Georgian Ex-President’s Health Raises Concerns Amid Oppressive Prison Conditions

Georgian Ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili has recently garnered attention for his declining health, raising concerns among the public. Saakashvili, the former president from 2004 to 2013, was arrested in October 2021 and is currently serving a six-year sentence for abuse of power. He has experienced multiple hospital visits since his arrest, and his advocates argue that his imprisonment has significantly impacted his health.

The commission notes that Saakashvili’s health is not getting better due to “the oppressive and degrading” environment at the clinic. In order to maintain confidentiality, the document refers to Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, as “Patient C.”

The committee raised concerns about the installation of CCTV cameras in Saakashvili’s room, citing potential violations of his privacy and dignity.

The report was published on January 18. Members of the Committee Against Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of the Council of Europe made an unplanned visit to the Vivamed clinic in March 2023, spending several days examining the situation.

Mikheil Saakashvili

What does the report say?

● The report draws attention to (Saakashvili’s) flagrant disrespect for patients’ privacy, particularly about medical confidentiality.

● The delegation’s observations from this visit support the CPT’s assessment of the ongoing issue of healthcare personnel’s lack of professional independence when interacting with prisoners.

● The committee feels that it is both necessary and timely to advocate for the planned transfer of prison health responsibilities to the Department of Health.

● Moreover, a noteworthy disadvantage is the clinic’s lack of a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Although outside consultants might be able to offer specialized services in theory, the patient’s condition suggests that this has not been implemented in practice. The Committee suggests taking quick action to improve inmates’ access to mental health services in the Vivamed clinic’s intensive care units.

The Georgian government’s response is also included in the report, stating that patient S is being treated by medical specialists from a variety of fields. Doctors’ recommendations and protocols specific to the conditions they have diagnosed are followed to complete all necessary analyses and treatments. It should be mentioned that Patient C has consistently refused to see a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Following the Committee Against Torture’s visit, patient C was given the option to receive mental health care. He was also allowed to select the psychiatrist of his choice, but he once more turned that option down, claiming a shortage of time.

● According to the same report, the clinic’s fourth, fifth, and sixth floors had excessive security measures that made it impossible to create a therapeutic environment. Procedures, especially on the fifth floor, amounted to a total denial of medical confidentiality, undermining both the patient’s and the medical staff’s ability to trust one another and the patient’s chances of improving their health.

Regulations governing the management of patient’s medical data are exacerbating this grave situation. Only the provision of medical information to their lawyers was subject to patient consent. In other instances, the Special Penitentiary Service decided who could receive medical care, which is obviously against the rule that says non-medical staff should only receive this information when necessary.

● In several recent instances, clinic physicians and staff members from the Ministry of Justice or the Special Penitentiary Service have made remarks in the media regarding the patient’s health, course of treatment, and approach to suggested therapy, ostensibly without the patient’s prior consent. This constituted yet another flagrant breach of medical confidentiality.

UNM: “This demonstrates that Saakashvili has endured dehumanizing treatment.”

The opposition “United National Movement” (UNM), which Saakashvili founded, responded by releasing a statement claiming that the aforementioned report is proof that former president Mikheil Saakashvili is a “victim of degrading treatment” at the Vivamed clinic and is not receiving proper treatment.

Former prosecutor general Otar Partskhaladze is the one who started the political cases against President Saakashvili. Partskhaladze belongs to the family of Bidzina Ivanishvili, an oligarch from Georgia who founded the party that is currently in power, the “Georgian Dream” (JAMnews). The United States has imposed sanctions on Partskhaladze, a Russian Security Service officer. Judges overseeing Saakashvili’s cases do so while being subject to U.S. sanctions.

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