TBILISI, DFWatch – Georgia imposes three months isolation for prisoners who misbehave. The opposition fears that the government is getting ready for a ‘new wave of repressions’.
There are suspicions now of what the motive is for the new bill to change the Imprisonment Code. After the amendments come into force, the prisoners may be cut off from all contact with the outside world for three months as an extra punishment for ‘bad behavior’.
According to the bill, in disciplinary cases, the prisoner will for three month be denied: telephone conversations, receiving personal correspondence, the right to use shops inside the detention facility and receiving money.
The government justifies the new harsh prison regime by need to have a “containment mechanism”, which will raise the prisoner’s motivation for discipline and for following prison regulations.
But the opposition thinks this decision is dangerous; they think that it is a step towards an aim of isolating all the prisoners completely from the outside world. The reason is to deprive the prisoners of the opportunity to inform others about their situation, write complaints, and have private correspondence.
Dimitry Lortkipanidze, of the parliamentary faction Unity for Justice, remarks that the new administrative isolation is a result of a very subjective view on the part of employees of the prison authorities, who may restrict the rights of a large number of people for completely made-up reasons.
He focuses on the fact that under such circumstances, both physical and psychological pressure may be used against any person; someone might torture a person under such an inhuman prison regime, yet no-one would learn anything about it, because the victim not be able to inform others about it. Lawyers simply won’t have an opportunity to get objective information.
“This is repressive mechanism, which they want to consolidate on legislative level. I think that the government is planning serious repressive measures,” Dimitry Lortkipanidze claims.
It also should be noted that the bill includes encouraging elements: to increase the number of telephone calls.
But the introductory note for the bill only mentions positive changes and does not mention the plan to isolate prisoners as an extra punishment.
Parliament has not yet started debatig the bill. The ruling party and initiators of the bill avoid making any comments regarding this issue.
Instead, the explanatory note says: “While working on the bill, the legislation of several countries (France, Czech Republic, and Sweden) was taken into consideration.” But there is not noted in which way these countries’ examples were taken into consideration, whether it had to do with sanctions or encouragement.
The fact is that at the same time as there are positive changes, sanctions are also introduced, and that these are not even mentioned in the explanatory note, is describes by the opposition as an attempt to sneak the sanctions past unnoticed.
“The problem is that they mask terrible things with good. It’s done in a way so that attention was focused on these good elements and the other articles of the bill remained outside of public attention. They’ll do their best to prevent media from noticing this article and just sneak past,” Dimitry Lortkipanidze claims.
According to him, setting up these kinds of restrictions for the prisoners contradicts international legislation, so he appeals to the foreign diplomats for support.
“It’s clear that the changes won’t apply only to political prisoners but to every prisoner so this regulation will become a strong weapon for the government towards the most vulnerable category. So we appealed to the leaders of international missions and embassies that it is required to raise the alarm on this issue. We cannot keep quiet, because the ruling party will adopt this bill without impediment and a quick response is necessary,” Lortkipanidze says.
The bill comes out of Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance, which is headed by Khatuna Kalmakhelidze, and is presented in parliament by ruling party representatives Zviad Kukava, Pavle Kublashvili and Kakha Anjaparidze.
Treatment of prisoners have been the subject of strong criticism both from abroad and from the opposition, while prison minister Kalmakhelidze has repeatedly commended her own efforts to improve conditions, while refusing to talk to journalist except in a few rare instances.
Prisoners regularly write letters decribing horrific treatment, which create a firestorm among opposition circles, or are sent to experts at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for further investigation. They have many times taken Georgia to court.
According to the latest report from Council of Europe observers, Georgian prison authorities have prevented prioners from sending letters to the European Human Rights Court by imposing a postage fee of several hundred Georgian lari. Last year a group of prisoners claimed that they were severely beaten as a punishment for sending such letters.