The Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) on June 6 said it will appeal the Tbilisi City Court’s recent temporary order, ruling to remove children with disabilities from the Ninotsminda orphanage following the weeks-long controversy surrounding the church-run foster home.
The GOC argued that evidence “proving ill-treatment and violence against minors” at the orphanage was not presented in court, while the foster home staff was not given an opportunity to state their position at the hearing.
Noting that the situation at the orphanage has also not been assessed by “competent specialists,” the Orthodox Church argued that the “unreasonable and hasty” removal of beneficiaries from the foster home “is not in the children’s best interests,” and “contradicts the adequate protection of their rights.”
Explaining its “delayed” involvement in the matter, the Orthodox Church said it was never addressed about the hindrances faced by the Public Defender’s Office in monitoring the foster home.
“Now the situation has changed,” the GOC stressed, adding that social workers are monitoring the foster children round the clock, while “the church will continue to cooperate with relevant agencies in compliance with the standards provided by Georgian law.”
Contrary to the GOC’s position, Bishop Grigol Berbichashvili of Poti and Khobi Diocese expressed hope that the court ruling will be executed “without any difficulties and resistance.” He said the situation would not have exacerbated if the Ombudsperson was not restricted from monitoring the orphanage, which triggered suspicions in the public.
20 minors, including seven with disabilities, overall have been removed from the foster home to date, following the three days of monitoring by social workers, according to the Agency for State Care.
Civil Society welcomes the ruling
40 local civil society organizations working on child and adolescent mental health issues welcomed the ruling, but highlighted that “it is important for all the beneficiaries to be removed from the orphanage.”
The CSOs called on the authorities to take additional measures, including establishing a “special commission” of lawyers, psychologists, and social workers to investigate alleged crimes committed by the Ninotsminda orphanage staff “in line with international standards.”
“According to the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), the facts that have emerged from conversations with former [Ninotsminda] foster children over the last days equate to torture and ill-treatment,” the CSOs also reported.
Highlighting the importance of ensuring a safe environment for the children removed from the orphanage, the CSOs said it is essential that professionals assess the psychological condition of the foster home beneficiaries and provide qualified assistance or refer them to the appropriate mental health services.
Read more on the controversy surrounding the Orthodox Church-run Ninotsminda Orphanage below:
- Court Rules Removing Kids with Disabilities from Church-run Orphanage
- CSOs Call for Swift Gov’t Action on Church-Run Orphanage
- Church-Run Orphanage Controversy Continues
- Public Defender Monitors Refused Access to Church-run Orphanage, Again