The Public Defender Statement regarding National Preventive Mechanism
In recent days, incorrect information has been disseminated with regards to functions of members of the National Preventive Mechanism through media sources and social media. According to some experts of the Special Preventive Group, members of the National Preventive Mechanism do not enjoy the right of free access to closed-type establishments; criteria of selection of experts by the Public Defender for visits is not transparent; National Preventive Mechanism does not work on individual cases and the public is not informed on the situation in penitentiary establishments.
The Public Defender considers obliged to provide the public with comprehensive information on the above-mentioned issues.
According to the Organic Law of Georgia “On Public Defender”, starting from 2009 the Public Defender fulfils functions of National Preventive Mechanism envisaged by the Option Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) .
In July 2013, aimed at strengthening of the National Preventive Mechanism and simultaneously, ensuring broad representation of civil society during realization of monitoring of penitentiary establishments 40 experts were chosen by the Public Defender of Georgia based on recommendations of independent competition commission. The scope of their authority, mandate and code of conduct are defined by the Organic Law of Georgia “On Public Defender”, by the provision of the Public Defender’s Office, “Code of Conduct of Members (Experts) of the Special Preventive Group” and labour agreements signed between experts and the Public Defender. Each expert of the Special Preventive Group have agreed in signing to assume an obligation to follow the above mentioned code of conduct while monitoring closed-type establishments.
1. According to the Organic Law of Georgia ”On Public Defender”, “Members of the Special Preventive Group shall act under special authority granted by the Public Defender of Georgia when carrying out function of the National Preventive Mechanism and shall be accountable only to him/her” (article191(4)). In addition, the code of conduct regulates in details the main principles of monitoring of the Special Preventive Group according to which “a member of the Special Preventive Group carries out his/her functions only at the order of the Public Defender of Georgia” (article 7.2.) and “a decision on conduction of a planned or/and ad hoc monitoring by a member of the Special Preventive Group is made by the Public Defender of Georgia” (article 7.1.). Accordingly, opinions of some members of the Special Preventive Group that they should have had possibility to carry out monitoring in a closed-type establishment freely, without the Public Defender is devoid of all legal grounds. Additionally, the Public Defender specifically stresses that no member of the Special Preventive Group, in case of their expressed wish, had any problem with entering a closed-type establishment for conduction of monitoring.
2. According to the article 8 of the Code of Conduct “a member of the Special Preventive Group is shall make a written and comprehensive record of results of the monitoring and present full and objective report to the Public Defender. According to the article 3 of the Code of Conduct violation of the Code of Conduct by a member of the Special Preventive Group represents grounds for cancellation of a labour contract between the Public defender of Georgia and the member of the Special preventive Group. Only during the current year, the Special Preventive Group has carried out 87 planned and 8 ad hoc monitoring in penitentiary establishments, temporary detention facilities and other closed-type establishments. 23 experts were involved in conduction of monitoring. 14 experts out of these 23 have participated in at least 5 or more monitoring. Since some experts failed to fulfill their obligation to present a report and reports presented by some were not comprehensive and that interfered with work of the Special Preventive Group. So the situation arose when those experts more frequently were invited who systematically attended working meetings, participated in elaboration of work methodology and properly fulfilled their responsibility to present a report. In addition, while forming the monitoring group criteria that were taken into account included experience of an expert in conduction of monitoring in a specific establishment and need for ensuring multidisciplinary composition of the group. During the year, monitoring has been carried out in small, family-type children’s homes. Monitoring of the process of realization of recommendations issued for improvement of situation of persons with disabilities placed in penitentiary establishments and in the National Mental Health Centre. Accordingly, monitoring mainly included experts with relevant experience in this sphere. Hereby, it shall be noted that starting from October of 2014, following each conducted visit the National Preventive Mechanism started preparing and publishing a post-visit report. 3 such reports have been prepared and published.
At the moment, experts are working on several reports.
3. The Public Defender of Georgia would like to emphasize that the National Preventive Mechanism have been carrying out and continues to do so work on documenting facts of torture and other ill-treatment . Moreover, at the initiative of the Public Defender of Georgia, in the near future the Parliament of Georgia will start discussions on a legislative proposal introduced by the Public Defender and the main objective of which is more effective documentation of injuries inflicted as a result of torture and other kinds of ill-treatment through granting members of the Special Preventive Group the right to make photo and video recordings in closed-type establishments.
4. The Public Defender of Georgia in his report published on December 10 “On Situation of Human Rights and Freedoms in Georgia” cited frequented facts of ill-treatment in penitentiary establishments and during detention process among negative tendencies. The Public Defender addressed the Main Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia with 18 proposals alone to start investigation into facts of ill-treatment that have taken place in penitentiary establishments. And the public were informed about this in a timely manner. Therefore, a statement that allegedly the public is not informed about the situation in penitentiary establishments lacks any grounds. In the future, the National Preventive Mechanism will continue to provide information to the public on the situation places of deprivation and restriction of liberty. With the view of renewal of the composition of experts of the National Preventive Mechanism vacancies were announced that are open for participation of all individuals with relevant competences.