Mother of all Prisons … Unwieldy Position in Europe
26 January, 2012

Georgia leads Europe and holds the fourth place in the world by the number of prisoners

According to official figures, from February 2006 till today over 650 prisoners died in various places of detention in Georgia. Despite numerous recommendations of international organizations to the Government of Georgia to abandon its infamous principle of zero tolerance, the situation actually worsens and there is still no indication that the criminal prosecution will be liberalized. The number of prisoners continues to grow exponentially. According to the British organization International Center for Prison Studies, Georgia maintains the leading position in Europe and holds the fourth place in the world by the number of prisoners per 100 thousand inhabitants. In comparison, our neighbor Azerbaijan is only 54th in the list, while Armenia stands much “behind” with its 89th position. We outpace all the non-democratic and totalitarian states in this regard.

 

Before the Rose Revolution, i.e. in 2003, among 155 countries Georgia was only  in the 59th place with 148 prisoners per 100 thousand inhabitants. However, In 2011 it came out as number four in the world of 216 countries with 539 prisoners per 100 thousand inhabitants.

Dimitri Lortkipanidze, Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights: “I have all the grounds to suspect that the statistics published by the International Center for Prison Studies does not give a full picture. The rating is based on the data furnished by the official structures of Georgia. Hence, the data most certainly employ official figures, which specify the number of Georgian population, as a surreal 4,490 thousand. I wonder where the Georgian Authorities get such figures. They find excuses such as scantiness of financial resources in the attempts to postpone the national census which is overdue. As for the financial aspect, the national population census of any country is funded by the United Nations.

Everybody knows that the population of Georgia is not 4,490 thousand. This figure is the overstated presentation of the reality. Accordingly, the number of prisoners per 100 thousand inhabitants will be even higher than 539, arguably putting our country on top of the international listing. Nevertheless, the country witnesses the unrelenting drive for new prisoners. For instance, the Authorities are building a huge detention center in Laituri village of Ozurgeti district (West Georgia) to accommodate no less than 4500 inmates! This goes to show that the Authorities would not falter in pursuit of power consolidation. Actually, they crammed so many people into prisons that their doors and windows cannot hold the inmates and they are bursting!

Unhealthy conditions turn inmates into the sick and frail persons en mass. Death of prisoners or their permanent disability is a tragedy for him and his family. Is not it? It creates a lingering demographic problem. The death rates of Georgian prisoners from 2006 onwards are mind-boggling. From February 2006 to June 2011, four walls of Georgian prison cells proved to be final destination for 590 inmates. By now, this figure has grown to 650. Over 40% of them are aged between 21 and 40. Hence, we are facing a horrible reality.

Manfred Melak, former Chairman of the Central UN Commission on Torture and Inhumane Treatment of Prisoners decided to conduct an international monitoring in Georgia. It was supposed to be 3-year long process code named Atlas of Torture. I met Manfred Melak in June 2011. He was trying to persuade me that high ranking officials of the Justice Ministry were backing the project. However, I remained skeptical. Eventually it turned out that I was right. In two weeks after the departure of Melak from Georgia, he received a letter from Tina Burjaliani, which read that Georgia was rejecting the project on the grounds that the country had been successfully fulfilling (?!) all the commitments it assumed in front of the Council of Europe (CoE). In reality, dozens of recommendations of the CoE Committee of Ministers to Georgia to investigate mysterious deaths of inmates in Georgian prisons have been permanently falling on deaf ears.”