Georgian authorities are denying former President Mikheil Saakashvili adequate medical care, putting him at grave risk of death, permanent disability, or other irreversible damage to his health, – Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a joint statement.
According to the statement, the authorities have yet to respond to concerns the organizations outlined in a joint letter to the Georgian Ministry of Justice on February 10.
“The denial of adequate medical care to Mikheil Saakashvili may amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and is putting his life at grave risk,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Officer at Amnesty International. “Deaths in custody resulting from the deliberate denial of health care amount to arbitrary deprivation of life, which is a serious violation under international human rights law. The Georgian authorities should urgently take measures to protect Saakashvili’s health, including considering his release on medical grounds.”
Two independent medical teams have concluded that Saakashvili has developed a number of life-threatening health conditions while in custody for the past 16 months. According to one of them, a group of forensic medical experts, Saakashvili is suffering from psychological, neurological, orthopedic, and gastrointestinal conditions that threaten his life and require medical treatment that is not available in Georgia. Furthermore, according to independent medical experts under the auspices of the Public Defender, who visited Saakashvili on February 19, his health has further deteriorated since their previous visit in December 2022, and he will soon face irreversible organ damage.
Georgian law provides for courts to grant the release of seriously ill prisoners; however, such requests are often denied. On February 6, a court in Tbilisi declined Saakashvili’s motion, filed in December, to defer or suspend his sentence on medical grounds. Saakashvili’s lawyers have appealed the decision.
“Medical decisions on the need for ongoing medical care and observation outside of prison or on releasing inmates on grounds of medical necessity should be taken by the responsible healthcare professionals and not overruled or ignored by nonmedical authorities. Georgian law should allow for healthcare professionals to assess the needs of their patients in prison and allow for them to be transferred to adequate facilities or for medical release where necessary,” the statement reads.
“A prison sentence should not mean a death sentence where treatable conditions tragically become fatal,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.”
According to the statement, the Georgian authorities need to humanize this aspect of the country’s criminal justice system and bring it in line with international standards.
“They should start by providing remedies that guarantee prompt medical care and, where necessary, that envisage release from custody of anyone who is considered incapable of remaining in detention because of the state of their health”, reads the statement.