The Public Defender’s Office said on May 19 its representatives were denied – for the second time – a monitoring visit into the Ninotsminda Orphanage, housing 56 children and run by the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC). The shelter’s employees reportedly refused to talk with the Ombudsperson’s monitors, citing instructions from the head of the foster home.
Monitors visited a Ninotsminda public school to find that none of the children from the orphanage were present, the Public Defender’s office stated, which seems to indicate that the foster home was informed about the planned inspection.
According to the Public Defender’s Office, two assessments by a state regulator since 2017 found that the orphanage fails to comply with regulations on protecting the beneficiaries from infectious diseases, organizing food rations, allocating leisure hours, and the limits on the number of beneficiaries per room.
The Ombudsperson also recalled that monitors were prevented from visiting the church-run home earlier on April 15, which prompted the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to issue an emergency temporary measure, calling on the Georgian authorities to immediately ensure that monitoring takes place.
While a state social worker subsequently visited the orphanage, the Public Defender’s Office said this can not be considered a fulfillment of the measure, as the Social Service Agency “is not the body that monitors the protection of child rights.”
By failing to exercise effective oversight over a government-licensed institution, the state “ignores the best interests of 56 juveniles,” the Public Defender’s statement stressed.
The Public Defender’s Office said it will follow up with the CRC on both the situation at the orphanage and the “ineffectiveness” of state measures. The s office said it is also examining the case of non-compliance with its request, punishable by administrative liability.
Orthodox Church Responds
Metropolitan Nikoloz (Pachuashvili) on May 20 cast doubts about the qualifications of the Ombudsperson’s representatives. He said the Orthodox Church must first be “assured” that the monitors are “appropriately prepared” before permitting the visit.
After the monitors were prevented from entering the orphanage for the first time on April 15, Archpriest Andira Jagmaidze, Head of the Public Relations Department of the Georgian Orthodox Church, said the Ombudsperson “lacks the authority” to enter the foster home’s premises, citing “frequent unbalanced statements” against the GOC. “It is generally believed that children have very good conditions [at the orphanage], but I am not aware of the details,” he added.