Officials begin taking children out of Orthodox orphanage in Ninotsminda
On June 4, the Georgian Agency for State Care and Assistance for the Victims of Human Trafficking said that that they have relocated six minors already, and other “around ten” were also set to leave the orphanage in Ninotsminda following information about alleged mistreatment of pupils. The orphanage is managed by the Georgian Orthodox Church.
Fifty-seven children are housed at the orphanage, which is located in Ninotsminda, a town in the South of Georgia near the Armenian border. A day earlier, police detained nine people during a protest titled “End Children’s Captivity!” outside the Prosecutor’s office in Tbilisi.
Protesters demanded the investigation of four shelved criminal cases, including one alleged rape of a minor, at the Ninotsminda orphanage. Metropolitan Spiridon Abuladze, the cleric who oversees the orphanage, has remained defiant, refusing to allow Public Defender Nino Lomjaria or her team to enter the orphanage grounds.
“The Georgian Orthodox Church is using its influence to thwart the inquiry”, Baiya Pataraya, the head of the “Sapare” (Protection Place) shelter for women and children, said on air of the “Formula” programme.
Eleven NGOs have demanded an immediate authorities’ reaction and noted that the boarding school is headed by Bishop Spiridon (Abuladze), who was suspected of rape. A former pupil of the boarding school said children were beaten up there, and in one case, to death.
In 2015, Georgia’s then–Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili, published a report describing a harsh punishment regime at the orphanage, including the denial of food, prohibition from leaving one’s room, and forcing children to “walk on their knees in the corridor with their hands or their heads, in front of their peers”. A 2017 report also mentioned the use of “Metanoia” to punish children.
In practice, Metanoia consists of “kneeling, praying, crossing oneself, then kneeling and touching the floor with your forehead” over and over again. Eventually, it becomes a painful and strenuous physical activity.
According to the Office of the Public Defender, between the years 2016 and 2021, three criminal cases have been launched in response to alleged violence against minors that took place at the orphanage, and one in response to the alleged rape of a minor.