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Georgia

Georgian Prisons Minister Steps Down In Wake Of Abuse Videos

Georgia's Prison Minister Khatuna Kalmakhelidze is stepping down amid claims of prison abuse.
Georgia's Prison Minister Khatuna Kalmakhelidze is stepping down amid claims of prison abuse.
By RFE/RL's Georgian Service
TBILISI -- Georgian Minister of Corrections, Probation, and Legal Assistance Khatuna Kalmakhelidze has resigned, one day after television channels controlled by political interests opposed to President Mikheil Saakashvili aired videos purportedly showing the abuse of prisoners at a jail in Tbilisi.

Saakashvili later ordered police to replace prison officers as street protests sparked by the videos continued in Tbilisi and other cities on September 19.

Saakashvili said on Georgian television that he also had demanded a complete overhaul of the country's prison system.

"The penitentiary system should be disbanded and recreated from the start. This should be done in the same way that we dealt with the patrol police," Saakashvili said.

"Yes, this is a discreditation war. But that is the least of my concerns. I understand that all this is done in murky ways and money plays a role there too. But we shouldn't give them any cause [for making criticisms] or make ourselves vulnerable."

At a demonstration against prison abuse in the capital on September 18, Shorena Shaverdashvili, editor in chief of "Liberali" magazine, noted that such abuse is endemic in the Georgian prison system.

"This is not the first incident of torture in prisons," she said. "Year after year, there are documented cases in the ombudsman's report about tortured prisoners. In last year's report alone, there are 140 different identified cases of torture or mishandling prisoners. So this is really a continuation of a tendency and a really horrendous continuation of that tendency."

Shaverdashivili called on the ministers of interior and justice to resign.

CAUCASUS REPORT: Scandal Highlights Poor Prison Conditions

Tea Tsulukiani, an activist with the opposition Georgian Dream movement of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, told Reuters on September 18 that she blamed Saakashvili's government for the abuse.

"Today the Georgian public saw material which shows that our prisoners are tortured in Georgian prisons, and that they are subjected to cruelty as well as inhuman and degrading treatment. In accordance with the European convention, we call all of this treatment torture. And Saakashvili's government is torturing people in Georgian prisons."

WATCH: Georgians Protest Alleged Prison Abuse In Tbilisi 
Georgian Protest Against Alleged Inmate Abuse Growsi
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September 19, 2012
Students from the Tbilisi State University joined a swelling demonstration against prison abuse in the capital, Tbilisi, on September 19 after watching news bulletins from two pro-opposition TV channels in which videos were aired that purportedly show the torture, abuse, and rape of prisoners.

 
It is not clear when most of the videos were shot, but one was dated August 24. They show dozens of guards and officers either participating in or encouraging the abuse of prisoners. 

One video shows a prisoner weeping while being raped with a stick.

Arrests Made

Georgia's Interior Ministry immediately announced the arrests of three officials at Tbilisi's Prison No. 8.

However, the government claims that some prison officials organized the abuse and its filming at the request of an inmate named Tamaz Tamazashvili, who has connections with Georgian Dream.

A screen grab from one of the prison torture videos
A screen grab from one of the prison torture videos

Police say $17,000 and video-recording equipment were found in the office of one of the arrested prison officials.

Tamazashvili's son is a Georgian Dream parliament candidate in the town of Dedoplistskaro, and Tamazashvili is the father-in-law of Ivanishvili senior aide Irakli Garibashvili.

Tamazashvili was arrested shortly after Ivanishvili announced his entry into politics in October 2011 on weapons charges. He is serving a 3 1/2-year term, and Ivanishvili has repeatedly labeled him a "political prisoner."

In its criticism of Ivanishvili's political grouping, Saakashvili's ruling United National Movement party has made reference to Tamazashvili, who worked in the Interior Ministry in the period before the 2003 Rose Revolution, and it has also featured him in an attack advertisement.

Georgia will hold parliamentary elections on October 1.

Ivanishvili has vowed to oust the government. But on September 19 he called for calm and asked Georgians to express their anger at the polls.
 
The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi said it shared Georgians' "shock and revulsion" at the images. The U.S. Embassy also called on Georgia's government to conduct a "thorough and transparent" investigation.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Civil.ge, and Reuters
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
September 19, 2012 11:18
One has to admit that the Georgians are much more advanced in this respect than their bosses from the US: just one video documenting torture and ministers start stepping down.
And at the same time, zillions of documentary evidence that certifies that the US military administration has been and continues practicing torture in Guantanamo and Afghanistan has never lead to anyone stepping down in the US military (or civilian) administration at all.
So, it looks like the US could learn something useful from the small country in the Caucasus!
In Response

by: Joni Simonishvili from: Tbilisi
September 19, 2012 11:54
I wonder how much more advanced are Georgians than others in the world of spin and when things spin out of control. I have been a victim of torture myself in Georgia and understand the role that the US government plays in supporting torture - as representatives of the US Embassy participated in my tortures in Georgia.


http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=25221>

Can't say he's been in charge of this beacon of democracy for 8 years and not known about this - enough people have complained about it but it's taken the release of video footage and a large and spontaneous crowd of people coming after him (they flocked to where they thought he was) to scare him into acting.

Now they will paper over the cracks and the head honchos will get off scott-free, as usual.
In Response

by: peter from: ottawa canada
September 19, 2012 12:51
Lets open up russian prisons , siryans prisons, chinese prisons , iranian prisons , north korean prisons and other dictatorships and see what we find, but we cant because theres no freedom of speech, assembly , thought , or religion something you take for granted in austria, you know , the good life.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
September 19, 2012 15:07
You are bloody right,dear EU Genio,them stupid and backward americans have a lot to learn from georgians and other assorted necktie eaters and I`m glad to hear Vah vah vahtang has already organized a crash course in georgian demockracy to teach the stupid gringos the basics of necktie eathing and our only hope for the west lies in your and Jack`s participation in that course.Every american will have to attend that course and then we shall send all gringos ,beavuses and buttheads to Gori,pardon,Guantanamo and shall establish true georgian Koba democracy in all americas-southern and northern.Give my best regards to all dope and socialist dealers from Vienna.See you at the russian embassy there!!!
In Response

by: Sey from: World
September 19, 2012 15:59
The reason why the violations in Guantanamo and Afghanistan takes place is because those prisons are not in US soil, and therefore US law does not apply to them. That is exactly why they were built there.
In Response

by: rick
September 20, 2012 04:17
guatanamo .... uhm .... is not this cuban soil ?

is not this an USA occupation ?

And USA are speking about russian occupation
in Transinistria , Abkazia , Osetia
and they don't remember about guatanamo ?!?!?!?
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
September 20, 2012 05:03
Sey, althought you are correct on the legalities, I believe that Barak Obama and Leon Panetta still carry a moral responsibility for the conduct of their military personnel regardless of where they are based. There is no value in the President claiming "The US does not torture" when clearly it does.

(PS: In 1903, at the signing of the American-Cuban treaty, the then Cuban government agreed to give control of the territory of Guantanamo Bay to the USA. Therefore, US law should apply. If US law does not apply, then US military law should also not apply, and the detention centre should be closed down.)

by: Porky Pine from: USA
September 19, 2012 11:42
Disgusting and sickening! there are no other terms to describe this awfulness; the Georgian Penitentiary has turned Abu Ghraib into a kindergarten.
For years Georgian have been talking about prison torture but the government has systematically and arrogantly dismissed the claims; it was shameful to hear yesterday the Georgian President condemning in the strongest terms the torture to cover himself now that it emerged publicly on TV channels days before the elections.
I agree that Mr. Ivanishvili might have paid someone to film the appalling scenes, good for him he is fighting with the same weapons that have been used against him.

by: Ben
September 19, 2012 14:55
RFE/RL breaks corruption records!
BBC informs about Russian military exercises that menace Georgian security(BBC opinion) ! Instead we are told about the Armenian ones.Don`t think of RFE as the Russian imperialists,they are just corrupt!

by: Ben
September 19, 2012 17:18
Lies factory of RFE works by simple standard: Israely plane struck the Gaza target(after the week of 100 rockets on Israely schools).
At first- the fabricated facts of the pro-Russia opposition,at the end- the slight mumble that that was some exaggeration( or the mere lie ).

by: Mike from: London
September 20, 2012 17:21
Why has she been forced to resign when she is so beautiful?

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