The Georgian Public Defender’s Office submitted its annual human rights report covering 2011 to the Parliament on March 28.
Almost half of the 644-page report is a detailed description of situation in the penitentiary system and detention centers.
The report says that the problem of overcrowded prison cells remains in “some” prison facilities. According to the report Georgia’s prison population was 24,244 as of December, 2011 with the total actual capacity of functioning prisons in the second half of last year standing at 23,630. Total of 9,460 people were imprisoned last year and 9,293 inmates were released from jails.
The report says that mistreatment of inmates “remains one of the major challenges for Georgia’s penitentiary system.”
“In order to completely eradicate ill-treatment, it is essential to effectively investigate each of such case and to overcome syndrome of impunity that represents a serious problem today,” the report reads. “The Public Defender has referred number of such cases to the Georgian chief prosecutor’s office, but in most of the cases investigation is either suspended or dragged out.”
“Syndrome of impunity is enrooted among employees of [penitential] system and often leadership of number of [prison] facilities tries to cover up the problem rather than to solve it,” the report says.
Only in one case a prison official was held responsible for mistreatment of an inmate over last two years, according to the report.
The report says that 140 inmates died last year with 31.5% of them of tuberculosis. The report puts 6.57% of death cases under the category of “forceful death”, including those caused by various bodily injuries.
Up to 45.8% of inmates, who died in 2011, were in the age between 31 and 50 and 27.8% - in the age between 51 and 60.
In 2010 142 inmates died, which was a 56% increase over a previous year. Tuberculosis was the cause of death in 49.3% of inmate death cases in 2010.
In a positive note, the report says that like in previous years, during the reporting period the Public Defender’s Office received no complaints about mistreatment from those who were held in police detention centers, which is under the Interior Ministry’s control. The report, however, notes about cases of ill-treatment of detainees by the police at the time of their arrest with many such cases reported during the dispersal of anti-government protest rally on May 26, 2011.
The report notes about excessive use of force by the police during dispersal of the protest on May 26 and calls on the chief prosecutor’s office to investigate those cases as they contain “signs of crime”, including those committed against the journalists who were covering the protest rally during its dispersal.
In cases of violation of rights of manifestation and assembly, the report notes dispersal of a hunger strike at the Heroes’ Square in Tbilisi in January, 2011, as well as the police intervention during a strike of steel plant workers in Kutaisi in September, 2011.
While noting positive reforms ongoing in the judiciary system, the report also says that problems still remain, including in respect of “either absence or lack of reasoning of court rulings.”
The report says that number of illegal cases committed on the grounds of religious intolerance has “declined drastically”. It also says that the law enforcement agencies’ reaction to such illegal acts became “more adequate” over the past two years.
The report welcomes last year’s legislative amendments allowing religious minorities to be registered as legal entities of public law – the move which was opposed by the Georgian Orthodox Church, as well as opposition political parties.
“But developments, which followed approval of this decision by the Parliament, showed that there still is no solid consensus about tolerance and principle of equality among the religious majority, opposition political spectrum, non-governmental organizations, media and in general in part of the society,” the report says.