NGOs statement on the case of the deceased inmate in the Geguti prison - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

NGOs statement on the case of the deceased inmate in the Geguti prison

09 August, 2013

As the official agencies have informed general public, on 13 May 2013 the 24-year old inmate Levan Kortava was brutally beaten in the Geguti penitentiary institution, followed by his death on 23 May 2013. Investigation on this case has unveiled an array of alarming circumstances.

As the official information states, on 12 May 2013 Levan Kortava was transferred from the Rustavi Institution #6 of the Penitentiary Department to the Geguti Institution #14. While being accommodated in the Geguti prison, Levan Kortava and the Inspector of the Security Department Ilia Shanshashvili picked a quarrel about issuing of psychotropic drugs. Ilia Shanshashvili has assigned another convict Shota Sinauridze to look into the conflict situation with Levan Kortava, followed by the beating of Levan Kortava by several inmates with exceptional brutality, resulting eventually in Kortava's death due to the suffered injuries.

Disseminated information says also that persons directly involved in beating the inmate, as well as the employee of the Geguti penitentiary institution Ilia Shanshashvili are detained in the course of investigation. According to the statement released by the Prosecutor's Office, employees of the institution Giga Kokhodze and Aleksandre Babunashvili will also be charged for the neglect of official duties, as well as Tengiz Nasareia for forging evidence in the criminal case. As the existence of so-called "overseers" in prisons can be alleged with high probability, the Prosecutor's Office must probe into links between the Chief of Prison Malkhaz Sinauridze and this fact. Remarkably, Malkhaz Sinauridze has testified against several inmates in relation to the prison riot case of 2006. After the 2012 parliamentary elections Sinauridze has changed his testimony against the former Minister of Defense and Interior Bacho Akhalaia, stating that Bacho Akhalaia was the mastermind behind the prison riot. Disseminated information claims that in about one week from changing the testimony, Sinauridze was appointed as the Geguti Prison Chief.

We would like to express utmost concern over the developments in the Geguti prison. It is alarming that according to the investigation, the employee of the Geguti Prison assigned other inmates of the same institution, who presumably enjoyed criminal authority within the penitentiary institution, to exercise illicit pressure on inmate (resulting in inmate's beating and eventual death).

Representatives of the Ministry of Corrections have stated numerously that there are so-called overseers in the penitentiary institutions. These statements are important in that the state acknowledges the problem, yet, timely and efficient steps are required to eliminate it. This incident illustrates that in case of inadequate reaction of the state, such facts, unlawful links between inmates and the prison employees, and giving advantage to certain inmates in the institution may acquire the systemic nature. In case of identification of similar circumstances, the state reaction must be adequate, and the extent of participation of high officials of penitentiary institutions in committing of these crimes - whether through action or inaction - must be established. We believe it is less likely that the prison administration knew nothing about the administration methods.

We urge the Georgian authorities, on one hand, to improve legislation so that the possibility of informal administration in prisons is reduced to minimum, and on the other hand, to enhance internal monitoring system within the institutions, which would enable the Ministry to avert the facts of informal administration of penitentiary institutions.

We call on the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia to:

  • probe into the general situation and administration methods in the Geguti prison in the shortest period of time;
  • hold the Geguti prison management responsible;
  • carry out effective monitoring of penitentiary institutions to avert potential facts of informal administration.

We call on the Office of the Public Defender of Georgia to examine concrete circumstances of this case. Further, it is equally important that its efforts aim to identify, prevent and eliminate such problems in this and other penitentiary institutions, as well as to permanently inform general public on problems within the penitentiary institutions.

The described fact once again attests to the need of public monitoring over the penitentiary system. We find it is crucial that the NGO representatives are allowed in the shortest period of time to carry out alternative monitoring over the penitentiary institutions independently from the national prevention mechanism, thus contributing to identification of problems within the institutions, crime prevention, and better spotting of prevailing challenges. 

Transparency International Georgia
Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (GYLA)
Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
Article 42 of the Constitution 
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)