Human rights advocacy organizations permanently request relevant bodies to react to the facts of beating and death rate of prisoners placed in the facilities of Georgian penitentiary system; however, nothing has been changed so far. Moreover, the incident described in the letter of the prisoner Ovanov goes far beyond any limits of cruelty. The prisoner blames the administration of the Ksani facility #15 for beating, torturing and raping him, and names concrete persons. “The employees of the Ksani #15 closed facility were on evening round. They told me to go with them to the administrative building. Upon entering the building, they started to verbally abuse and exert psychological pressure on me. Then they beat me, which is not a rare occasion. However, what they committed cannot be placed within the frames of human dignity, namely: after having beaten me cruelly, they raped me with a baton. They threatened that if I talked about the fact I would put my life under danger and nobody would be able to help and save me” –the prisoner wrote in his letter. Georgia and World interviewed Lado Macharashvili, a lawyer of Petre Ovanov and a member of NGO – Solidarity to Illegal Prisoners.
Prisoner Ovanov writes in his letter sent from the prison that during a round the prison employees beat him and tried to exert psychological pressure on him. What were they demanding from the prisoner?
Petre Ovanov has some health-related problems due to which he has been requesting to be medically examined and relevantly treated. He was only given sedatives that, as you may know, can have some effect for some period of time, but cannot cure the health problem itself. Despite his recurrent requests, nobody paid attention to him. For the third time, he wrote a letter of complaint to the Minister stating that despite his recurrent requests nobody paid any attention to him. He became an inadmissible person to the facility management. He was warned that if he did not stop, he would find himself in difficult conditions.
Have you visited him after making the fact public? How does he feel himself? Is his life under threat?
I do not know anything about his health because after we held a briefing at his request about the incident that took place in the prison, he called and, despite our agreement, requested to stop. I suspect that he might be under pressure. There were some facts backing my doubts: when I met and talked with Petre Ovanov, I forgot to give him my phone number in order to contact me in case of necessity. Despite the fact, he called me. It is clear that somebody gave him my number in the prison and let him call me. The second fact is that he had been calling for an hour (I was at the court hearing and could not take the call). We all know that in a close facility a prisoner is allowed to speak on the phone maximum for five minutes. Can you imagine a prisoner calling for an hour? It is unimaginable in the prison. The third fact is that I cannot say for sure that I talked with Petre Ovanov by phone. It is not excluded that somebody else contacted me and said he was Ovanov. Before we talked on the phone, I had met Ovanov only once and I could not recognize his voice.
I addition, we had talked about that previously and he knew quite well that pressure would be exerted on him after making the fact public. However, he said he was ready to go to the end.
“Please, demonstrate your attention and sensitiveness to me to acquire some hope and guarantee that I am protected from these people. It is not a problem for them to fulfill their threat. There is no mechanism here that could stop them and protect me. I urge you to inform the case to all local and international human rights advocacy organizations” – the letter sent from the prison by Ovanov states. As his lawyer, what are the leverages that you possess to assist the prisoner?
I had already appealed to the prosecutor’s office requesting to start criminal proceedings on the fact before Ovanov called me. I also sent a complaint to Khatuna Kalmakhelidze. In addition, I have disseminated the information to all diplomatic representatives; Ombudsman is also involved. The above bodies have to immediately start the investigation of the fact. I am planning to meet Ovanov these days. I’ll help him if he has desire to be helped. However, if they tell me that there is an objection to me as to a lawyer, I will not be able to meet and assist him. It is not excluded that they will make Ovanov act like that.
Shota Tolordava, Levan Lezhava, Giorgi Parjanadze, Dima Chkheidze…How did the facilities listed by you or the prison administration reacted to the people directly blamed by Ovanov?
They demonstrated no reaction except for an announcement made by the Ministry of Probation and Legal Assistance. “Some political subjects deliberately spread forged information on penitentiary system to mislead our society. The information humiliates penitentiary system as well as prisoners and the ones convicted”, states the announcement. However, the announcement is not logical since we are not political subjects: “Solidarity to Illegal Prisoners” is NGO, and I am a lawyer, meaning that we are not involved in politics. However, the Ministry deliberately tries to tie the case with politics. Besides, the announcement made by the Ministry stated its surprise related to the delayed disclosure of the fact of rape that happened on February 24 of the current year. The letter reached us with delay because Ovanov could not send it earlier; he could not trust anybody; he knew that if the prison administration found out about the letter, he would find himself in trouble. He managed to send the letter through a released prisoner. Ovanov says he will be able to prove the fact of rape. Hence, Kalmakhelidze’s announcement is a lie.
In addition, the prisoner was blamed for not appealing to the Inspection General for reaction. What would have it changed? No Inspection General would arrest the Director of the facility, and the prisoner would have been in much worse situation.
We have filed a complaint to the prosecutor’s office, but they have not even called. That’s what their reaction is when everybody knows that the fact requires quick interference.
What do the prisoners say? What are other methods applied by the prison employees?
I am sure there are many facts of rape. However, prisoners prefer to keep silent due to different reasons. They do not want to make the facts public.