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In her interview with the Ukrainian news agency, Ukrinform, the Minister of Justice of Georgia, Tea Tsulukiani, stated: "

Human rights are not violated in our penitentiary system. There have been no complaints from the penitentiary system of Georgia to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg since our government assumed office."

FactCheck

verified the accuracy of Ms Tsulukiani’s statement at the request of our readers.

Tea Tsulukiani considers the fact of the non-violation of human rights in the penitentiary system to be an achievement of the current government. As proof of this, she stated that there have been no complaints from the penitentiary system of Georgia to the European Court of Human Rights.

FactCheck

looked into the situation in the penitentiary system of Georgia in terms of the rights of prisoners. According to the information of the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia, proceedings were commenced against 48 employees of the penitentiary system for inappropriate behaviour towards prisoners and similar crimes throughout 2013. Of the 48 aforementioned employees, 28 were found guilty. The Prosecutor’s Office does not state the exact number of prisoners who were victimised.

According to the information of the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia, from the approximately 1,000 complaints received from penitentiary facilities from 20 October 2012 to the first half of 2013, about 200 were incidences of torture and violent or degrading behaviour towards prisoners and were sent to the Prosecutor’s Office.

The 2014 Report of the Public Defender of Georgia indicates that a total of 27 prisoners died in the country’s penitentiary system and seven cases of suicide were also recorded. According to the information of the Public Defender, timely and adequate medical assistance for prisoners continues to represent a serious problem within the penitentiary system. The Report also describes specific cases of the violation of prisoners’ rights. For example, during their visit to one of the penitentiary facilities, Public Defender personnel observed two prisoners lying in the shower room wearing wet clothing. One of the prisoners had his hands and feet tied together with a chain. Both prisoners had easily noticeable external wounds. The Public Defender’s Office indicated that an investigation was started concerning this case.

On 4 March 2014, a convict died during a confrontation between prisoners in Penitentiary Facility No. 14. According to the decision

of the European Court of Human Rights, Article 3 of the European Convention obligates signatory states to take appropriate measures to protect persons under their jurisdiction from inappropriate behaviour, including that from other individuals. The state is obligated to take special care of people in penitentiary facilities so that their life or health are not in danger.

FactCheck

looked into the complaints to the European Court of Human Rights from Georgian penitentiary facilities from 2013 to 2015. According to the information received from the Ministry of Justice of Georgia, a total of four complaints were sent to the European Court of Human Rights from Georgia from 2013 to 2015, all referring to events that took place during the office of the previous government. However, an analysis of the complaints referred to in the letter, as well as others, show that the plaintiffs accused the current government of ineffectively investigating the crimes of the previous government which is provided for by Article 13 of the European Convention (for example: Tedliashvili and other against Georgia, Mamulashvili against Georgia and Ochigava against Georgia).

In addition, it should be pointed out that the information provided by the Ministry of Justice of Georgia about the complaints to the European Court of Human Rights from Georgian penitentiary facilities from 2013 to 2015 is incomplete. The contents of the complaints sent to Strasbourg become known to the government only after the Court notifies the Government of Georgia of taking a particular case under consideration according to Article 54, Point 2, Section B of the European Convention. Accordingly, the Ministry of Justice of Georgia only possesses information about those cases currently being considered by the European Court of Human Rights and subsequently reported to the Ministry.

A person addresses the European Court of Human Rights only after he exhausts all of the legal protection mechanisms available inside his particular country. This process, as well as the submission of a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights, requires a great deal of time; specifically, the period between the specific fact described in the complaint and the submission of the complaint to the European Court of Human Rights takes from two to five years. Hence, the number of complaints submitted to the European Court of Human Rights does not provide a real picture for the assessment of the situation in the field of human rights protection under the current government. Time is required to objectively assess the number of complaints which have been sent to Strasbourg.

Conclusion

Complaints submitted to the European Court of Human Rights from Georgia during 2014-2015 concern the ineffective investigation of the cases of death, torture, inhuman and degrading behaviour in Georgian penitentiary facilities (which were recorded during the office of the previous government) by the current Government of Georgia. No other complaints during the office of the current government have been recorded.

However, it should be pointed out that citizens address the European Court of Human Rights only after they exhaust all of the legal protection tools available in their country. Hence, the presentation of a specific case to the European Court of Human Rights requires a great deal of time (by the practice studied by FactCheck,

this takes anywhere from two to five years). Accordingly, the number of complaints to the European Court of Human Rights fails to provide a real picture of the assessment of the situation in the field of human rights protection under the current government and more time is needed to make such an assessment.

According to the information of the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia, 28 employees have been found guilty of inappropriate behaviour towards prisoners and similar crimes in penitentiary facilities throughout 2013.

Information from the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia indicates that from the approximately 1,000 complaints received from penitentiary facilities from 20 October 2012 to the first half of 2013, about 200 showed signs of the violation of prisoners’ rights and were sent to the Prosecutor’s Office. The 2013 and 2014 Reports of the Public Defender describe the facts of violations of prisoners’ rights. Especially alarming facts presented in the Reports concern the cases of prisoner deaths and inappropriate behaviour towards them.

Hence, FactCheck concludes that Tea Tsulukiani’s statement that human rights are not violated in the Georgian penitentiary system is FALSE.

Editor's Note: The initial version of the article was published in June 2015 in which FactCheck examined Tea Tsulukiani’s statement: "Human rights are not violated in Georgia. There have been no claims to the European Court of Human Rights from Georgia since the new government assumed office." However, as was later determined, the Ukrinform journalist made an unintentional error and put this phrase within an incorrect context given that the Minister of Justice of Georgia spoke only about the penitentiary system of Georgia and pointed out that human rights were not being violated therein. We investigated the aforementioned error, contacting the Ukrinform journalist who confirmed that there was indeed a mistake in the interview. Hence, FactCheck renewed its research and verified the accuracy of Ms Tsulukiani’s actual statement. The article was corrected with the verdict changed as well. Tea Tsulukiani’s statement was rated as FALSE instead of a LIE.

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