Public Defender and the Special Preventive Group Member will be Granted the Right to Take Photos in Penitentiary Establishments

On May 1, 2015, the Parliament of Georgia approved “the Code of Imprisonment” and substantial package of related draft laws with the third hearing which gives the Public Defender and the member of the Special Preventive Group the right to make photo recordings in penitentiary establishments starting from September 1, 2016. The legislative package envisages conduction of the institutional reform in the penitentiary system.

With regards to the legislative package, on January 28, 2015, the Public Defender of Georgia addressed the Georgian Parliament with a proposal. The main issue of the proposal was an initiative of granting the right to make photo recordings in penitentiary establishments for the Public Defender/ Member of the Special Preventive Group. During the discussion around the draft law, the Parliamentary Committee for Legal Issues welcomed the initiative of the Public Defender and called on the Ministry of Corrections of Georgia to elaborate wording of an article that was agreed on with the Public Defender. At the next stage of the discussion on the issue of the draft law and at the initiative of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee of the Parliament, a working group has been formed with participation of a representative of the committee, representatives of the Ministry of Corrections and the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia. As per agreement reached with the Ministry in the working process, the right of making photo recordings has been reflected in the amendment package of “the Code of Imprisonment”.

Namely, the Public Defender/member of the Special Preventive Group has been granted the right to make photos of accused/ convicts in penitentiary establishments. In addition, it will be possible to make photos of conditions of immediate placement of accused/convicts, medical centers of establishments, dining areas, common-use bathroom facilities, common-use toilet facilities, meetings rooms and walking areas.

In the view of the Public Defender of Georgia, granting of the aforementioned power is of greatest importance for strengthening of the mandate of the National Preventive Mechanism. It will promote effective realization of the function of prevention and monitoring by the National Preventive Mechanism, also, transparency of the penitentiary system and public awareness-raising. Obtaining the right to make photo recordings will significantly improve documenting of facts of torture and inhuman treatment that is of essential importance for effective investigation of the above crimes.

Practice of photo recording in the process of conduction of monitoring by the National Preventive Mechanism is successfully implemented in many European countries. These countries included Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Luxemburg, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, Macedonia, etc. Also, it should be noted that granting of the right to make photo recordings in penitentiary establishments for the National Preventive Mechanism of Georgia was also supported by Czech colleagues, and they forwarded a letter to the Chairman of the Georgian Parliament.

The Public Defender of Georgia believes that the above-mentioned change will be a step forward for protection of rights of persons with disabilities, including prevention of crimes of torture and inhuman treatment.

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