The Coalition for Equality, uniting eleven Georgian CSOs, said yesterday the “alarming” situation at the Georgian Orthodox Church-run Ninotsminda orphanage calls for a “swift and stringent response from the state,” including by ensuring that the Public Defender is allowed to monitor the foster home.
The Coalition expressed concern that while the Ombudsperson has been repeatedly refused to monitor the institution, the orphanage has recently allowed the visit of Levan Vasadze affiliated “pro-Russian” Alt-info media outlet, and other “violent group” leaders, including Guram and Aleksandre Palavandishvilis and Director of the Primakov Georgia-Russia Public Center, Dimitri Lortkipanidze.
The CSOs also noted that former Bishop of Borjomi and Bakuriani Diocese, Serapime Jojua, who was forced to leave his Eparchy over accusations of sexually abusing a minor, was invited for a sermon at the orphanage on International Children’s Day, June 1.
The statement comes amid the recent revelation that four criminal cases related to the orphanage have opened since 2016, with three of them involving allegations of violence against minors and one of alleged rape of a minor. As the controversy took a new turn, Shame and Droa! movements protested the foster home developments outside the Prosecutor’s Office, where police reportedly detained nine activists yesterday evening. The media quoted Interior Ministry as saying that five of them were released on parole. The shame movement reported that two of its activists injured their arms while being detained.
Allegations pile up
Speaking to the media, several persons identifying themselves as former orphanage beneficiaries have made grave allegations of being mistreated and abused during their time at the foster home. One of them claimed the orphanage attendants beat the minors with planks and rulers, adding that a seven-year-old was beaten to death. “Police did not come … they [employees] covered [his body] in some cloth and took him away,” he claimed.
The Interior Ministry stated that based on various media reports it has launched an investigation into possible crimes committed against beneficiaries of the orphanage, under Article 126 (1), involving violence against minors. The Ministry did not specify which particular allegations are being investigated.
Meri Maglaperidze, Head of the Agency for State Care said on June 4 that social workers have already facilitated the transfer of six children, with works in progress on further transfer of ten more. She said a group of the Agency workers have arrived at the orphanage and are to remain on-site until the conditions of the rest of the beneficiaries are evaluated.
Maglaperidze said the Agency received the latest complaint from the orphanage ten days ago, with a minor accusing a caregiver of psychological abuse.
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