Visits of Public Defender and Special Preventive Group to Penitentiary Establishments

Amid the novel coronavirus epidemic in Georgia, the Public Defender of Georgia and the Special Preventive Group paid visits to penitentiary establishments nos. 17, 5 and 8. The purpose of the visits was to assess the impact of measures aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus in penitentiary establishments on the prisoners’ rights, their necessity and proportionality, as well as to examine the working conditions of the staff. In the coming days, a follow-up report will be prepared about Establishment no. 17.

The Public Defender and the Special Preventive Group were guided by the document of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture,[1] which provides recommendations for the protection against ill-treatment. The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture emphasizes that National Preventive Mechanisms should continue performing their mandate even during the coronavirus pandemic. The World Health Organization also notes that the measures against the spread of coronavirus should not hinder the monitoring of closed facilities.[2]

It is noteworthy that the Special Preventive Group updated its working strategy and adapted its working methodology to new challenges right before the monitoring visits. It developed rules for conducting a safe monitoring visit during the pandemic, while members of the Group received additional instructions.

Members of the Group have been equipped with personal protective equipment and were instructed on how to use them. The purpose of these measures was to minimize the risk of the spread of coronavirus during the monitoring visit and to protect the staff and other persons in the facilities. It is welcome that employees of penitentiary establishments assisted the monitoring team in carrying out its activities safely and without unjustified restrictions.

The Public Defender of Georgia and the Special Prevention Group continue to pay emergency monitoring visits to places of detention, deprivation of liberty or otherwise restriction of liberty, in order to identify new human rights challenges in a timely manner and to take effective steps in response to them.

Despite the remote working mode, since March 13, 2020, employees of the Department of Criminal Justice of the Public Defender's Office have been actively responding to individual applications of prisoners and have made 21 visits to 9 penitentiary establishments in Tbilisi, Rustavi, Kutaisi and Batumi, where they met a total of 103 prisoners.

[1] The unofficial Georgian translation of the document is available at: < >

[2] Available at:< >

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