Meeting in Gori and straight talk with Saakashvili. What's next?
Eugen Grushovets, Ario Law Firm Partner
Only after one month of our team`s hard work on the arrangement of my visit to the site of Mikheil Saakashvili's imprisonmen, our meeting with the main Georgian "prisoner" finally took place. With his consent, I voice the main nuances.
After my unsuccessful visit to Mikheil Saakashvili, namely the expulsion from Georgia without explanation and accompanied by a convoy of people who resembled members of the security services rather than border guards, we did a great job to make this meeting happen.
The list of agencies to which we applied regarding my inadmissibility is quite significant. These include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Association of Advocates of Ukraine, the Embassy of Ukraine in Georgia, the Association of Advocates of Georgia, and a number of international human rights organizations. We have established fruitful cooperation with the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Lyudmyla Denysova. Moreover, our team of lawyers sent a request to intervene in the situation within the legal field to the President of Ukraine, the Office of the Council of Europe in Ukraine, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
It took us a month with all our attempts to arrange a lawyer's meeting with the client. As a result, these efforts were rewarded by a meeting with Mikheil Saakashvili at the Gori military hospital.
I am often asked about our strategy to defend Mikheil, but I could not voice most of the theses before the meeting. Now that we have an open conversation and we have agreed on the main points, I can say something about further actions in Saakashvili's defense both in Georgia and in the international arena.
From the first sentences to torture and threat to life
I will make a short digression into the case of Mikheil Saakashvili so that the logic of the defense's actions can be further understood.
In November 2013, former President Mikheil Saakashvili was forced to leave Georgia due to his political persecution. The criminal proceedings were manufactured against him on charges of crimes which he did not commit. Five years later, in 2018, Saakashvili was sentenced in absentia by the Georgian national courts and sentenced to 6 years in prison. All trials took place without his participation. This was a major breach of Art. 6 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms - "Right to a fair trial".
On October 1, 2021, Mikheil Saakashvili crossed the Georgian border (he was already a citizen of Ukraine at the time). While crossing the border, he was detained and placed in a 12-month penitentiary in Rustavi on the basis of extrajudicial sentences. Immediately after his arrest, Mikheil Saakashvili claimed a major breach and systematic violation of his rights in prison, so he went on a hunger strike in protest.
Also among the main reasons for Mikheil's decision are the repeated statements of Georgian government officials that Saakashvili will in any case be convicted of "new" crimes and will serve his sentence in the colonies under any circumstances. The last nail in the coffin for Mikheil was the fact of non-admission of his Ukrainian lawyer (namely me) to Georgia on October 26, 2021.
As of now, Mikheil Saakashvili is being tried in cases of embezzlement and abuse of office, which were heard behind closed doors until October 29, 2021 and without his participation. It was only under pressure from the international community that the Georgian government began to ensure Saakashvili's presence in court.
Mikheil Saakashvili was subjected to physical force, psychological pressure and inadequate medical care while in prison. This is evidenced by videos distributed in the media, as well as the conclusions of the International Medical Center "Empathy". According to Mikheil Saakashvili's doctors, it is known that the military hospital in Gori cannot fully provide the necessary examinations and the level of treatment which any citizen who is not in prison can receive.
Someone will ask, why should a prisoner receive the same medical care as a free person? I will answer: it is a direct duty of the state to ensure the same standards of health care that exist in society ("Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners" of the United Nations). We are talking about free access to the necessary health services without discrimination on the basis of their legal status.
Thus, given the limited medical capabilities of the Gori Military Hospital, as well as the Georgian government's direct prejudice against Mikheil Saakashvili, a Ukrainian citizen, the authorities' statements about his future, torture and physical violence by penitentiaries, and the defense insists that all medical examinations and treatments of Mikheil Saakashvili take place with the participation of independent qualified medical professionals.
The struggle for life
I claim directly that the events taking place against Mikheil Saakashvili - the unprecedented and outrage violations of his rights and legitimate interests, restrictions on fair trial and defense, falsification and deception of evidence of his guilt - lead to the conclusion that the long stay of our client in the territory Georgia, in any penitentiary institution or civilian hospital, poses a real threat to his life and health. Mikheil Saakashvili's current condition deprive him of his right for adequate personal protection.
This includes the use in the treatment of sedatives that adversely affect the reaction and perception of reality.
It is now a well-known fact that the doctors at the Rustavi clinic prescribed a high dose of dangerous psychotropic medicines to my client, although there was no need to prescribe these "medicines". Moreover, Saakashvili's personal doctor stated that he had seen in the medical history that this dose was going to be increased 10 times. Of course, after such a dose, Saakashvili would not be able to appear in court.
The officials of the aforementioned International Medical Center “Empathy” claimed that Saakashvili was erroneously prescribed the madicines, although improper use of psychotropic medicines in the penitentiary is to be considered as a pharmacological torture.
And this is not all. Doctors who are currently monitoring Mikheil Saakashvili's health are not providing him, his relatives or his lawyers with documents that could confirm his condition and information about the treatments used for him. Personal physicians are not allowed to visit the patient.
Given the condition of Mikheil, it is very important today to make a quality diagnosis of his health and determine the optimal treatment protocols with the participation of doctors independent of the Georgian government with further rehabilitation.
As a result, all procedures to investigate Mikheil Saakashvili's ongoing criminal proceedings in Georgia, as well as existing criminal proceedings, must be suspended until his final recovery and treatment in a European country where qualified medical care can be provided.
I have repeatedly emphasized that we will try to make this process as transparent and open as possible, so after consulting with my client, I am ready to publish our next action plan.
Considering that the Georgian authorities refuse to acknowledge the fact of torture against Saakashvili, violation of his rights for protection and proper medical care, I consider it necessary to:
- Create an independent international team of medical experts to diagnose Mikheil's health. This group should include experts from Georgia, Ukraine and other countries with a high level of medical care (USA, Israel, Netherlands, Germany, etc.);
- To ask the Georgian authorities for permission to carry out diagnostic procedures to determine the severity of Saakashvili's disease and health condition in an independent clinic with the participation of international experts. In particular, we consider international clinics, as well as the Institute of Neurosurgery named after Academician A. P. Romodanov of the National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine;
- After determining the real state of his health and severity of the disease based on the recommendation of international doctors to prescribe appropriate treatment and rehabilitation methods;
- Suspend the investigation and trial of criminal cases in which Saakashvili is accused for the period of diagnostic procedures and examination of the severity of the disease.
Why is this important?
The fact is that everyone has the right to defend themselves personally and with the help of a lawyer. And no matter how many lawyers are involved in the defense, the key role is still given to the accused. It is very important for us that Mikheil Saakashvili will be able to defend himself not being under the influence of medicines. That is why we are so active in insisting on providing quality care.
In addition, we continue to cooperate with representatives of the Ukrainian authorities regarding the protection of the Ukrainian citizen Mikheil Saakashvili. Namely the following:
Ministry of Justice of Ukraine in support of existing complaints to the ECtHR;
Ministry of Foreign Affairs in terms of communication with the Georgian authorities;
Office of the President of Ukraine.
Also, our team begins advocacy support of Mikheil to Ukraine's international partners in the following areas:
Inadequate medical care;
Violation of the right to defense.
Thus, it is to be continued…