GYLA draws attention to detainee health
By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, November 21
The Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) released their research on the Mechanisms for Early Release and Reprieve of Convicts for Health Problems in Georgia on November 20.
On examples of individual cases litigated by GYLA, Article 42, Youth for Justice and various independent lawyers, the report illustrates local legislative gaps parallel with international practice.
Although Georgian legislation envisages the release or reprieve of convicts suffering from serious illness, the mechanism remains feeble because prisoners die before receiving the answers from the Joint Commission on early release.
European Council member state legislation generally envisages the reprieve or early release of prisoners due to their poor health. If authorities decide to place and maintain a seriously ill person in detention, the state has an obligation to protect their physical well-being by guaranteeing such conditions of detention that correspond to their special needs. But the GYLA, who frequently assists convicts in applying, has “witnessed a number of flaws both in legislation and in practice” in Georgia.
The findings of doctors regarding a convict's medical condition are submitted to the three-member commission, which consists of high-ranking officials from the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Protection and the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance. Because doctors are not permanent members of the commission, they do not participate in making the final decision.
When the inmates file the application, the Joint Commission has to study their illness history and a doctor, or a team of doctors has to make sure that their illness coincides with the list of diseases considered “serious” for early release. One of the authors of the research– Natia Katsitadze, said the commission has practically never gathered. In a number of cases, medical documents of convicts at penitentiary establishments are incomplete and it is impossible to obtain complete information.
Katsitadze told The Messenger that the timeframes for examining applications should be determined to avoid detainees from fatal consequences. GYLA research shows that in the case of necessity, a one-month term can be extended but should not exceed three months.
Katsitadze says the list of serious illnesses needs to be updated. She said medical experts also agree that the current list is outdated and does not coincide with modern challenges. Moreover, it recognizes only terminal stages. Katsitadze thinks that the level for release is high.
Convict L.J. has been detained from June of 2008. Paralyzed with both lower limbs the convict is in a wheelchair. In addition to this, he has a spinal cord injury and mental problems. Diagnosed with personality disorders, GYLA assisted the convict in applying to the Joint Commission for early release in December of 2011, but received no response.
In most cases, convicts become ill or their conditions deteriorate in prisons. Found guilty in 1998, 72 year-old G.Ch. now suffers from heart failure and neurosis in combination with asthmatic bronchitis and lymphostasis of both lower limbs. Although his diseases do not coincide with the official list, their combination with his age creates legal grounds for his release; the commission still neglected the case.
The GYLA applied to the Joint Commission of the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia and the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia in January and February, 2012 for public information related to the statistics of cases examined by the Commission from the day it was founded to the present but in vain.
At a press conference on Tuesday, the Georgian Young Lawyers Association requested officials to take the relevant measures for fixing the “flawed legal base” and “distorted practice” and expressed their readiness to cooperate and participate in providing recommendations that would contribute to solving the problem.