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Public Defender visits Ninotsminda boarding school following the controversy

By Khatia Bzhalava
Tuesday, June 29
On Monday, the Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia Nino Lomjaria was admitted to the patriarchateís Ninotsminda boarding school for the first time since 2018, following the accusations of physical and sexual abuse at the facility. The public Defender was accompanied by the new head of the facility, Archbishop Iakob, and the lawyer of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Edisher Karchava. Lomjaroa was allowed to Boarding School after she met with Archbishop Iakob on June 17.

According to Lomjaria, currently, there are 15 children in the boarding school, while 20 have already left per the decision of the court and have been sent back to their families or placed in family-type care facilities. The Public Defender believes that children there are unable to freely express their will, thus she recommends placing the remaining 15 children in alternative care.

The previous head of the boarding School, Bishop Spiridon did not allow the Ombudspersonís monitoring of the facility, which resulted in the involvement of the UN. On June 2, Lomjaria stated that three cases of alleged violence and one case of alleged rape in the Ninotsminda boarding school were under investigation. On June 5, Tbilisi City Court ruled to remove children with disabilities from the Ninotsminda orphanage. Shortly after, the Patriarchate replaced Archbishop Spiridon with Iakob. According to Archbishop Iakob, he has sacked over two dozen employees from the orphanage and promised to dismiss any remaining staff if they are accused of mistreatment.

Lomjaria believes that there is still some kind of pressure on children from the caregivers and teachers with whom they have been living for years, and considers it reasonable for all the children to leave the facility. She hopes that the office of the Public Defender will be able to thoroughly examine the situation at the facility.