On 4 February 2015, the Parliament of Georgia discussed the amendments to the Criminal Code of Georgia at the second hearing. The amendments were initiated by the Government of Georgia and envisaged harsher punishment for acts of domestic violence. Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia, Levan Izoria, introduced the planned amendments to the members of the Parliament. In his speech, Mr Izoria underscored that Georgia has achieved significant progress in terms of effectively applying legal means to fight domestic violence. He added that in September 2014 a special commission was established to work on issues of domestic violence. Also, approximately 1,000 police officers undertook special training to raise their awareness of the issue.

FactCheck

took interest in the current situation in the country with regard to domestic violence and verified the accuracy of Mr Izoria’s statement.

Georgia criminalised domestic violence beginning in May 2012. According to Section 1 of Article 126 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, systematic abuse, blackmail or humiliation of one family member by another, if such acts cause physical pain or suffering, are punishable by community work for the term of 80 to 150 hours. The same action perpetrated:

a) against a pregnant woman, minor or a person being in a helpless condition

b) in the presence of a minor against his or her family member

c) against two or more persons

d) by a group of individuals

e) many times

is punishable by community work for the term of 100 to 200 hours or by imprisonment for one year in the length of time envisaged by Section 2 of Article 126.

According to the proposed amendments, the act perpetrated in violation of Section 1 of Article 126 will be punishable not only by community work but by imprisonment for a period of one year whilst violations of Section 2 of Article 126 will be punishable by an increased length of imprisonment from one to three years.

The patrol police as well as district police officers are required to respond to cases of domestic violence if they have been informed of such an act. In the case of necessity, a police officer is authorised to issue a restrictive order to ensure the safety of the victim.

According to the information of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, law enforcers undertook trainings on the issue of domestic violence in 2014. Teachers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs Academy, representatives of NGOs working on domestic violence issues and members of the Public Defender’s Office led the trainings. Police officers who took part in the training are responsible for monitoring the cases of domestic violence, processing the respective statistical data, systematically monitoring conflict-prone families and making general analyses. Their work is coordinated by the Commission for Preventing and Responding to Domestic Violence. The Commission was established in September 2014 and is composed of high-ranking officials from different units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The aforementioned reforms were elaborated after the cases of domestic violence and domestic violence related homicides increased last year.

Based upon information provided by the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia, the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) published statistical data on domestic violence in December 2014. According to the data, the highest number of domestic violence related homicides occurred and were registered in 2014.

According to the statistical data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, there was a total of 591 cases of domestic violence registered in 2014, including 19 cases of domestic violence related homicide and 28 cases of serious bodily injury. There were 459 cases of domestic violence in 2013, including eight cases of domestic violence related homicide and 20 cases of serious bodily injury. As we can see, the number of domestic violence cases increased significantly in 2014. Women typically comprise the majority of victims of domestic violence.

Of note is that 227 restrictive orders were issued in 2013 as compared to 817 restrictive orders issued in 2014. It is obvious that the number of restrictive orders has markedly increased which to some extent indicates that law enforcers have become more active in fighting against domestic violence. Further, criminal charges were filed for only 40% of the total number of domestic violence cases in 2013 whilst criminal charges were filed in 73% of the total number of domestic violence cases in 2014.

We interviewed the Director of the Gender Equality Department of the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia, Ekaterine Skhiladze, on the issue of domestic violence. She said: “Domestic violence, in general, and violence against women is a huge problem in Georgia. We have seen it clearly in 2014 when multiple cases of women murdered by their husbands or former spouses were registered. The reality on the ground differs from what is reflected in the official statistics. Research shows that the total amount of cases of domestic violence far exceeds the official number. The difference is the result of low levels of reporting of the cases. This, in turn, is a consequence of the lack of awareness in society. The stereotype that domestic violence is a family affair which should not go beyond the family premises is alive and well. Also, the victim might be economically dependent on the perpetrator of the violence and decide not to report the problem to the police. There is also the issue of the quality of services which is quite important; that is, if the victim has trust toward these services.” Ms Skhiladze added that the Ministry of Internal Affairs has been active in the fight against domestic violence dating to 2014. She remarked that the Ministry has a very close cooperation with the Public Defender’s Office in this regard.

Ekaterine Skhiladze also clarified that some issues remain problematic. On 9 December 2014, the Public Defender of Georgia addressed the Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia regarding the ineffectiveness of the practice of signed statements on non-repeat of violence in the cases of domestic violence. The statement says: “After the staff of the Public Defender studied a spectrum of cases, it became evident that the bodies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs still use the signed statement and warning practice to respond to cases of domestic violence. The existing legal mechanisms do not envisage using that form of protection and it represents a part of a widespread practice which is completely ineffective.” The statement also described two cases when the bodies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs used the signed statement and warning practice despite the high risk of violence.

Ekaterine Skhiladze also underlined: “Raising society’s awareness is very important. Also, it is crucial to have an adequate risk assessment to measure what type of danger is present at the moment. It must be noted that the Ministry of Internal Affairs is already working to elaborate a risk assessment methodology. It is important to have a comprehensive approach as we should not be focused solely upon protection but be putting efforts into prevention as well.”

Conclusion

Domestic violence has been a very important topic throughout the whole of 2014. The number of cases of domestic violence rose sharply, including domestic violence related homicides and serious bodily injuries. Last year, a total of 591 cases of domestic violence were registered, including 19 domestic related homicides and 28 serious domestic related bodily injuries.

Of note is that criminal charges were filed for only 40% of the total number of domestic violence cases in 2013 whilst criminal charges were filed for 73% of the total number of domestic violence cases in 2014. In addition, the number of restrictive orders soared which indicates that law enforcers have become more active in fighting against domestic violence.

Police officers were trained in issues of domestic violence in 2014. Law enforcers who attended those trainings are responsible for monitoring the cases of domestic violence, processing the respective statistical data, systematically monitoring conflict-prone families and making general analyses. Their work is coordinated by the Commission for Preventing and Responding to Domestic Violence which was established in September 2014.

According to the Public Defender’s Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has been very active in fighting against domestic violence beginning in 2014 although some problems still remain. The Public Defender’s Office studied specific cases when bodies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs used only the signed statement and warning practice despite the high risk of violence.

According to the information analysed above, FactCheck concludes that Levan Izoria’s statement is MOSTLY TRUE.

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