Tbilisi pointed to jail23.09.2010 | 16:10
International observers take potshot at Georgia on their new tour around the country. Early in February members of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment visited a number of penitentiary facilities of Sakartvelo seeing the life of prisoners and their guards. After that they left for their bright European towns and wrote a report on obstacles that stop Georgia's unripe democracy from making it smoothly to an ideal civil society.
By the end of September representatives of the Council of Europe came up with a document heavily criticizing policies pursued by Georgian authorities against prisoners. Top challenges revealed by the European monitors are: unbearable conditions in which Georgian citizens are kept with overload of Sakartvelo's jails coming first. The committee also considers the situation with medical care in Georgia's prisons as pitiful.
The country's authorities are also criticized for leaving former prisoners to face an unfriendly Georgian society upon expiration of their imprisonment terms. There are practically no rehab programs for former prisoners: presently the state is not going to help them find jobs or get educated. In fact, Georgian authorities force their citizens to commit repeated crimes. Thus, the immortal commandment of the thief world "steal, drink and go to jail" pronounced by the character interpreted by Eugeny Leonov in "Gentlemen of Fortune" is getting still more up-to-date for many citizens of the country that won the Rose revolution.
Still, there is no intention to tackle the critical situation in the penitentiary system. Georgia's ombudsman Georgi Tugushi emphasized in a comment on the committee's report that he himself had raised all these questions brought up by the European monitors more than once. Apparently, Mikheil Saakashvili was so carried away with police reforms (as well as entry into NATO, ceaseless criticism of Russia, search of a female candidate for the post of defense minister with the chest size not less than 4 - underline as appropriate) that he simply has no time to deal with a few dozen thousand citizens rutting in Georgian jails. The habit to divide the nation he was entrusted with into people of different sorts is too strong with Mikheil Nikolozovich. It is particularly evident in Saakashvili's nationalities policy, but most probably Georgian prisoners will soon learn what it's like to be "Abkhazians" and "Ossetians".
Mishiko constantly shows his affection for Georgian police. He believes extermination of bribery and complete abolishment of "mafia bosses" are his major achievements. A different matter is that according to a well-known law that nature abhors a vacuum, the corruption gap started to get filled... by the same old officers of Georgia's security structures. Stories that policemen and prosecutors are involved in unconcealed protection racket on all kinds of businesses are normal in Georgia - like horror stories before the lights-out command in children's camps. Apparently, to get rid of bribes completely Mikheil Saakashvili must dress his police force in transparent uniforms - building a transparent palace for the Interior Ministry is not enough. It won't be a nice view but there are more dreadful things Georgian people have seen over Saakashvili's time in office.
Commenting on the committee's report Gulbaat Rtskhiladze, head of Eurasia Institute (Tbilisi) told that the situation in the country's penitentiary system is rather sad. "Lately there have been persistent talks that conditions of confinement are improving for Georgian prisoners. But, firstly, the news is announced by the authorities, and secondly, it is impossible to check on the statement", - Rtskhiladze remarked in an interview with GeorgiaTimes correspondent explaining that according to Georgian law, only family members are entitled to see prisoners in jail.
According to Rtskhiladze, over the past few years there has been a drastic rise in the number of prisoners in Georgian jails: 30,000 persons presently. "For such a small country like Georgia this is an enormous figure. By the way, it's twice higher than at the time of Shevarnadze", - the expert highlighted.
Gulbaat Rtskhiladze openly calls Georgia a police state laying special emphasis on privileges granted to law-enforcement officers distinguished by Saakashvili's regime. According to the Eurasia Institute director, police officers are offered cheap loans in banks like state officials. "The current situation is that the Georgian state is generously financing this system. The Ministry of Interior Affairs is now a "super ministry" and a "state in a state", basically, - the expert remarks. "Like the general prosecutor's office and the whole of law-enforcement system this is not a transparent system that should be better called "a force of coercion", - he added.
Rtskhiladze shares the opinion that representatives of the country's force structures have actually replaced "mafia bosses". "Any businessman can be attacked and demanded an unthinkable sum. He can be captured and taken to jail. I don't exaggerate - that is why it is so difficult to do business in Georgia. It's a real pity that achievements of the authorities in their struggle against organized crime have taken such an ugly shape".