Democracy Research Institute responds to the tragic incident in Kobuleti

The information included in the statement is not of an assertive nature and only serves to assess the facts.

Although the Code of the Rights of the Child and the Juvenile Justice Code are in force in Georgia, unfortunately, their implementation in practice remains a challenge. According to the available information, although the police were aware of sexual intercourse with a minor (under Article 140 of the Criminal Code, sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 16 is punishable by imprisonment for 7 to 9 years), the law enforcement agency did not take appropriate measures. The adult perpetrator charged under Article 140 of the Criminal Code was arrested only after the juvenile committed suicide.

For the purposes of the Juvenile Justice Code, the victim shall enjoy all the powers granted to the witness. Witness-related rules include the involvement of a legal representative in the questioning of a juvenile and, if necessary, the involvement of a psychologist, which did not happen in the given case. According to the available information, only social worker attended the questioning.

The Social Service Agency has a statutory obligation to protect children from all forms of violence, including physical and sexual abuse. This issue is regulated by the joint order on child protection referral of the Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister of Education. Article 5 of the order defines the referral system, which implies the identification of the child victim of violence, assessment of the child's condition, if necessary, placement of the child in a service or services that may contribute to his/her safety and rehabilitation, and monitoring of the case. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the Social Service Agency did not provide adequate child support services in the above-mentioned case.

A systemic problem is evident – the strengthening of social services is not a priority for the responsible ministries. The number of social workers of the Social Service Agency and the Agency for State Care and Assistance to Victims of Trafficking is low and insufficient for the fulfillment of statutory obligations. In addition, the state does not allocate resources to improve the qualifications of social workers, to specialize them. Consequently, social workers have to work in many directions, which leads to an extreme shortage of the already scarce resources. Lack of specialization and low level of narrow profile qualifications affect the quality of work.

In the process of assisting a victim, the evaluation by a social worker alone is not enough and it is necessary to provide a variety of quality services tailored to the specific needs of a particular child, both financial and rehabilitative. As the mentioned services are extremely scarce, the services provided by the Social Service Agency cannot be considered as proper.

The Democracy Research Institute calls on:

  • Prosecutor’s Office - to carry out investigation in a timely and efficient manner
  • Ministry of Internal Affairs – to hold accountable the police officers who did not conduct timely or effective investigation
  • Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia - to carry out a systemic reform in order to strengthen the institution of the social worker, as well as to approve the protocol for the protection of abused children, which will be binding for the police and all those responsible for responding to violence (social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist)
  • Government of Georgia – to review the budget allocated for the protection and welfare of children and to make appropriate changes in order to adequately improve the system
  • Media - to follow the suicide coverage standard due to the sensitivity of the issue, despite the high public interest.