Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blatant Violations of Human Rights in Georgian Prision and JusticeSystem

14 Year Scapegoat in Georgia, Blatant Violation of Human Rights  

Not even for murder - for wounding with intent to murder even without evidence. Imprisoned to protect the guilty ones who are well-connected; this must be must have been a nightmare scenario - your only daughter accidentally stumbles upon a scene where some kid is getting "payback" from the friends of a girl who's phone he pawned, and ends up taking the blame for inflicting 33 cuts on him - with no blood or any sign a damage on her own clothes or body. This is but one among many such examples of a system out of control.

Given that Georgia’s violations and challenges are considered persistent, it is clear that efforts by NGOs such as Amnesty International have been ineffective in creating change. However, given the challenges that Georgia has faced, could more time to grow out of the Soviet-era mentality and more democratisation lead to a substantial alteration in Georgia’s penal system? Unfortunately, in the next period of Georgia’s history to be examined, the answer so far appears to be no.
       The period from the 2003 Rose Revolution to the present, characterized by the installment of President Mikheil Saakashvili.  Saakashvili at first represented change for most citizens and has undertaken numerous political and economic reforms. However, criticism remains that Saakashvili has been too authoritarian, and he has openly stated that he will sacrifice nothing for the sake of development. At the opening of the new Radisson Hotel, Saakashvili was quoted as stating, “Development does not exist in Georgia without order. No compromise will be made from our side in this issue.” (Saakashvili, 2009) However, what does this mean for human rights and more specifically, the prison system?
       It means that despite reform in nearly every aspect of life for Georgians, things have not improved in regards to the penal system. In April 2005, Human Rights watch published an article entitled “Georgia: Torture Still Goes Unpunished” which stated that “Since the Rose Revolution brought a new government to power in 2003, the Georgian authorities have failed to end the widespread torture of detainees in the criminal justice system.” (Human Rights Watch, 2005, p. 1) Additionally, the article provided an example of the level of failure of accountability. It stated,
According to the government’s own statistics, only 39 cases ‘involving elements of inhuman and degrading treatment’ were investigated in 2004, out of which 20 were suspended or terminated and only 12 were sent on to court. Out of the five cases which had been ruled on by a court at the time the statistics were gathered, only one police officer had been sentenced to an active prison term. In this case, the police officer was accused of beating another police officer and not a detainee, making it a dubious case of torture. (Human Rights Watch, 2005, p.2)

       But what about prison conditions, what about the nature of the abuse itself? It remains sad that the previous practices have survived into the Saakashvili era. Human Rights watch writes, in a 2006 report entitled “Georgia: Prison Abuses Rife Despite Promises of Reform”, that “Thousands of prisoners in Georgia live in inhuman and degrading conditions and many are subject to severe beatings and other ill-treatment.” (Human Rights Watch, 2006, p.1) Furthermore, “Prisoners, even those held in the newly renovated prisons, receive inadequate food and substandard, if any, medical care. Many prisoners also lack access to exercise and often cannot leave their cells for weeks or months at a time.” (Human Rights Watch, 2006, p.1)
       For a long time, Georgia has faced difficulties funding positive reforms and literally has not been able to afford to change conditions or practices. In response, “The European Union and other donors have provided the Georgian government with substantial financing to build new prisons. But simply giving money and building new prisons isn’t going to end abuses against prisoners.” (Human Rights Watch, 2006, p.2) Since Georgia received this aid in 2006 abuses have persisted at a consistent rate.

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