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Prison problems persist

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, October 27
The Public Defender of Georgia, Giorgi Tugushi addressed the Minister of Corrections, Probation and Legal Assistance with a recommendation in the framework of the Organic Law of Georgia on October 26. Stressing the importance of improving the effectiveness of personal meetings between lawyers and prisoners/defendants in establishments of detention and deprivation of freedom under the Department of Prisons, Tugushi suggested that the infrastructural problems should be solved by the Ministry.

According to the current regulations of the Ministry, the right to counsel which is about to be restricted will obviously cause violations of the human rights as set out by the State Constitution of Georgia. “Any detained person needs to be able to actively agree the defense case with his/her lawyer. When a particular person has a lawyer also defending the interests of another person, the situation of conflict of interests emerges and the lawyer is forced to automatically restrict the right to counsel of both defendants proportionately, which certainly has a negative impact on the detainees,” Tugushi said in his statement stressing the necessity of giving sufficient time to the prisoners to meet with their lawyers.

Talking about the various procedural issues lawyers and prisoners have encountered according to the results of the planned visit of employees of the Department of Prevention and Monitoring of the Public Defender’s Office to the Establishment of Detention and Deprivation of Freedom No 8 under the Department of Prisons carried out on October 20 this year the lawyer has no right to appeal just after the new Code of Criminal Procedure took effect from October 1. In many cases appealing is considered the exclusive right of the defendant/convict.

Pointing out that the Public Defender’s Office often receives applications from lawyers facing problems in carrying out their activities effectively due to the absence or disorder of the relevant infrastructure, Tugushi spoke of the problems even at the newly opened institution No 8. For example the constantly increasing queues of lawyers. He encouraged the Ministry of Corrections, Probation and Legal Assistance to ensure lawyers’ rights to meet with prisoners without hindrance.

The prisoner issue was among the main discussion topics at the plenary sitting of the parliament. “If all this information is the truth it will mean that all the reforms planned in the penitentiary system have been a total failure,” MP Jondi Bagaturia said. He spoke of the facts of violations against the detainees at the prisons, but stopped short of naming the organisations that had provided him with the information and the names of the oppressed prisoners.

Parliamentary chairman, Davit Bakradze asked the special monitoring group to respond to each violation and report on each case. He encouraged the oppressed detainees or their representatives to address the special monitoring groups working on the penitential issues with particular questions and cases for further discussions at the open session. Opposition MPs have been critical of the monitoring group, the near majority of which (according to MPs) consists of Governmental representatives. Denying the violations at the prisons, Eka Kherkheulidze the Deputy Chairman of Human Rights and Civil Integration wondered whether Bagaturia had introduced his colleagues with just the “news”.

The Ministry of Corrections, Probation and Legal Assistance has not yet commented on the issues yet but The Messenger will provide its readers with the appropriate information in the future.