Torture and Due Process in Criminal Procedure
Legislative and Constitutional Changes
Freedom of Assembly and Expression
Internally Displaced People, Refugees, and Meskhetian Returnees
Appendix: Causes for Concern
After the November 23, 2003 revolution, leading to the formation of a new government and the election of Mikheil Saakashvili as president, an opportunity has opened to make real progress on human rights in Georgia. The new government must take up this opportunity by making respect for human rights the core of its reform program. Without this emphasis on human rights, abuses common during the ten-year Shevardnadze period risk becoming further entrenched.
Saakashvili came to power on the promise of reform, and his team is now focusing intensely on the fight against corruption, raising the standard of living, and respect for human rights. In part for this reason, the new government not only enjoys enormous domestic support, but also considerable international economic and political support, which has poured in since the change of power.1
The new government faces a huge challenge to deliver on the reforms it has promised. The country has been declared one of the most corrupt in the world,2 is desperately short of money,3 and has a record of persistent and widespread human rights abuses. The population suffers from unemployment, grinding poverty, and a lack of basic services, such as a regular supply of electricity.4 In order to significantly improve the lives of the Georgian population, the government must make long-term, fundamental reforms. However, although the government has outlined a variety of plans for significant reforms, it also appears to be reacting to pressure to show quick results. In their anti-corruption campaign this has led to the use of harsh methods that appear effective and popular, but that violate the government's human rights obligations.
The Saakashvili government has inherited a legacy of human rights abuse from the Shevardnadze era. In the past four years religious intolerance became widespread, and the government fostered a climate of impunity for hundreds of attacks on religious minorities. Torture in pre-trial detention is common and the criminal justice system fails to protect the victims of abuse. Chechen refugees in Georgia are vulnerable to forced repatriation to Russia, where they face serious threats to their lives, safety and freedom. Journalists have faced sporadic violent attacks.
Human Rights Watch has documented patterns of human rights abuse in Georgia since before its independence from the Soviet Union. In this briefing paper we summarize long-standing issues, and flag concerns that have sharpened with the government's anti-corruption agenda.5 The briefing paper makes recommendations on improvements in the above areas to the government and the international community, in particular the Council of Europe, the European Union (E.U.), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the United States government. Human Rights Watch urges the international donor community to ensure that assistance programs reflect a realistic assessment of the reform process and are conditioned on the government's human rights record.6 Civil society groups, foreign governments, and international organizations must carefully monitor the current transition period and promptly raise concerns and offer advice to the government to ensure that internationally accepted human rights standards are being observed.
The widespread use of torture and lack of procedural protections for those under criminal investigation are long-standing and well-documented problems in Georgia.7 The practices of isolating detainees, to the extent of incommunicado detention, restricting access to family and defense counsel, and denying detainees representation of a lawyer of their choice are common. Judges ignore torture allegations and fail to exclude evidence obtained by means of torture. Vigorous and impartial investigations of torture allegations are rare and a culture of impunity pervades within law enforcement and judicial bodies.
Although the Shevardnadze government failed to carry out significant structural reforms to combat torture, it did take some positive steps. In response to international pressure, the government publicly acknowledged that torture was a problem and needed combating,8 the media actively publicized individual cases of torture, and independent forensic reports began to be admitted in evidence in courts.
Local human rights activists, lawyers, and representatives of the international community who spoke to Human Rights Watch fear that the urgent drive to fight corruption is already undermining this limited progress, and may also, in the long term, heighten public mistrust of law-enforcement bodies. The new fight against corruption has led to several high-profile arrests, including of former government members. President Saakashvili and other prominent officials have used forceful language, proclaiming the guilt and bad character of those arrested, and praising or justifying investigations, even when serious allegations of torture and procedural violations have been raised.9
In the context of Georgia's recent history of police abuse and lack of independent and fair courts, Human Rights Watch is concerned that these and other high-level statements on law enforcement encourage lower officials to violate basic rights. For example, in January then President-elect Mikheil Saakashvili stated:
And then in February, he said: "I gave an order to [the Interior Minister to] start this [anti-crime] operation and, if there is any resistance, to eliminate any such bandit on the spot, eliminate and exterminate them on the spot, and free the people from the reign of these bandits."11I...have advised my colleague, Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili-I want criminals both inside and outside prisons to listen to this very carefully-to use force when dealing with any attempt to stage prison riots, and to open fire, shoot to kill and destroy any criminal who attempts to cause turmoil. We will not spare bullets against these people.10
In order to effectively combat torture and improve protections for detainees, the government should:
- Issue high-level statements making clear that torture is unacceptable and perpetrators will be punished, and that due process rights must be observed;
- Refrain from commenting on the substance of criminal cases, making it clear that the independence of the judiciary will not be infringed upon by the executive branch of government;
- Re-establish the body working with the OSCE to complete a government plan against torture,12 and ensure that the plan is vigorously implemented;
- Amend the criminal procedure code to strengthen procedural protections for detainees and others under criminal investigation, in line with Georgia's obligations as a member of the Council of Europe and under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These protections would include the right to seek judicial review of complaints of abuse prior to trial and unfettered access for defendants to independent forensic examinations. The government should request the Council of Europe to review the proposed amendments for consistency with human rights standards;
- Ensure the return of the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) to Georgia; make the Committee's report public as soon as it is adopted , and implement its recommendations;
- Ensure that prosecutions undertaken as a part of the fight against corruption respect due process and judicial procedures.
The new government's reform agenda includes plans for legislative and constitutional changes.13 Georgian NGOs and others have criticized the new government for rushing through such changes without allowing for a proper public debate, or seeking expert opinions from international bodies.14 In particular, in February the government passed an anti-corruption package of legislation without publishing the proposed amendments. Although the government consulted with some local NGOs on the proposed legislation, the government did not give the chance to a broader cross section of society or international interlocutors to review the proposed changes, which contained controversial provisions such as in absentia criminal trials and switching the burden of proof to the respondent in civil cases.15 Likewise, in early February the government rushed through constitutional changes without publishing the draft amendments for public discussion, as required by the Constitution.16 The changes created the position of prime minister, but also strengthened presidential powers, including allowing the president to dissolve parliament.17 Another amendment empowers the president to appoint and dismiss judges, thereby increasing the president's influence over a judiciary that already suffers from a lack of independence.18
In order to ensure that legislative reforms comply with international human rights standards, the government should:
- Ensure that legislative and constitutional reforms are preceded by public debate, and in particular, comply with domestic legal requirements to publish draft amendments in advance of parliamentary debates;
- Seek opinions from local and international experts, in particular the Council of Europe, on proposed legislative and constitutional changes.
Georgia has a history of elections that failed to meet international standards, leaving the current government with colossal administrative and logistical challenges in the lead-up to the March 28 parliamentary elections.19 The government must make significant efforts to ensure that all political parties are able to campaign on an equal footing. In particular, it should ensure that all political parties have equal access to the media, and are given fair and equal representation in the Central Election Commission.20 The government should work with the Council of Europe and implement the recommendations made in the Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1363, adopted on January 28, 2004, calling in particular for a clear separation between government structures and electoral authorities.
During the Shevardnadze period, the rights to freedom of assembly and expression were more or less respected. Public protests were permitted and occurred on a regular basis and, for the most part, the government did not interfere unduly with the media. There were sporadic attacks on independent journalists, and independent media outlets continued to face severe economic pressures. However, the media reflected a wide range of political viewpoints.21
Under the new government, there have been several worrying developments regarding freedom of assembly. In January, the police violently broke up several peaceful protests and no action has been taken against the police. On the contrary, high-level officials have reportedly justified the police response.22 In one case, seven men present23 at a peaceful protest in Terjola against the arrest of a man charged with illegal possession of firearms are now in custody, on remand for three months of pre-trial detention. They are charged with breaching public order by intentionally blocking a road. (See appendix for full details of this case). Commentators agree that this is the first time in many years that people have been imprisoned for attending a peaceful protest in Georgia, including many protests where protesters have blocked roads.24
The media continue to operate relatively freely. However there are concerns that the diversity of the media has been significantly reduced since most of the media formerly connected to the opposition now support the government, leaving very few outlets without a pro-government orientation. In early February two television stations, Rustavi 2 and Mze, simultaneously stopped broadcasting popular evening talk shows that discussed political issues. This has led to concerns that the government may be trying to control the media environment prior to the parliamentary elections at the end of March 2004.25
In order to ensure freedom of assembly and media, the government should:
- Instruct law enforcement bodies to allow peaceful protests and gatherings, and prosecute police who assault peaceful protesters; review the case of the seven men remanded for three months in custody for attending a peaceful protest in Terjola with a view to either releasing them on bail, or bringing them promptly to trial; refrain from prosecuting or otherwise punishing those who choose to peacefully exercise their freedom of assembly;
- Make public statements encouraging a plurality of opinions, critical reporting, and freedom of the media; refrain from using political or economic pressure to control media content.
Ajara, an autonomous republic headed by Aslan Abashidze since 1991, has a poor record on human rights, in particular for freedom of the press and freedom of association. Since the change of power, tensions have risen between the central government and the Ajaran authorities, at times even threatening to escalate towards armed conflict. The Ajaran authorities have detained and harassed political activists aligned with the central government who have campaigned against the local government. The central government has protested the detentions and harassment. In a positive move, at the end of January 2004, the Ajaran government permitted the Rustavi 2 television station to broadcast, after a long-standing ban on the station. In the past Rustavi 2 became renowned for its support of the revolution. However, beatings, detentions, and harassment of those critical of Abashidze and his government continue and seem likely to escalate in the pre-election period. The Ajaran authorities continue to refuse to release Tengiz Asanidze, a political prisoner pardoned in 1999 by then-President Shevardnadze.26 The case is currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
The Ajaran authorities should:
- Stop intimidating opposition political activists and independent journalists, and allow freedom of association and expression;
- Release Asanidze from custody;
- Ensure that the pre-election environment is conducive to free and fair elections, and cooperate with the central government to ensure that the election process is carried out fairly.
Throughout the last four years, religious intolerance and violent attacks on adherents of non-traditional religious groups, such as Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Evangelists, and Pentacostals, by organized groups of Orthodox vigilantes became a serious problem in Georgia. In most cases police failed to provide effective protection to the victims of violence, and in some, even participated in the attacks. As the state failed to respond adequately, mob attacks became steadily more frequent and pervasive, spreading from Tbilisi to many other regions throughout Georgia. The Shevardnadze government also failed to take significant action against hate speech directed against religious minorities. These included the frequent public and widely broadcasted fulminations by Vasili Mkalavishvili, the leader of many of the violent attacks, in which he incited violence against these minorities. There were no reports of incidents of violence against religious minorities since the lead-up to the November 2 parliamentary elections.27 However, many fear that it will return unless the new government clearly signals that perpetrators of such attacks will be prosecuted.
In order to stop religious intolerance, the government should:
- Swiftly bring to justice the perpetrators of any new attacks, including law enforcement officials who failed to protect victims from violent attacks, or who took part in them themselves;
- Make every effort to continue the prosecution of Vasili Mkalavishvili;
- Foster religious tolerance through public statements and other methods, including by making it clear that the special status of the Orthodox church in Georgia should not mean infringements on the rights of adherents of other faiths;28
- Enact legislation regulating the registration of religious organizations that complies with the Council of Europe and international human rights standards on freedom of conscience.
Georgia's prisons lack basic resources, subjecting inmates to atrocious conditions of overcrowding, and depriving them of basic hygiene, nutrition, and other humanitarian necessities.29 The new government has recognized the desperate need to overhaul the prison system, and plans to carry out extensive reforms, including building completely new prison facilities. In carrying out these reforms, the government should:
- Consult with international organizations and penal experts to ensure that limited resources are put to the best use to improve basic conditions for all prisoners;
- Begin with simple, but immediate improvements that won't require a lot of resources, for example taking the shutters off the windows in prison facilities, and replacing them with glass and bars to allow prisoners natural light and the possibility of fresh air;
- Reduce the prison population by creating viable alternatives to imprisonment and reducing delays in the trial process.30
The armed conflicts of the early 1990's in Abkhazia and South Ossetia have produced a population of approximately 280,000 internally displaced people who endure substandard living conditions and live in a state of limbo.31 They usually do not integrate into their new communities for a number of reasons, including financial disincentives to do so. Permanent return is usually not an option, at least not until the conflicts are resolved.
Chechen refugees, fleeing the war between Russia and Chechen separatists, form another vulnerable population, suffering from poverty and a lack of adequate housing, medical care, and employment opportunities.32 Chechens in Georgia also face a threat of forcible return to Russia, where their lives or freedom would be threatened. In February 2002, negotiations between the Georgian and Russian governments led to fears that Chechen refugees would be refouled to Chechnya, where the security situation was far from stable and returning refugees would have faced serious threats to their lives, safety, and freedom.33
Chechens in Georgia wanted by Russian authorities on charges of involvement in the armed conflict currently face the danger of extradition to Russia, which has a documented history of using torture during criminal investigations, particularly against Chechen detainees accused of crimes relating to the conflict situation.34
So-called "Meskhetian Turks," an ethnic minority who were forcibly deported from southwestern Georgia to Central Asia during Stalin's rule in the 1940s, have faced enormous difficulties in obtaining the right to return to Georgia. The Meskhetian Turk population, thought to be approximately 300,000, is now scattered throughout the former Soviet Union, many having been forced to relocate a second time after violence erupted in the Central Asia's Fergana Valley in 1989. Although some legal framework has been put in place to facilitate the return of the Meskhetian Turks, it remains inadequate and only a very small number of returns have occurred. Upon joining the Council of Europe, Georgia agreed to settle this issue and create a full legal framework for the return of this population, and to complete the repatriation process within twelve years after its accession. Although a draft law was written and discussed with the Council of Europe and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), it has yet to be passed.
The government should:
- Cooperate with the Council of Europe and OSCE to ensure that in negotiations on the legal status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the right of those displaced to return in conditions of safety and dignity is protected; establish a legal framework for the restitution of property or the payment of compensation for loss of property for the internally displaced population, as per Georgia's obligations as a member of the Council of Europe; ensure that adequate assistance reaches people internally displaced by conflict;
- Ensure that no Chechen refugees are refouled to Russia and that refugees on Georgian territory continue to receive protection and assistance and enjoy all the rights to which they are entitled in accordance with international standards;
- Refuse to extradite Chechens to Russian, where they would be at risk of torture and in particular, refuse to extradite the Chechens currently appealing to the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Shamayev and Twelve Others v. Russia and Georgia;
- Cooperate with the Council of Europe, UNHCR and other international organizations to pass and implement a law on repatriation of persons deported from the Meskhetian region in the 1940s, as per Georgia's obligations as a member of the Council of Europe;
- Accede to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
In the early morning of January 10, 2004 in Tbilisi, plain-clothes police detained Gia Vashakidze, a former deputy defense minister,35 and two of his associates, Eldar Gogberashvili and Beniamin Saveblidze. Human Rights Watch received somewhat differing accounts of what happened next, but allegations of torture recurred in many of them. Police allegedly took the three men to a cemetery, where they beat Gogberashvili and Saveblidze for several hours in front of Vashakidze.36Police then took the men to the Tbilisi City Police Station and continued the beating and torture.37 Vashakidze told his lawyer that he received minimal physical mistreatment, but witnessed the beating of his associates in the cemetery, and heard their screams in the police station. Gogberashvili was reportedly tortured with electric shocks to his head and hands.38
Gogberashvili's lawyer, Giorgi Chirgadze, told Imedi TV on January 11: "I had a chance to see the three detainees. They are in a grave condition. They have numerous bruises and swellings on the faces, which as they say, were caused by policemen. They also have some abrasions on their hands which, as my defendant told me, they got when electric current was connected to them."39 Police claimed that the injuries occurred as a result of the detainees resisting arrest.
While torturing the detainees, police allegedly demanded confessions for the December 5, 2003 kidnapping of Tamaz Maghlakelidze, a co-chairman of the United Georgian Bank.40 Vashakidze told an independent source that, in the police station, police also questioned him about his connection to former security chief Igor Giorgadze, who fled Georgia in September 1995 after being accused of organizing an attempt on the life of Eduard Shevardnadze.41
On the day of the arrests, President-elect Mikheil Saakashvili gave a press conference at which he said, "[s]everal organizers [of the abduction] were arrested as a result of this operation, including a very serious criminal, Lt-Gen [Gia] Vashakidze who took part in this abduction and who is a close associate of [fugitive former Georgian security chief] Igor Giorgadze..."42
This quote was widely published and broadcast prior to the defendants having appeared in court or having received formal charges. Such a statement, especially by the president of a country without a tradition of an independent judiciary, failed to respect the presumption of innocence and could fairly be expected to influence the judicial proceedings in the case.
President-elect Saakashvili went to congratulate the Minster of Interior, Girogi Baramidze, on a "brilliant operation,"43 even though the defendants were allegedly tortured, and at the time of the press conference, had still not had access to lawyers. Vashakidze's lawyer attempted to see him on the evening of January 10, but was only granted access on the morning of January 11. On January 12, Vashakidze attended the Supreme Court with his lawyer for a bail hearing.44 Madina Tvauri, Vashakidze's lawyer, told Human Rights Watch that she was able to review prosecution documentation only half an hour before the hearing, while the lawyer for the other two detainees were denied access to these documents prior to court. She raised allegations of torture and psychological pressure, and the delay in granting her access to her client, but the judge completely ignored these allegations, not mentioning them in his decision. He remanded Vashakidze for three months in custody, and stated in his decision that the preliminary investigation had established that the former general-major, Vashakidze, had committed the crime of kidnapping.45
After the bail hearings, Vashakidze and Gogberashvili were returned to the Tbilisi City Police Station, in contravention of the law,46 where police allegedly continued to torture Gogberashvili until he signed a confession some hours later.47
Kutaisi Protest Case
On January 11 in Terjola in the province of Imereti, approximately 200 people blocked the road for about half an hour in protest at the recent arrest of Zaza Ambroladze, a local resident who has been charged with illegal possession of arms. The protesters believed that police had planted a gun in Ambroladze's house as a pretext to arrest him.48 Though the protest was peaceful, police responded violently, beating protesters after the demonstration had finished, in front of television cameras. The footage was later broadcast on Georgian television.49 Police arrested seven people present.50 The protesters were charged under article 226 of the Criminal Code, with participating in a group action that breaches public order, an offense with a penalty of up to three years in prison. A court in Kutaisi remanded all seven in pre-trial custody for three months.51
Then President-elect Mikheil Saakashvili, instead of condemning the police violence, commented publicly on the case, stating "[a] few days ago a leader of a thieving community, an influential crime boss, was arrested in Imereti [province in western Georgia] and then, as you know, a certain group of local hooligans who wanted to show support for him closed off Georgia's central highway...I want to tell everyone who is defending crime bosses that they will be dealt a very hard blow in their teeth."52
1 For example, the U.S. gave an extra U.S.$ 21 million, over and above earmarked appropriations, to help support the new government through its transitions period. The European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe publicly declared their support and have discussed support packages with the new government.
2 Transparency International found that Georgia is a country in which corruption is perceived to be pervasive. See [online] http://www.transparency.org/cpi/2003/cpi2003.pe_statement_en.html (retrieved February 23, 2004).
3 Georgia has a large foreign debt that it has difficulties in paying back, since its revenue income is very low, including very low tax collection in the country. See for example, Public Information Notice (PIN) No. 04/4, International Monetary Fund, January 30, 2004 [online] http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pn/2004/pn0404.htm (retrieved February 23, 2004); and The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, "Strategy for Georgia," March 26, 2002 [online] http://ebrd.com/about/strategy/country/georgia/georgia.pdf (retrieved February 23, 2004).
4 "Unemployment in urban areas is about 26 percent and in Tbilisi ranges between 30 percent and 40 percent depending on the season," National Human Development Report Georgia 2001/2002, United Nations Development Program, [online] http://www.undp.org.ge/nhdrfrset2002.htm (retrieved February 23, 2004).
5 This briefing paper is based on information collected during a Human Rights Watch field mission to Georgia from January 30 to February 5, 2004. Human Rights Watch interviewed representatives of Georgian non-government organizations (NGOs), lawyers, journalists, editors, diplomatic representations, international governmental organizations, and international NGOs.
6 Human Rights Watch believes that humanitarian assistance, and assistance to nongovernmental organizations and the independent media should not be dependent on the central government's human rights record, but that other assistance should be strictly conditioned.
7 For example, see "Rule of Law for Justice," Annual Report of the Georgian Young Lawyers' Association, 2003; "Report to the Georgian Government on the visit to Georgia carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 6 to 18 May 2001," July 25, 2002, CPT/Inf (2002) 14; Human Rights Watch, "Backtracking on Reform: Amendments Undermine Access to Justice," Human Rights Watch Report, Vol.12, No.11 (D), October 2000; Human Rights Watch, "Torture and Gross Violations of Due Process in Georgia: An Analysis of Criminal Case No. 7493810," Human Rights Watch Report, August 1, 1994.
8 For example, the Shevardnadze government agreed to publish the 2002 report on Georgia of the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).
9 For example, in answer to allegations of criminal procedural violations, such as arrests without warrants, in the fight against corruption, the Tbilisi procurator Valery Grigalashvili told reporters that due to the circumstances in which the authorities are concerned suspects will either attempt to flee or feign illness; law enforcement is forced to detain these suspects in such a manner. "We have no other way," said Grigalashvili. "Fighting Fire with Fire, Aggressive tactics alarm legal observers," The Messenger, English Language Daily, February 5, 2004.
10 "Georgian president-elect pledges tough action against prison riots," Imedi TV, Tbilisi, in Georgian 13:40 GMT, January 12, 2004, BBC monitoring, inserts made by BBC monitoring.
11 "Georgian president promises merciless crackdown on `mafia,'" Rustavi-2 TV, Tbilisi, in Georgian 17:00 GMT, February 3, 2004, BBC monitoring.
12 The OSCE was working with the human rights department of the National Security Council on a plan against torture. However, with the change of power this work was interrupted when all the members of the human rights department were removed from their positions. Currently no body has been established to work with the OSCE to complete the plan.
13 According to article 102 of the Constitution of Georgia, the Constitution can be amended with a two-thirds majority of parliament.
14 For example, see "Georgia's Constitutional Amendments: A Setback for Democratization," Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, by Sabine Freizer, February 11, 2004 [online] http://www.cacianalyst.org/view_article.php?articleid=2111 (retrieved February 23, 2004)
15 In the past the Georgian government has cooperated with the Council of Europe in sending draft legislation for review, even though the legislation was not always passed (for example, legislation allowing for the return of the displaced Meskhetian population-see below), or advice was ignored or later amended without Council of Europe reviews (for example, the 1998 Criminal Procedure Code).
16 Article 102 of the Constitution requires that proposed amendments be published for public discussion at least one month in advance of the parliamentary session where the amendments are to be debated. The government argued that amendments proposed several years ago by the Shevardnadze government were essentially the same, and so the requirement to publish had been fulfilled previously.
17 Critics argued that the changes follow the Russian model and creates an all-powerful president.
18 The amendment adds a paragraph (p) to article 73(1) which empowers the president to "appoint and dismiss judges according to the procedures prescribed by the Constitution and organic law." The president previously had powers to appoint judges, but not to dismiss them.
19 See OSCE, "Final Report on Presidential Elections in Georgia, 9 April 2000," June 9, 2000 [online] http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2000/06/1356_en.pdf (retrieved February 23, 2004); and Part 1 of "Final Report on Parliamentary Elections in Georgia, 2 November 2003," January 28, 2004 [online] http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2004/01/1992_en.pdf (retrieved February 23, 2004).
20 The government currently has effective control of ten of the fifteen seats on the Central Election Commission. In the lead-up to the November 2, 2003 elections, Saakashvili and the opposition movement strongly protested against the Shevardnaze's government control of the Central Election Commission, arguing that all parties should be represented on the Commission. For example, see "Thousands of Georgians Demonstrate over Election Law," Agence France Presse, June 3, 2003.
21 Many of the NGO representatives and others with whom Human Rights Watch spoke attributed the success of the November revolution to the role played by opposition media, and in particular television.
22 See joint Statement of the Liberty Institute and Association for Legal and Public Education, January 20, 2004, and "First danger on the side of the new government: against human rights and the independence of the judiciary," Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights, January 14, 2003. See appendix for more details.
23 The prosecution alleges that the seven were participants or organizers of the demonstration, however, at least one of the defendants claims to have been an on-looker.
24 For example, Human Rights Watch interview with Emil Adelkhanov, Caucasian Institute, Tbilisi, January 31, 2004, Human Rights Watch interview with Nana Kakabadze, head of Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights, Tbilisi, January 3, 2004, Human Rights Watch interview with Eka Beselia, lawyer, Tbilisi, February 2, 2004. Although a government is within its rights to prosecute people for breaching the peace by blocking a public road, three months of pre-trial detention for investigation seems already an excessive measure in this case.
25 See "Press Watchdog Concerned over Pressure on Media," Civil Georgia, Tbilisi, February 13, 2004 [online] http://www.civil.ge (retrieved February 23, 2004).
26 Asanidze was arrested in 1993 and accused of illegal financial dealings in a tobacco company and unlawful possession and handling of firearms. A court later convicted him of misappropriation of state funds, but cleared him of the firearms charges. He was sentenced to eight years in prison. In 1999, President Shevidnadze pardoned Asanidze, but the Ajaran authorities refused to release him. In 2000, the Ajaran Supreme Court found him guilty of new charges and sentenced him to twelve years in prison. Later the Georgian Supreme Court quashed the conviction, however, Asanidze remains in custody.
27 This fact alone has led to speculation about how closely the government controlled the violence against religious minorities.
28 Observers are concerned that signals from the new government, including President Saakashvili's public visit to the Orthodox church soon after his inauguration, and his decree changing the Georgian flag to his party flag, which has five red Christian crosses, are not fostering a sense of religious tolerance for all faiths in the country.
29 See "Report to the Georgian Government on the visit to Georgia carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 6 to 18 May 2001", July 25, 2002, CPT/Inf (2002) 14 and "Human Rights in Georgia (Report for 1996-2000)," Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights.
30 Many prisoners remain for extended periods in pre-trial detention, waiting for their trials to be completed for periods in excess of the nine-month legal limit.
31 Approximately 266,000 were displaced due to the conflict in Abkhazia, while the remainder were displaced due to the conflict in South Ossetia. "Report of the Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons, Mr. Francis Deng, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 2000/53, Addendum, Profiles in displacement: Georgia," E/CN.4/2001/5/Add.4, January 25, 2001, Economic and Social Council, United Nations.
32 There are approximately 3,500 to 4,000 Chechen refugees in Georgia. See "Violations of the Rights of Chechen Refugees in Georgia," October 2003, Caucasian Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Studies.
33 See Human Rights Watch "Letter for President Eduard Shevardnadze, Re: Chechen Refugees in Georgia," Human Rights Watch Letter, February 13, 2002 [online] http://www.hrw.org/press/2002/03/georgia0301-ltr.htm (retrieved February 23, 2004); and Human Rights Watch "Spreading Despair, Russian Abuses in Ingushetia," Human Rights Watch Report, September 22, 2003 [online] http://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/russia0903/ (retrieved February 23, 2004).
34 On August 13, 2002 thirteen men were arrested in the Pankisi Gorge. Eleven of them were Chechen and had crossed the border from Russia just days earlier. The Russian government demanded their extradition back to Russia. In October 2002, the Georgian authorities extradited five of them to Russia. Since then, lawyers for the whole group have taken the case to the European Court of Human Rights, seeking a stay on the extradition. Seven of the men remain in custody. Lawyers have evidence that the authorities beat the men while in custody. Human Rights Watch interview with Lia Mukashavria, lawyer for the group, Tbilisi, January 31, 2004. For information on torture in Russia, see Human Rights Watch "Confessions At Any Cost: Police Torture in Russia," Human Rights Watch Report, November 1, 1999; and Human Rights Watch web-page covering Russia and Chechnya [online] http://www.hrw.org/doc?t=europe&c=russia (retrieved February 23, 2004)
35 Vashakidze was a member of Mkhedrioni (The Horsemen), a paramilitary group established in the late 1980s, originally in opposition to the Soviet Union. It continued its activities after independence, particularly in the armed conflict in Abkhazia in the early 1990s. It was officially disbanded in 1995, and then reformed as a political, rather than military grouping in 2000. Since the death of its leader in March 2003, Mkhedroni no longer exists as an organized group.
36 Human Rights Watch interview with Gia Vashakidze's lawyer, Madina Tvauri, Tbilisi, Febuary 3, 2004, and Human Rights Watch interview with Nana Kakabadze, head of Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights, Tbilisi, 31 January, 2004.
39 BBC monitoring, Imedi TV, Tbilisi, in Georgian 09:00 GMT, January11, 2004.
40 Human Rights Watch interview with Gia Vashakidze's lawyer, Madina Tvauri, Tbilisi, February 3, 2004.
41 Human Rights Watch interview with a reliable source who wishes to remain anonymous, Tbilisi, January 31, 2004. Giorgadze was reportedly refused registration to contest the January 4, 2004 Georgian presidential elections. He remains accused of crimes in Georgia, and is wanted by Interpol. See "Link Between Abduction, Former Georgian State Security Minister Denied," IPR Strategic Information Database, January 13, 2004, reprinted by RFE/RL, and "Michael Saakashvili- one of the organizers of Tamaz Maglakelidze's kidnapping is Igor Georgdadze's "right hand," Prime-News (Georgia), January 11, 2004.
42 "Georgian president-elect promises to dig human abductors out of grave," Rustavi-2 TV, Tbilisi, in Georgian 12:52 GMT, January 10, 2004, BBC monitoring. Inserts added by BBC monitoring.
44 The Supreme Court heard Vashakidze's case because they have jurisdiction over cases involving military personnel. The other two defendants cases were heard in the Vake Sabortalin District Court.
45 Human Rights Watch interview with Gia Vashakidze's lawyer, Madina Tvauri, Tbilisi, February 3, 2004.
46 Legally, the defendants should have been taken to a remand center, and not returned to temporary cells in the police station. Remand centers are now under the authority of the Ministry of Justice, whereas the police temporary cells are under the control of the Ministry of Interior.
47 Human Rights Watch interview with Gia Vashakidze's lawyer, Madina Tvauri, Tbilisi, Febuary 3, 2004, and Human Rights Watch interview with Nana Kakabadze, head of Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights, Tbilisi, January 31, 2004.
48 Human Rights Watch interview, Dato Modebadze, lawyer for Tariel Shalikiani, one of the men detained at the protest, February 4, 2004. Police in Georgia have a history of planting weapons or narcontics on detainees to justify arrests. In this case, several reliable human rights observers that spoke to Human Rights Watch believed that there were grounds for thinking that the police had planted the gun in this case.
49 See joint Statement of the Liberty Institute and Association for Legal and Public Education, January 20, 2004, and "First danger on the side of the new government: against human rights and the independence of the judiciary," Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights, January 14, 2003. Human Rights Watch also interviewed representatives of NGOs, diplomatic representations, and lawyers who saw the broadcast of the beatings on Georgian television.
50 The prosecution alleges that the seven were participants or organizers of the demonstration, however, at least one of the defendants claims to have just been an on-looker.
51 Human Rights Watch interview with Dato Modebadze, lawyer for Tariel Shalikiani, one of the men detained at the protest, February 4, 2004. The lawyer for Tariel Shalikiani, one of the defendants, requested bail, offering to lodge 4,000 lari (approximately U.S. $2,000, a significant sum in Georgia) with the court. The judge rejected the application even though Shalikiani suffers from chronic diabetes and relies on regular doses of insulin. He has been hospitalized since his arrest.
52 "Georgian president-elect pledges tough action against prison riots," Imedi TV, Tbilisi, in Georgian 13:40 GMT, January 12, 2004, BBC monitoring, inserts made by BBC monitoring.