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Public Defender’s Office presents Ad Hoc report on prison establishments

By Ana Robakidze
Tuesday, December 11
The Public Defender’s office of Georgia published an AD HOC report, summarizing the events from September to November 2012, which took place in the penitentiary establishments of the country. The research was carried out by the Special Preventive Group of the Public Defender in the Penitentiary Establishments, with the support of the EU. The document is a result of “148 visits, including 1,879 face-to-face and thousands of general meetings with prisoners” throughout the country.

The AD HOC report reviews the general situation in the prison system, including the scandalous “prison footage.” The Special Preventive Group says that during the previous monitoring, prisoners always used to refrain from making written statements or even speaking regarding their mistreatment in the prison. The document puts forth an example and it reads: “The tension inside the prison #8 and the fear of prisoners during the conversation with the special preventive group was always obvious.”

Prisoners would be exposed to inhuman treatment in the case of failure to observe these numerous restrictions willfully established by the prison staff.

During the last planned monitoring mission in summer 2012, the group revealed several issues, “including systemic mistreatment of convicts that was repeatedly pointed out by the Special Preventive Group throughout the past years.” Regrettably, the government never reacted to the facts with the appropriate measures and the report says the violations had become a common practice. “As a result, we have been witnessing the situation where non-punishment, violation of prisoners’ rights, subjecting them to physical and psychological pressure, has become a normal routine,” the document reads.

The situation changed after the scandalous video footage was aired, followed by protests from prisoners and their families. Several inmates also went on a strike. “The PD representatives were encouraging the prisoners to stay calm, were listening to their demands and were trying to keep the situation under control, which was successfully achieved.

Directors of the prison establishments we replaced and criminal prosecution started against dozens of employees of the Penitentiary Department and various establishments.

The Special Preventive Group emphasizes some positive changes made in the daily life of the prisoners, such as allowing at the closed type prisons (Kutaisi #2, Gldani #8 and 18, Rustavi #6) to purchase TV sets at the prison shop, also inmates became no longer reluctant to exercise their right to walk in the open air. It is also positively assessed that a majority of the new directors managed to establish communication with prisoners in a short period of time, which helped “to prevent further disorder and destabilization.”

The document makes some negative comments about the healthcare in the prison establishments, assessing it as “still very poor, including the psychiatric field.”

The National Preventive Mechanism of the PD hopes that the “positive changes in the penitentiary system, that are first of all aimed to eradicate ill-treatment and the improvement of the healthcare system will be a continuous process and will have a logical continuation in the future.”

The document was met by some positive comments from the EU ambassador Philip Dimitrov. “It was good to know that Georgia is becoming more and more transparent and all kinds of problems with human rights are brought out in the open,” Dimitrov said on international human rights day, held on December 10th. The ambassador said that nowadays, human rights related problems are addressed with better attention and “Georgia is making a step forward.”