The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Georgia to ensure the safety of its jailed former President Mikheil Saakashvili as concerns mount for his health after almost seven weeks on a hunger strike.
Georgia must take steps “to inform the Court about the applicant’s current state of health, to ensure his safety in prison, and to provide him with appropriate medical care for the post-hunger-strike recovery period,” the ECHR said on Tuesday in response to a complaint brought by Saakashvili about his conditions.
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The ruling is a so-called interim measure ordered by the Strasbourg-based court in urgent cases where the ECHR deems there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm to an applicant.
Saakashvili, who was president of the Caucasus country between 2004 and 2013, has been refusing food for 47 days to protest against his imprisonment on October 1, shortly after his return from exile in Ukraine.
The court’s announcement was published just after Georgian Justice Minister Rati Bregadze insisted in a press conference earlier on Tuesday that Saakashvili had been receiving proper medical care.
Bregadze said “there had been no single instance of Saakashvili not receiving a medical service he required”, and that the prison hospital “has all the necessary infrastructure needed to control the hunger-striking inmate’s health condition”.
The ECHR said a treatment plan for Saakashvili’s recovery should also be drawn up. It also urged him to “call off his hunger strike”.
Saakashvili had in his complaint argued the prison hospital was not properly equipped, that his safety could not be guaranteed and that he should be transferred to a civilian hospital.
It said doctors have confirmed he is taking only liquids and vitamins and that he has lost 10 percent of his body mass.
The former president’s son, Eduard Saakashvili, has said that his father’s life was under threat and appealed for his transfer to a civilian hospital.
Last week, Saakashvili was forcibly moved to a prison hospital that supporters say fails to meet his medical needs.
The 53-year-old pro-Western reformer, president during a 2008 war with Russia, has said he was assaulted by guards in prison and that he fears for his life.
Saakashvili’s arrest exacerbated a political crisis stemming from parliamentary polls last year that the opposition denounced as fraudulent.
It has also spurred some of the largest anti-government protests in a decade.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili sparked an uproar recently saying Saakashvili “has the right to commit suicide” and that the government had been forced to arrest him because he refused to quit politics.