Court ruling allows 26 minors to leave Georgian Patriarchate's boarding school in Ninotsminda, Church officials promise to appeal
Children leave the church boarding house in Ninotsminda, Georgia
26 children have been relocated from Ninotsminda boarding school run by the Georgian Patriarchate, following the ruling of the Tbilisi City Court. The ruling followed a series of protests of Georgia’s human rights activists and representatives of civil society who have been calling for the children to be allowed to leave the school amid allegations of child abuse.
Management of the boarding house has previously prohibited human rights defenders and social workers from visiting the children stating that “those were the same people who demanded the legalization of same-sex marriages”.
The Georgian Patriarchate considers the court’s recent ruling biased and intends to appeal it in order “not to allow liberals to enslave society.”
“Yesterday six, and today another 20 children left this nest of evil. The state follows the court’s decision and relocates the children, which is very good. This process must be completed by tomorrow at the latest. Then we must fully focus on investigating the facts of violence”, Ana Abashidze, a lawyer for the Partnership for Human Rights (PHR) posted on her social media.
Children relocated from the orphanage will be placed in foster families and family-type shelters.
Information about possible psychological and physical violence against minors in boarding school has been actively discussed in the media over the past year. At the end of May, Ombudsman Nino Lomjaria received information from the prosecutor’s office that the Ministry of Internal Affairs was carrying out four investigations of alleged cases of violence, including sexual violence, against children in a boarding school in Ninotsminda.
After that, protests began in Tbilisi demanding to allow human rights defenders to meet with children. During the June 3 rally, the police detained nine people.
Lawyers Ana Arganashvili and Ana Abashidze argued that the lives and health of children were in danger. PHR filed a lawsuit to give children the right to leave the boarding school freely, and on June 5, the court upheld the lawsuit.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs announced that it has launched a new investigation of violence against minors in the boarding school under Article 126-1 of the Criminal Code of Georgia.
Public Defender: “Children talk about physical and psychological abuse”
Public Defender Nino Lomjaria said that she spoke with six minors who left the Ninotsminda boarding school. All of them say that physical punishment and psychological abuse were often practiced in the orphanage.
“At this stage, it is especially important to first assess in detail the situation in the biological families of children, plan a possible return to their families and support these families”, says Lomjaria.
Georgian Patriarchate to appeal the court’s decision
The Patriarchate of Georgia said that it did not know that the Public Defender was prohibited from visiting children in the boarding house, and first heard about it from the media reports.
The Church believes that no evidence of abuse and violence against minors was presented at the trial and the administration and staff of the boarding house were not given the opportunity to state their position. Therefore, the Patriarchate will appeal the decision in court.
“The unreasonable and hasty process of withdrawing children from the boarding house will only harm them and their rights”, the Patriarchate said.
- Anti-vaxxing, homophobia, pro-Russian sentiments – is the church an obstacle on Georgia’s pro-Western course?
- Coronavirus and the Church of the Last Days – why the Georgian church won’t cancel church services
Statements of Georgian clergymen
Metropolitan Chkondideli Stefan responded to the events at the Ninotsminda boarding house and dedicated his Sunday sermon to discredit and express hatred towards the LGBTQ community.
He criticized the court’s decision to relocate children from the boarding school and said: “The rule of law is contrary to the rule of God. Do not obey laws that contradict Christianity”.
“We should not be submissive and should not obey the liberals and their false laws. They attacked the Ninotsminda orphanage on false charges. This is an attack on our values”, said Metropolitan Stephen.
A statement was also made by the Bishop of Shalta Spyridon, the head of the Ninotsminda boarding house.
He said he was forced to comply with the court’s decision, but that the decision was “based on defamatory statements by non-governmental organizations”.