The children with disabilities should be removed from the Ninotsminda orphanage, the Tbilisi City Court said on June 5 in a temporary order that comes amidst weeks-long controversy around the powerful Orthodox Church-run foster home.
The court ruling came in response to the June 4 appeal by the Partnership for Human Rights, a Tbilisi-based civil society outfit, that focuses on children’s rights. The non-profit argued children’s lives and health were in danger and demanded their removal to other state-run facilities, including family-like foster care and reintegration to their biological families.
The court noted that its temporary order only applies to the children with disabilities, since the claimant, the PHR is entitled to file court appeals only on behalf of the kids with disabilities. Nevertheless, the order said the State Care Agency, which bears the duty to ensure the protection of the children in foster facilities, can apply to the court to extend the removal order to other children as well.
It was not immediately clear how many children will be subject to removal from the Ninotsminda orphanage. It is also unclear how many minors are currently living in the facility, with the reports from the Public Defender and Bishop Spiridon, who runs the foster home, ranging from around 50 to 150, respectively.
In the meantime, the State Agency stated on June 4, that once its agents entered the institution recently, 6 wards expressed the desire to leave it, and the other ten apparently will soon follow. Noteworthy, the Agency’s statement was followed by a Facebook live-stream by Bishop Spiridon, who was seen personally phoning the relatives of the children and demands from them to confirm they do not approve of the state taking away the children. The social workers were also seen in the videos, while a terrified child was seen paraded in front of them tearfully defending their “benefactor.”
The Bishop’s live stream videos, among others, were reportedly provided by the PHR to the court yesterday as proof that children’s lives and health were at risk in the orphanage.
Ana Arganashvili of the PHR said today although the court ruled removing only the children with disabilities, “the entire court decision refers [to the fact that the orphanage] threatens all of the children” of the institution.
Other Related Developments
Also today, the representatives of the Care Agency and the ruling Georgian Dream party lawmakers visited the facility on June 5, as the Public Defender is still barred from monitoring the foster home.
Elene Martashvili of the Care Agency said social workers will remain in the foster home to study the needs of every child, after which the agency will elaborate the action plan.
Senior Georgian Dream lawmaker Shalva Papuashvili, the governing party’s PR secretary, said in Ninotsminda two “major” issues, including defending the rights of children in the foster home, as well as the public having no doubts about their well-being are “fully guaranteed.” MP Papuashvili also vowed that the Public Defender as a “legally competent” body will be ensured to have access to the institution.
The criticism grew over the past days against the government for being reluctant to take action, for the fear of angering the powerful Georgian Orthodox Church. The Georgian Dream chairperson, Irakli Kobakhidze said “of course we don’t want to spoil the relations with the Patriarchate [of the Orthodox Church] …tough statements are not a solution,” adding that both the issues of children’s rights, and the church, are “sensitive.”
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