Effective measures needed to eradicate ill-treatment and torture in Georgia

Letter to Georgian authorities
Strasbourg 04/12/2012
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"The Georgian authorities should address long-standing concerns about ill-treatment of prisoners and other detained persons by public officials and take effective steps to repair the system of accountability. Constant vigilance is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the absolute prohibition of torture. I intend to focus on these issues in my dialogue with the authorities, including during my next visit to Georgia" said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, on today's publication of his letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Georgia, Mr Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Acknowledging that several swift measures have been taken in response to the prison abuse scandal and noting the Georgian authorities' pledge that such human rights violations would no longer be tolerated, the Commissioner stresses that it is now necessary to carry out effective investigations to identify and punish those responsible for ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty.

"Besides the direct perpetrators of these abuses, those officials who ordered or were informed of the abuse should be held accountable. Suitable penalties, commensurate to the gravity of the offences, should follow, but justice must not be selective. The investigation and judicial processes must comply with human rights standards so as to preserve the integrity and credibility of the institutions responsible for upholding the law."

The Commissioner also underlines that it is crucial to ensure that victims, witnesses and their families be protected, including against retaliation from those officials who were implicated in the cases concerned, and be provided with adequate legal remedies, as well as medical and psycho-social assistance.

Finally, Commissioner Muižnieks stresses that the phenomenon of ill-treatment in prisons should not be viewed in isolation from the penitentiary system and criminal justice policy in general. "Georgia has the highest rate of imprisonment in Europe, which stems partly from the stringent policy of "zero tolerance" of petty crime and the disproportionately lengthy sentences imposed. A more humane and human rights oriented criminal justice policy should be adopted and the resort to detention on remand and imprisonment reduced"

The reply of the Prime Minister of Georgia is available here.