CSOs Address CoE Anti-Torture Committee over Saakashvili

20 local civil society organizations addressed on November 12 the Council of Europe (CoE) Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), calling for an ad hoc visit to the Georgian prison system and monitoring the rights situation of jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili.

The signatories, including some of the key Georgian watchdogs, said they have been witnessing daily the “inhuman and degrading treatment” of the former President, manifested in “gross violation of his rights” as a hunger-striking prisoner and subsequently, a patient of the Gldani #18 penitentiary hospital.

The CSOs highlighted that the treatment of Saakashvili raises questions about the treatment and the human rights situation concerning other inmates as well, calling for an assessment of the overall situation in the Georgian penitentiary system.

The civil society outfits cited multiple concerns regarding the treatment of Saakashvili, including the authorities’ refusal to transfer the hunger-striking ex-President to a multi-profile civilian hospital, and the decision to take Saakashvili to the prison clinic instead.

They also cited Public Defender’s two assessments that the Gldani prison hospital failed to meet the recommendations issued by the council of doctors monitoring Saakashvili’s health.

The CSOs added that the prison clinic is also located on the premises of Gldani #8 penitentiary, where “most prisoners are members of the criminal underworld,” increasing the risks for Saakashvili’s safety due to his administration being associated with crackdown on crime.

Against this backdrop, Saakashvili was transferred on November 8 forcibly to the prison clinic “in flagrant violation of the standards of treatment of a prisoner on a hunger strike” and without his informed consent, the third sector stressed.

The outfits highlighted that during the transfer, Saakashvili was verbally abused by the prisoners of the Gldani prison, adding that his visitors, including Public Defender Nino Lomjaria, have been subjected to similar treatment by the inmates.

“The fact that the Special Penitentiary Service has not even attempted to stop other prisoners from resorting to verbal abuse leads us to suspect that these are orchestrated events,” the third sector stressed.

The watchdogs also noted with concern the penitentiary releasing footage of Saakashvili being dragged into the prison clinic against his will, and a video showing the ex-President consuming medically prescribed nutrients, with which the authorities argued had broken his hunger strike.

The civil society outfits highlighted statements by Georgian Dream government officials which “contribute to the inhuman and degrading treatment,” including remarks by Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, arguing Saakashvili had a “right to suicide.”

Key local civil society outfits, including Transparency International (TI) Georgia, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, Georgian Democracy Initiative, among others, signed the missive.

See the full list of the 20 signatories here.

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