21 September 2018
Coalition for Children and Youth (CCY) responds to the severe violations of child rights by the personnel of St. Nino Boarding House for Orphans, Waifs and Children in Need of Care of the Patriarchate of Georgia in Javakheti city of Ninotsminda and bishop Spiridon (the head) himself, regarding confidential communication with the Public Defender, which in its turn hampers the activities of the Public Defender. The CCY demands the following:
- The above fact should be urgently investigated by relevant services of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs (hereinafter referred to as the “Ministry of Health”) and relevant measures should be taken according to the legislation concerning the violation of licensing conditions by the institution;
- The Ministry of Health should prevent the violations of child rights and other unlawful acts by religious leaders, and ensure improvement of alarming situation for the children that are brought to the boarding institution in violation of law.
On 13 September 2018, it became public that the employees of Child Rights Center of the Public Defender’s Office visited St. Nino Boarding House for Orphans, Waifs and Children in Need in Ninotsminda within the monitoring program. During the visit, representatives of the Ombudsman were not allowed to have a conversation with children separately as the boarding house personnel demanded that the interviews be held in the presence of the clergy.
St. Nino Boarding House for Orphans, Waifs and Children in Need is an officially licensed institution (in 2014) functioning and controlled in accordance with Georgian legislation and international standards of childcare and child rights. Enrollment and discharge of children, assessment of their needs, supervision of child conditions, and specific program support is strictly regulated by the Ministry of Health. Fulfillment of these conditions is also one of the fundamental requirements for obtaining a license.
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child makes the child’s best interests a primary consideration in all actions concerning children and requires States Parties (childcare and/or child protection facilities, services and agencies) to ensure meeting these requirements and to operate under the supervision of relevant authorities.
According to the article 19th of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the orphans and waifs placed in childcare facilities are at high risk of abuse, violence (punishment) and ill-treatment. To reduce this risk, the state should have an effective mechanism for child monitoring in place to have a full access to such establishments.
Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides children with the right to receive confidential legal advice without consent of legal representatives and without lower age limit.
The Resolution # 66 dated 15January 2014 of the Government of Georgia approving the Technical Regulations on Childcare Standards regulates the childcare standards in the country and sets licensing conditions for institutions of all types that provide child day care services.
According to the resolution (Standard 3 – Confidentiality), service provider must: b) protect privacy of child’s correspondence, conversations and meetings; c) provide a child with appropriate environment (room or space allocated) for individual consultations to ensure confidentiality of conversation.
Monitoring of the Institution
Pursuant to Georgian legislation and international standards, the Public Defender of Georgia must have the right to free access to and monitoring of all types of closed establishments, as well as children’s homes, to meet the children personally and confidentially and hear their complaints / opinions. Any kind of interference in the activities of the Public Defender is prohibited and punishable by law.
Although the Ninotsminda Children’s House is established with the support of the Patriarchate of Georgia, it is subject to obligatory regulation of Georgian legislation, according to which interfering with the child’s religious upbringing, or any kind of restriction on child’s communication with third persons that serves his best interests, is a gross violation of international and national legislation. As shown in the reports of the Public Defender and other organizations , the childcare establishments have been managed by clergy in violation of these requirements over years – arbitrarily introducing the rules and forcing the children to obey the rules that contradict the rights of the child and the applicable legislation. This includes unlawful restriction of the freedom of expression of children and confidential meetings with third persons, interference with the activities of relevant agencies having access to the institution for official monitoring, etc.
Therefore, the CCY considers that the above-mentioned facts constitute a violation of the rights guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, contradict the principle of the best interests and the development of the child, which is in conflict with Georgian legislation. CCY calls on the Ministry of Health to respond to the above facts in a timely manner.
Partnership for Social Welfare – is not a signatory on this statement