Political Prisoners without Status
29 November, 2012
Political Prisoners without Status
Families of political prisoners threaten with rallies

A number of NGOs request to remove some names from the list of future political prisoners and separately review the cases. However, the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights argues that this is not necessary because the status award is feasible via the united list drawn by NGOs.
Certain political prisoners refuse to have his or her name appear on the list because some names there generate controversies in the public and NGO community. Article
42 of the Constitution states that their demands are legitimate, because not all listed persons were confirmed to be political prisoners.
It turns out that certain cases prepared by the working group arouse suspicion. According to the working group, there are 186 people seeking the status of a political prisoner in the country. Yet, the validity of the status claims in a number of cases generates a sea of questions. For instance, Eka Jikhvashvili, the wife of Merab Ratishvili, one of the political prisoners states that he is baffled at the sheer number of the political prisoners appearing on the list. He suspects that political prisoners may be freed even before the status award is made due to repeated postponement of the process. Perhaps, it will be even impossible to end the process in the nearest future.
Let us recall that Merab Ratishvili was arrested on 26 October 2007 on charges of storing, selling and using drugs. He was sentenced to 9 years of prison. NGOs which studied his case claim that the real reason of his imprisonment was his relations with opposition leaders and his financial support. The case is in Strasburg for some time by now but its examination has not started there yet.
“I come to suspect that they would slowly release these people from prisons through Presidential pardons and amnesties and would not award them the status of a political prisoner. I don’t know who benefits from casting intentional obscurity over the question of political prisoners,” – Jikhvashvili says that Ratishvili cannot accept his release without him first having been recognized as a political prisoner. According to Jikhvashvili, if the launch of examination would be put off once again, she would get in touch with prisoner families to hold joint protest rallies permanently.
“We cannot accept the prison release without a status award,” – Jikhvashvili is adamant.
“It could be better if the Parliament first examined the cases of those who were recognized as political prisoners by international organizations and then proceed to scrutinizing over the rest,’ – this is a position of human rights organization the Article 42 of the Constitution.
The position of its leaders has it that the State with such a high number of political prisoners should stand accountable for it. If political prisoners and political refugees are found to have existed in the country then the next thing that should happen is launching investigation of than cases and ultimately punishment of all the culprits.
The Parliamentary Human Rights Committee however holds different views. The committee members maintain that there is no need in individual review of prisoner cases. Award of the political prisoner status to them could be via the united list.
“Our task is to free these people. We do not seek to assess whether a political prisoner is good or bad. Rather, we assess them against the ban imposed on them by Nationalist Movement,” – say the Committee members. As for the uproar around the list, it turns out that it is an annex to the conclusion of the working group. It is not ruled out that a certain number of prisoners fail to get the status at the Parliamentary hearing.
“Most of the list complies with the Council of Europe criteria. Besides, I think it is better to have 10 criminals in the open than one innocent man in the prison. If we award the status to 180 and one of them would not deserve it, the process should not be seen as compromised indeed. But the level of intensive activities of NGOs deserves commandment because even such single cases need to be excluded. We are going to have a decent final product by December 5,” – says Gedevan Popkhadze, a member of the committee.
He hopes that the moment the status of a political prisoner is awarded the awardees would be earmarked for immediate release. He holds that the matter should not be put off for a later date once again. While the Parliament goes on holidays after 21 December, he expects the final solution by 5th of December.
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