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Justice Ministry Bars Ukrainian Public Defender from Visiting Saakashvili

Georgian Justice Ministry has refused to allow Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, Lyudmyla Denisova, visit jailed former Georgian President at the Gldani #18 prison clinic.

The Ukrainian public defender stated she awaits an official missive from the Justice Ministry explaining the reason for the refusal, and will in the meantime try to meet the chief doctor of the clinic to discuss the condition of Saakashvili, on a hunger strike since his arrest on October 1.

Denisova said Saakashvili’s lawyers informed her that the ex-President is under psychological pressure, and deprived of the possibility to properly rest and sleep at night. She claimed that inmates of the Gldani #8 prison, located in close proximity to the hospital, begin shouting if Saakashvili turns off lights or opens the window in his ward, so the ex-President has to sleep with lights on.

The public defender argued this constituted torture of Saakashvili, and a violation of the United Nations Convention against Torture.

She arrived in Georgia on November 15, to visit Saakashvili, currently a Ukrainian citizen, at the prison clinic where he was transferred on November 8 against his will. Denisova noted she had received a letter from the former President complaining about deteriorating health and unsatisfactory conditions of the penitentiary hospital.

According to Denisova, the Ukrainian Embassy in Tbilisi had directed a request to the Justice Ministry to grant the Ukrainian public defender access to hospitalized Saakashvili.

The Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights was previously in Georgia on October 27, when she visited hunger-striking ex-President at the Rustavi #12 prison.

Following the meeting, she had called on the authorities to transfer Saakashvili to a civilian hospital instead of the prison clinic if necessary, and highlighted possible violations of the ex-President’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a briefing today, Justice Minister Rati Bregadze maintained “we are not obligated” by law to allow the Ukrainian public defender’s visit to the Gldani #18 penitentiary hospital, adding “there was no necessity for it.”

Minister Bregadze cited as another reason for the refusal that the authorities are trying to “maximally protect” the health of hospitalized Saakashvili.

He went on to criticize Denisova over “making one-sided assessment” following her first meeting with Saakashvili in October. “She did not even ask us any question whether the information provided to her [by Saakashvili] was correct.”

Georgia’s Imprisonment Code says that inmates who are foreign citizens have the right to an unlimited number of meetings with a representative of a diplomatic mission or a consular office of their home country, or with an authorized diplomatic representative who protected their country’s interests in Georgia.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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