Bishop Abuladze resigns while the International community is calling for an effective investigation into the allegation of abuse of children in the Georgian Orthodox Church
Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II decided to replace Ninotsminda boarding school head archbishop Spiridon after human rights defenders had criticised him for alleged mistreatment of pupils. By the patriarch’s decision, the Bishop of Bodbe, Jacob, will preside over the boarding school.
The orphan boarding school still accommodates 23 children, and the institution will not close for at least another year, Georgia’s Patriarchate announced.
According to Edishera Karchava, a lawyer of Georgia’s Patriarchate, Bishop Spiridon (Abuladze) voluntarily resigned from the post of the director of the orphan boarding school. The lawyer repeated that there was no talk of immediate closure of the orphanage. “There are too many children here who do not have parents, and some of them do not want to be separated from their guardian,” the lawyer of Georgia’s Patriarchate explained. The process of the closure will continue until 2022, all this time, the orphan boarding school will work, Edishera Karchava concludes.
Amnesty International is concerned that the Georgian authorities are failing in their duty to ensure effective protection of the children placed in alternative care at the Ninotsminda boarding school in the mountainous region of Samtskhe-Javakheti. “The Georgian authorities are afraid to react to violations of the law and “do not want to anger the Patriarchate,” said Nika Simonishvili, the chairman of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association.
Amnesty International stated that more than 20 children remain in the boarding school, in contact with and in care of the alleged perpetrators, while several criminal investigations are ongoing into alleged cases of child abuse and sexual abuse of children. The exact number of children at the boarding school is disputed, as local human rights defenders report that several children reside there without official registration.
Local human rights defenders told Amnesty International that children at the Ninotsminda boarding school remain at risk of abuse and under pressure from the school administration to prevent them from testifying in the ongoing investigations. At least two former boarding school students who have testified in the ongoing investigations have reported being threatened and evicted from church-run educational institutions.
Meanwhile, on June 17, newly-appointed boarding school head Jacob met with Public Defender of Georgia, Nino Lomjaria, and they agreed to jointly conduct a monitoring visit in the church-run foster home.
The church-run orphanage, which housed 57 children, came to public attention in April after the Public Defender was prevented from visiting. Since June 5, over 20 of the children have been rehomed after a court ruled that there was a risk to their lives and health. More than 20 children have left the boarding school.
According to the Public Defender’s Office, since 2016, four criminal cases have been launched in response to alleged violence against minors at the orphanage and one in response to allegations of child rape.