the officials of inappropriate treatment and violation of their rights.

An investigation of two such issues had been already launched on Tugushi's recommendation. This August Tugushi encouraged Khatuna Kalmakhelidze, Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance, to do everything to protect the rights of the detainees and find the culprits. This fell on deaf ears. “Despite the Public Defender's appeal nothing has been improved at Kutaisi jail. It is even unknown whether any of the violators have been punished,” the ombudsman's office said in a statement.

Tugushi expressed his embarrassment at the situation at Kutaisi #2 jail especially as “improper treatment” towards the detainees from the corrections facility’s staff was no longer a “systemic problem” in the country. But the situation in the jail in Kutaisi suggests the opposite, thus the Tugushi recommended that officials eradicate human rights-related problems and punish those who abrogate the law.

As the press service of the Ministry of Justice told The Messenger the General Prosecutor’s Office received Tugushi’s application yesterday. “The office will first study the case and then make any relevant actions,” the service told us.