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Georgian prison tortures demand inquiry - Moscow

Published time: September 24, 2012 12:42
Edited time: September 24, 2012 18:25
Protesters hold placards during a protest against torture in prisons in Tbilisi on September 20, 2012 (AFP Photo / Vano Shlamov)

Protesters hold placards during a protest against torture in prisons in Tbilisi on September 20, 2012 (AFP Photo / Vano Shlamov)

Russian officials are calling on international rights groups to evaluate the abuse of prisoners in Georgia, while Tbilisi sees a Russian hand in the scandal.

­Earlier this week, Georgia’s TV-9 aired shocking footage of prisoners being beaten and tortured inside Tbilisi’s Gldani prison.

The videos taken by a former Georgian prison guard sparked public outrage, with thousands of people taking to the streets of Tbilisi and other cities in protest. Some of the protesters were holding placards that connected the beatings in the Georgian prison with the human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, the US detention facility where suspected terrorists are interrogated and tortured.

Meanwhile, Russia is calling on Tbilisi to answer for the human right abuses.

"We expect the abuse in the Georgian penitentiary system to become the subject of a thorough and unbiased inquiry," Konstantin Dolgov, Russian Foreign Ministry Representative for Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law, said in a commentary published on the ministry website on Monday.

The culprits must be punished, Dolgov stressed.

The incident appears to prove Russia’s opinion that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has intensified his crackdown on the political opposition as Tbilisi gears up for parliamentarian elections. The incident has also left Moscow questioning the Georgian government’s dedication for observing human rights and the rule of law.

Moscow is calling on the UN Committee against Torture, together with the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture to evaluate the disturbing incident, Dolgov noted.

"We assume that the facts of tortures in the Georgian penitentiary system will be really investigated in detail and the unbiased way, and those guilty will be punished as they deserve it," he said.

Moscow has some justification to be concerned about the current political climate in Georgia.

In August 2008, Russia was forced into a five-day conflict with Georgia after Saakashvili ordered a military offensive against South Ossetia. The attack on the capital Tskhnival left 10 Russian peacekeepers dead, in addition to hundreds of civilian casualties.

Today, Saakashvili alleges the scenes of torture inside a Tbilisi prison are part of a Russian conspiracy to foment unrest in the country.

"They are fighting us with Russian money, using Russian methods, threatening us and wielding weapons on the border. But they won't intimidate us," the Georgian leader said.

Saakashvili went so far as to suggest that Russia wants to imprison the Georgian country.

“They are trying to drive us into the Gldani prison where this dirty and irreparable violence took place,” he said. “They want to turn Georgia into this prison, using maneuvers on the border and forces inside the country.”

It's a well-thought-out political move with the goal of misleading our people through the use of shock, he added.

In view of the latest scandal to rock Tbilisi, Georgian billionaire and opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili predicts an early "collapse" of Georgia's government due to a possible breakup.

"[Prime Minister] Vano Merabishvili will have a lot of problems with the law because he held pretty high posts when numerous crimes were committed in Georgia, though he is the most balanced figure in the ruling party," he told reporters on Saturday.

Ivanishvili went on to call Saakashvili "a butcher."  

The outrages in Gldani Prison "have revealed the true face of the government headed by Saakashvili," Ivanishvili, who is leader of the Georgian Dream coalition, told a rally in the western city of Zugdidi.

The West will soon understand exactly who they are dealing with, Ivanishvili predicted

"The democratic West will see the essence of Saakashvili, the so-called beacon of democracy,” he said. “Finally, it will come home to the West that Georgia is ruled by a butcher.”

"Their day of judgment is approaching – that day is October 1, when we will win the [parliamentary] elections. They are afraid of that day because all of them will be called to account under the law," the opposition leader said.

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