For the long time observers of Georgian politics like me (since 2004), these news on torture in prisons did not come as a surprise. If we look back into the recent history of Georgia and read carefully, for example, documents and reports released by the Ombudsman of Georgia, that time Sozar Subari (2004-2009), who joined the politics after his term expired, then the conclusion is obvious. Torture and impunity from the part of the representatives of the law-enforcement bodies have not been rooted out, and it is really hard to believe that the top leadership who oversaw the entire penitentiary system knew nothing about these facts of mistreatment and torture. As the President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili has said, this is a "systemic failure", and it would be a great step forward if the architects of this "failure" could bear the responsibility as well. This is not the current minister of prisons, Khatuna Kalmakhelidze, who resigned right after the video footage of torture has been aired on local TV channels, but the current Interior Minister Bacho Akhalaia, who has been a chief of penitentiary system for years and became rather notorious figure in Georgian politics.
The Georgian leadership took a blind eye on all the criticism coming from Subari's Office, instead blaming him that most of his criticism is politically driven and sometimes even groundless. Now, they pay the high price:
Well, one can claim that (again) this incident has been masterminded in Kremlin, sponsored by Georgia's ill-wishers (and this is what the Georgian Interior Ministry is doing right now), but one cannot hide the 'elephant in the room', this obvious truth that the whole penitentiary system is a failure. Will the "architects of this failed system" bear the responsibility? I have doubts, but it certainly would be very healthy for Georgian democracy and the development of internal politics. Let's hope and wait.
In all this mess, I still see the ray of hope. Tens of thousands of young Georgians took to the streets to protest the violation of human rights and abuses of prisoners as they stand behind those whose human rights have been violated. Individual liberty, democracy and human rights have become their core values, and if so, I am convinced that Georgia has a bright future.
|Students protest against Gldani Prison abuse, Tbilisi, Georgia © Onnik Krikorian 2012|
For more photos, visit: Student Protest after Prison Abuse Videos