About the general conditions in prisons and generally, the current facts of violation of the human rights, “Georgia & World” interviews human rights defender Nana Kakabadze.
– Mrs. Nana, the last report by the Ombudsman stated that the cases of death of prisoners is increasing catastrophically. Has anything changed thereafter and, are there even minimal signs of improvement of this indicator?
– Unfortunately, no signs of improvement are seen to this end. Improvements cannot be expressed in figures, only. Generally, manipulation by figures is a characterizing feature of this government and, it is one of their usual methods through which they forge an extremely concerning statistic that factually exists in the country.
– Which method do you mean in particular?
– After the number of deaths of the prisoners reached three-figure as a result of the government’s forcible policy, the latter understood that it would have a very sharp reaction by the international community and, “discovered” several methods for reducing these figures. One of such methods is that the prisoners whose state was so poor that they could die even in several days or hours, the prison administration was sending them to the civil hospitals “for curing”. After death, such persons were registered by the hospitals, not by the penitentiary system which caused their death factually.
As a result of such manipulation, the death index in the prisons was reduced, of course, but, such a reduction was reflected only in the official data, formally. As a matter of fact, the situation in prisons is so intolerable and the facts of merciless attitude towards the prisons are so frequent, that the cases of deaths of prisoners is increasing critically This is a process tat gradually becomes obvious and is clear for everyone – advocates, human right defenders. But, the State Power is not interested in it and, simply, do not want to hear anything that such the things may take place in the twenty first century. . .
– It was indicated also in the Ombudsman’s report that the prisoners are not provided by an adequate medical treatment and, this fact was named as one of the reasons of a high rate of deaths. What can you say about the current situation in this view?
– I can say directly that at present, the situation is much more hard than it was last year or even two years ago. Moreover, there are cases when the sick prisoners ask for a doctor, medicines, sedatives, cardiac improving drugs, but instead, the officers of the prison administration beat them saying – this is your doctor, this is your drug. These are the methods of holding the prisoners under a terror, enforcing them to keep silence and express no protest against the regime and unjust conditions over the penitentiary system.
– Recently, during the visit of the Prince of Monaco to Georgia, Kalmakhelidze, declared bravely that the “Georgian penitentiary system operates like a watch” declaring.
– All know that the PR is a policy of this government: a democratic a façade with a authoritarian interior. The same is true for prisons, as well: facades of some of them became beautiful to look, painted, roofed etc. But inside, the situation remains unchanged, even worsened. I wand to say that the facts of torture of and inhuman attitude to the prisoners is an usual practice in the prisons, but the government shows no reaction to improve the situation. So, the only thing the government tries, is to gain points with painting the facades and repairing the roofs. But, factually, all know that the events taking place in the prisons, cannot be and are not within the frameworks of democracy.
– One can hardly but understand when a pressure is exercised towards the political prisoners to whom the government may have a certain interest, but, what do you think, why the government applies pressure and inhuman methods to ordinary prisoners?
– This is a general policy and relates not only to the political prisoners but to any others placed in the jails. As to the goal the government pursues this policy, is that it tries to hold under the terror the prisoners first of all and the society, in general, because, when a person knows that if he makes a step against the state power, let’s say – participates in anti-governmental meetings, his the family member, friend or relative being placed in the prison may occur under a serious threat. Of course, such a person will always remain under a terror and a fear. The government knows it well and, that is why the facts of torture and merciless attitude towards the prisoners take place more and more frequently.
– In the times of the former state power, the number of prisoners was considerably less, on one hand, and the cases of crime were happening often than now. Do you think that an increased number of prisoners indicates on an effective work of the law enforcement structures?
– This is a logic of this government, with which they are truing to justify the existing regime. But, really, we see really that there is no justice in the country. Is a policeman receives no gift and the cars are not any more stolen in the streets, it does not mean that everything is OK. It must be so. But, when we talk about the order and justice, we should say firs of all that the prisons are overcrowded by the political prisoners, that according to the statistics, a number of prisoners increases by four hundred, per month, that the facts of inhuman attitude and torture in prisons, get an unprecedented degree, etc.
As to the former state power you mentioned above, I would like to say that despite everything negative that was happening in hat times, much better conditions wsere created in the prisons, the administration was more tolerant to the prisoners and, the deaths statistic was considerably low
– But, Saakashvili permanently makes comparisons between the former and current conditions and insists the current situation in prisons is now incomparably better?
– You are free not to believe me, but even in 1990s when a full chaos and disorders was spread over the country, the attitude towards the prisoners was by a certain view near to the standards known as the European Standards. In the communists era, a question whether a prisoner’s safety is guaranteed, was not emerging at all. For instance. when I was imprisoned, it was during 1983-1985, I can say freely that the prison administration was much human and the legislation was much liberal than it is now. As to the death and illness rates, they were minimal. Besides, in that times, if a prisoner was placed in a jail one day of imprisonment was counted as three-four days. So, a prisoner had a choice – to go to jail for releasing by 3-4 times sooner or to go to the pen-type prison and stay there for a full period and even in this case there were certain allowances. But, as to the current situation, a prisoner has no option, he/she does not know where he/she will be placed, because all is decided by the penitentiary administration without taking into account a prisoner’s interests, his/her health state, This is a result of the current government’s liberal policy.
– When starting our conversations, you indicated about the frequent facts of infringe of a human dignity. In what actions is it express in particular?
– It is expressed first of all in the attitude of the prison administration, beginning from the escort and ending by the top administrative offices. At last 70% of the prisoners are restricted in having the items of personal use. Accordingly, they cannot observe the norms of personal hygiene that naturally creates a serious discomfort. A prevailing part of the prisoners are deprived of having knives, forks, spoons and, therefore, are enforced to have a hot meal like an animal. If ask to the prison administration why it happens, they will answer that prisoners often use such things for self-injuring or damaging others. Of course, this is not a due argument
In a normal and civilized country pretending for having a democratic image, a prisoner must have all conditions created, for being in a human conditions during the period of sentence, while in case of a prisoner who may really create a threat to others, he/she must be placed separately, under a special supervision. Unfortunately, these requirements are not only met still in our reality, but in contrary, many cases of suicide and self-injury are reported because of intolerable conditions in prisons, if say nothing about the diseases spread over the prisons owing to such inhuman situation.
– Do the international human right protecting organizations react adequately on all these things?
– Yes, of course. For instance, the last three reports prepared by Thomas Hammerberg underline clearly that the situation in the Georgian penitentiary establishments is intolerable and that the rights of prisoners are violated . The similar content have the reports of other international human right defenders. All these in sum, indicate on a very hard situation existing in the country, in this field.
I told several times and, I would like to repeat it once again that the only thing the world wants from Georgia, is a democracy. We are not a state which may cause a certain interest with its oil or other natural resources. Thus, protection of human rights should be task of the highest priority for Georgia. But, instead of striving for the democratic progress, the government makes everything in contrary. We see it well that the existing regime suppresses these processes and thus destroys all perspectives of the country’s democratic development. This is a sign of a typical authoritarian governance and the state power does not even conceal it. Unfortunately or fortunately the whole world, including those political circles to whom Saakashvili and his surrounding were connecting their hopes, understand it well.
Interviewed by Jaba Zhvania