For nine years in the early 2000s, conditions in Georgian prisons were horrendous, where inmates were tortured, humiliated and abused, claims a damning report by the Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF).
The report, released yesterday, revealed the shocking conditions Georgian prisoners faced in the years 2003 to 2012.
"From 2003 to 2012, Georgia’s prison population soared by 300 percent making the small country the fourth-biggest incarcerator per capita in the world by 2010,” stated the OSGF report.
Work on the survey started in 2013 and it took one year to compile all the data, stated OSGF. The survey was launched to investigate the use of torture in Georgian prisons from 2003 to 2012 during the previous government, as part of the country’s prison reform.
"Video recordings of humiliating and abusive treatment of prisoners by prison staff had been leaked directly before the change of government on October 1, 2012,” stated OSGF.
"The use of abuse and coercion was allegedly one of the bases for order and governance in the Georgian penitentiary system under the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili.”
In addition to studying different reports about Georgia’s penitentiary system by the Public Defender and international bodies, the Foundation conducted a survey of 1,199 prisoners and former prisoners and held in-depth interview with torture survivors.
A victim of the former prison system, who was only identified as Shota, said he needed serious medical treatment after he was suffered horrendous torture in prison.
"He stood up and approached me. I was facing the wall and he gave me a blow to the kidneys with a truncheon. Then he kicked me between my legs. I needed an operation later, and my left testicle was removed. My kidneys are still damaged—they are too low—and I no longer have any teeth left in my mouth.”
Some of the other findings of the survey included the following:
- Seventy-five percent of respondents stated that they had been tortured physically. Of these, 39 percent allege that this happened almost every day.
- Almost half of respondents stated they know "many” (six or more) individuals who, as a result of torture and inhumane treatment, had agreed to a plea bargain.
- Seventy-two percent claimed that as a result of imprisonment they have developed a health problem requiring long-term treatment.
- Forty-eight percent of respondents noted that their ability to work has deteriorated or been lost.
In addition, the survey emphasized the lack of activity of the country’s parliament and civil society to stop torture and abuse happening in local penitentiary systems. OSGF noted no parliamentary investigatory commission investigated the reports of the Public Defender and the judiciary "failed to respond”.
"There can be no doubt that this fact alone contributed hugely to practices of torture becoming systemic, creating countless victims,” OSGF claimed.
The report also briefly discussed the small period of 2012 after Georgian Dream coalition came to power. OSGF stated that in a three-month period beginning at the end of 2012, around half of the 24,000-strong prison population was released in an amnesty, and by 2014 Georgia’s incarceration rate per capita had fallen to 63rd in the world.
"Though the amnesty process suffered from a number of flaws—including a failure to involve the judiciary, which would normally be entrusted with establishing whether the individuals concerned were political prisoners—it was recognised that a great number of those released were in prison because of wrongful and in some cases politically tainted prosecutions,” said OSGF.