Georgia Country Visit – March 12 – 19, 2015

Georgia Country Visit – March 12 – 19, 2015

The Special Rapporteur’s Report on the visit to Georgia is now available in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish and Russian.  To see the comments by the State in English click here.

 On March 19, 2015, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez ended an eight-day information-gathering mission to Georgia, ten years after the first visit to the country by his predecessor. The 2005 report on Georgia by the former Special Rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak is available here.

During the visit, he Special Rapporteur met with high-level government officials in the executive and the judiciary, parliamentary committee members, national human rights institutions, civil society, international and regional organizations, as well as victims and their families. He traveled to both Eastern and Western Georgia to conduct unannounced visits to places of detention such as police stations, temporary detention isolators, pre-trial facilities and penitentiaries, but was not granted access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia by the respective de facto authorities.

“It is my hope to play a small part in this shift to a more transparent society by having a constructive dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders to assist the Government to identify ongoing challenges that it may have with regards to upholding the rule of law, promoting accountability for torture and ill-treatment, and fulfilling the right of reparations for victims,” the Special Rapporteur said in an official press release at the start of the visit. He also welcomed Georgia’s accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism.

End of Visit Statement

At the end of the visit, the Special Rapporteur released a statement and held a press conference, during which he praised the Government’s positive accomplishments in the treatment of prisoners since the October 2012 parliamentary election, noting that “[i]n less than three years, the Georgian authorities have managed not only to introduce extensive policy changes, but also to implement radical changes in the mentality of its staff throughout the entire chain of command.” However, he cautioned that “there is still room for improvement and a need for anchoring.”

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“Through numerous testimonies, I found convincing evidence that the use of corporal punishment and forced confessions has been effectively abolished,” the Special Rapporteur said. “In addition to this, the Government has done away with overcrowding and, in turn, with many of its detrimental consequences by significantly diminishing its prison population, while investing in new and better prison infrastructure.” He also stated that during visits to places of detention, he found acceptable cell conditions, adequate provision of food and medical care, and a reasonable access to phone calls with families.

However, the Special Rapporteur also noted that pre-trial prisoners, who ought to enjoy the presumption of innocence, “are kept in cells for 23 hours per day and are not allowed to make phone calls nor receive family visits, sometimes for many months.” He also recommended that the frequency of phone calls and visits allowed to prisoners in semi-open and closed establishments should be heightened, and further identified a general absence of meaningful work opportunities and activities offered to this group, in particular expressing concern with regards to prisoner serving long and life sentences. As regards medical attention, he welcomed efforts made to document physical and psychological trauma, but also noted a lack of consistency in documentation and recommended an enhanced effort to ensure compliance with international standards, as set out in the Istanbul Protocol for the effective investigation of torture and ill-treatment. Lastly, the Special Rapporteur stated that “[m]uch more needs to be done to promote accountability for torture and ill-treatment, and fulfill the right of reparations for victims. There have been significant prosecutions and convictions for the torture and abuse of the recent past, but a large legacy remains and hundreds of victims still demand an effective remedy.”

Below you can find background information about the visit, including pictures and links to information from local media sources.

About the Visit

During the visit, The Special Rapporteur met with Georgian Foreign Minister Ms. Tamar Beruchashvili in Tbilisi. The Special Rapporteur and Ms. Beruchashvili discussed the human rights situation in Georgia, the Government’s Human Rights Strategy and the Action Plan, and domestic mechanisms designed to prevent torture and other ill-treatment. To visit and meeting have been covered by local media. He also met with officials from the Ministry of Corrections and Probation, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and members of Parliament.

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