“Georgia and World” interviewed Lali Aptsiauri, the advocate and human rights protector about the recent situation with regards to human rights protection in the country.
_ Ms. Lali, several days ago non-governmental organization “International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy” published a report, which mentions that electoral environment deteriorated as compared to the previous month. In accordance with the above-mentioned report, since May 4 to June 4 there were ten cases of released under political motive, nine cases of threat and pressure, two cases of political reprisal, four cases of interference with the journalists activity, two cases of interfering with activities of observation organization and six cases of using administrative resources recorded. In your opinion, how serious are these violations and what tendency this is indicative of?
_ These are only those facts which have become public and is known to the majority of the society, but those facts which are not familiar to us are so much more, that such list may not fit into one volume. I would like to say that this report is not complete. In my opinion, there are much more and worse facts. For example, the events which are taking place with regards to the 9th channel. The journalists have no a single interview obtained without being insulted, beaten or having a camera broken. Besides, elections are coming and what is going on in regions, does someone know how and in which form authorities work? These are issues for which we do not have complete information and one non-governmental organization is not enough for publicizing of all these facts which take place in the country.
_ It is understandable that, on the one part, there are many cases of rights infringement, but there are also many rights protection organizations. How can it happen, that the majority of these law violation cases remain unpublicized?
_ I agree that this problem really exists and I have talked about this many times.
In 1989 we were one of the first organizations, which was working in terms of prisoners’ rights protection. Back then there were only several such organization and mainly such facts were disseminated through them. Now there are a number of such non-governmental organizations, some of those have such big grants received that you can hardly believe it. And what is going on: instead of having a lot of news disseminated, majority of law infringements are not publicized. The question arises: what these organization are doing and where is their work done? They are still my colleagues and I do not want to insult them, but the fact is that non-governmental sector, law protectors in particular, are fallen in sleep in Georgia. These organizations practically do nothing, while what we see and listen is one and the same – they publicize one particular fact which is under attention during the whole week. Nothing gets done beyond this. While, I would like to repeat that there are so many terrible facts, that it is hard for people to believe these stories.
_ As for situation existing in prisons, despite the fact that law enforcers constantly talk about torture, inhuman treatment of prisoners, the majority of them hardly name a specific fact. Is any similar case familiar to you?
_ The fact that human rights protectors miss specificity is determined by two reasons: the first reason is that after establishing Saakashvili’s regime, it is practically impossible to conduct any type of monitoring in prisons; the second reason is that the prisoners themselves do not talk about facts. Although, despite these reasons, silence on the side of rights protectors on fact of law infringement is not justified. On the contrary, they create favorable conditions for authorities at some extent, since, as you know, as soon as one, two and three facts get classified, characteristic sign of this regime is to increase pressure of people.
You asked me about specific cases and despite the fact that we do not have any control means in penitentiary system, the information still leaks. Wall of prisons do not fit in so much terror. For example, several days before actions conducted by “Georgian Dream”, press and radio was forbidden in prisons cells, also phones were disconnected to avoid prisoners’ contacts with families. Due to form of torture and inhuman treatment that have been established under management of Khatuna Kalmalhelidze, many prisoners have become mentally sick. They made one of the prisoners dig his own grave. Then they tell him that his life is not worth of anything, he can take a weapon and kill himself. In one word, horrifying things unknown to any epoch and period take place.
Despite everything, I say frankly that everything that we see and listen does not surprise me. I stated back in 2009 year, when our office was raided, that the regime was already established. By the way, the oppositions called me insane and marginal back then, but unfortunately, my words have come true.
_ It is interesting if someone will reveal those high level officials who personally make order to treat prisoners like this.
_ The issue is not with who makes order and who executes it. The system itself is such and there are people adjusted to this system. A normal person will not be able to work there, the current employers fit the system perfectly. This is a reality, but on the other side, there are other aspects as well: after Saakashvili escapes the country, maximum two hundred people will be able to fit into his plane, the others shall live here. Georgia is a small country, we will definitely meet this policemen somewhere and believe that former prisoner will be in the heat of passion… By the way, I always read this morale to the prison administration and tell them that they will live in this country and someday a potential killer may be found at the same table as they will and they may be easily killed. This is absolutely real, since when you threaten a person with raping a wife, killing a child, destroying a family, naturally, this person will revenge as soon as he comes out of prison.
_ All of these is understandable, but when we talk about specific law infringements and crimes, the issue of responsibility arises automatically. Who you, as an advocate and rights protector, would first of all impose this responsibility on?
_ First of all I would impose this responsibility on Mikheil Saakashvili, since the origin of all these illegalities is eventually this person. Then – the ministers – the same Khatuna Kalmakhelidze, her predecessor, also prosecutor’s office, the whole law enforcement body itself, and of course, on Vano Merabishvili. I would not stop on other low rank officials, since this will take us far away. These people shall become accountable and punished. You can call this either example, or lesson for others. Otherwise, not only change of authorities has importance, but also feeling of un-punishment and intactness, which persons experience at such time, may encourage these people to turn around. Do not forget that Saakashvili and only his team are mainly young people, therefore, by leaving the authorities his political career may end, but not finally. I would like to say that if these people will not become accountable and everything will not be called its name, does not matter where they will go and in which form, the threat will remain always in face of National Movement.
_ How do you think, will it be a problem to obtain information about specific crimes? Today the whole archive is under control of National Movement and if they will feel a threat, everything will disappear.
_ This is not as easy as some people think. Information does not get disappeared so easily. I think that as soon as authorities will change, first of all, their crimes will get publicized, society will receive a terrible information and this information will destroy everything. This is well realized by the authorities. Therefore, naturally, they will try their best to keep certain things completely classified, but I would like to repeat once again – if there will be a will on the side of future authorities and if society will require to make criminals accountable for their deeds, does not matter where they go, these will still get punishment. Does not matter at which point of the earth, Mikheil Saakashvili will still receive justice which he will not be able to avoid.
Interview by Jaba Zhvania