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CoE Anti-Torture Committee positively assesses Georgia’s penitentiary institutions

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, May 13
The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published a report on its most recent visit to Georgia from 10 to 21 September 2018, saying there were hardly any allegations of ill-treatment of inmates by police officers and the staff working in penitentiary institutions.

During the visit, the delegation assessed progress made in the implementation of the recommendations made by the CPT following the previous visit in 2014. In this context, the delegation paid particular attention to the treatment of persons in police custody and the situation of prisoners in penitentiary establishments, in particular, those in high-risk and semi-open prisons, as well as juvenile inmates.

Besides, the delegation carried out visits to several psychiatric hospitals and, for the first time in Georgia, to an immigration detention facility.

“Overall, the CPT received a very positive impression of the sustained efforts of the Ministry of Internal Affairs aimed at combating police ill-treatment,” the report reads.

The document also reads that conditions of detention in the visited temporary detention isolators (TDIs) were on the whole acceptable for the intended purpose and maximum permitted period of police custody. However, several deficiencies remained: the national norm of 4 m˛ of living space per detainee was not yet fully and systematically implemented in practice, and in-cell toilets were generally only partially screened. Furthermore, criminal suspects had still no access to a shower and outdoor exercise.

As for the prisons, CPT says that the delegation hardly heard of any allegations of staff's ill-treatment of inmates.

“Overall, there was a relaxed atmosphere, and good staff-prisoner relations in the prisons visited. Only a few isolated allegations were heard of excessive force used while prisoners were transferred to so-called 'de-escalation rooms' especially at Prison N6,” the report reads.

It is also noted that overcrowding was no longer a problem in the examined prisons and that progress had been much less impressive in drawing up programs of purposeful, out-of-cell, activities for prisoners.

“The CPT noted further improvement in prisoners’ access to both primary and secondary health care in all prisons visited. The medical facilities and equipment were of a satisfactory level in all the establishments except for Prisons Nos. 6 and 15,” the report said.

Furthermore, juvenile prisoners and those in semi-open prisons had adequate possibilities to maintain contact with the outside world. The CPT also welcomed the fact that remand prisoners no longer required prior authorization by the competent investigating authority or court to receive a visit.

As for the immigration detention establishments, the delegation did not receive any allegations of ill-treatment by staff from the Temporary Accommodation Centre (TAC) of the Migration Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Further, it appeared that conflicts between detained foreign nationals were rare and never of any serious nature.

Georgia’s Justice Minister, Thea Tsulukiani says that the report confirms ill-treatment of people in the penitentiary institutions remained in the past.

“The legislative changes that have been implemented under the current government are positively evaluated in the report...I would like to congratulate my colleges in the Ministry of Internal Affairs,” the minister said.

Tsulukiani said as the problem of ill-treatment of inmates has been eliminated in Georgia, the Committee called on the government to protect the rights of inmates even better and to focus more on their re-socialization and rehabilitation.

The CPT organizes visits to places of detention, in order to assess how persons deprived of their liberty are treated. These places include prisons, juvenile detention centers, police stations, holding centers for immigration detainees, psychiatric hospitals, social care homes, etc.