Why we walked out: The reasoning behind TI Georgia, GYLA and ISFED's boycott of the MIA's torture video screening - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

Why we walked out: The reasoning behind TI Georgia, GYLA and ISFED's boycott of the MIA's torture video screening

25 June, 2013

In view of the high public interest, we find it necessary to explain the reasons behind our refusal to watch the images of torture and inhuman treatment shown at the Ministry of Internal Affairs yesterday.

Firstly, we acknowledge that in recent years human rights have systematically been violated. Basic human rights were infringed using cruel and degrading violence. The recent release of video footage depicting the torture and inhuman treatment in both the penitentiary system andpeople’s private life, has further unveiled to the public the cruelty and scale of the violence that the state exercised against humans;  a violation which was left legally unattended for years. In a number of cases, torture was used for extracting confessions and incrimination of different individuals in different grave crimes.

We believe that these cases require comprehensive investigation and punishment of those culpable. This process is important for restoring justice and for the public to review its past. Prohibition of torture is the jus cogens norm, and the state must react to these facts with the full force of the law.

The appropriate investigation of these facts/practices and further judicial examination, however, requires rationalization, as well as the process’s transfer into a legal context, and a strict protection of the dignity and private life of the victims involved. The public is obviously entitled to know the truth about the committed crimes so that they may rightly conceptualize what has happened. However, it is crucial that the process stays within a legal framework and that this interest is met within the scope of justice. A different approach will only harm the process of restoration of justice, leaving it devoid of rationality and objectivity.

To this end, we find it would be more expedient for the meeting planned by the Ministry of Internal Affairs to be more business-oriented. In this respect, it would be better for the Ministry to present a justified analytical report on the course of investigation of the video images. The authenticity  of these images, combined with the grave crimes they depict, have piqued the interest of both the public and the  diplomatic corps. Information concerning the systemic nature of such criminal offences prior to June 20 was also given to the public. The public were shown only a few video images (it was revealed later that the materials of two cases were shown at the meeting) to illustrate the entire picture of this problem; an admittedly insufficient number. We believe that the authenticity of the video images and their link with the crimes must be established during the investigation of each specific case, and be subject to an objective and fair assessment by an independent court.

Unfortunately, despite our request, the Minister of Internal Affairs at the outset of the meeting did not explain the purpose of showing the video images in this form. Furthermore, the meeting format did not allow for any live discussion or debate. Prior to the start of meeting, we advised that before showing the video footage, it would be better for the Minister to inform the audience about the nature, gravity, and volume of images in the video materials, the status of investigation pertaining to these cases, the charges brought against those involved as well as thelegal measures applied against them, and the potential participation of high officials in the offences. Unfortunately, our questions concerning the purpose and format of the meeting were left unanswered.

In addition, prior to the launch of the meeting, it was important to receive relevant guarantees that the video images were sufficiently covered up and that there was zero possibility of identification. These guarantees became even more essential when the meeting attendees came with recording equipment which risked the privacy of these images. Had these images allowed for the identification of the torture victims in any way, showing them to over hundred attendees (and the risk of their subsequent release in various forms), would cause additional  torment to the victims and their family. This would obviously contradict the objectives of the restoration of justice and the victims’ psychological rehabilitation. Such public exposure would make the victims feel vulnerable, thus causing them additional emotional trauma.

We think it is of vital importance that the investigation process is carried out transparently and effectively to the fullest extent, and that those participating in torture and orchestrating this corrupt system are punished in an exemplary manner. At the same time, however, it is of vital importance that throughout this process, the dignity of those who have suffered these inhuman and degrading actions is respected.

We hope that in the future the Ministry of Internal Affairs will choose an appropriate method of informing the public on the investigation of these crimes and do its best to hold all offenders liable with the full force of the law whilst adequately protecting the individual’s dignity and right to privacy.