The Committee, unprecedently to the Parliament, heard the Public Defender's special report. In response to the report, the Committee also heard the Minister of Justice, Tea Tsulukiani.
“The Public Defender appealed to us through the form of a special report, and she, as the body accountable to the Parliament, demanded the hearing before the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee amid the same request by the Minister of Justice. Since these two issues thematically overlap, we decided to unite both issues procedurally within one Committee hearing", - Sofo Kiladze stated.
The Public Defender, Nino Lomjaria hailed the Committee's decision to hold a hearing of the special report on the monitoring of 4 penitentiary institutions as well as the desire of the Minister of Justice to conduct a Committee hearing in this format. “This report has led to a wide public interest. As many questions have followed, I believe the Human Rights Committee is the very place where these questions should be answered. The findings of our report reflect the results of the monitoring carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. Hence, today's discussion will also serve as the Parliamentary oversight of Georgia's international commitments”, - Nino Lomjaria noted.
Pursuant to the PD, the goal of the July-August 2019’s monitoring by the the Public Defender in the 2nd, 8th, 14th and 15th penitentiary institutions was to examine the informal governance of penitentiary institutions and its manifestations. According to her, the report assesses the state of health, overcrowding, challenges of rehabilitation and resocialization and staff shortages.
"The Public Defender has long highlighted the criminal subculture and the strengthening of this phenomenon in the penitentiary institutions, but this was the first time this year that the Public Defender’s National Preventative Mechanism developed a special methodology that allowed us to understand the existence of this phenomenon, its scale and forms”, - N. Lomjaria noted.
The Minister of Justice, Tea Tsulukiani introduced the Ministry's position to the Committee. According to her, the Public Defender's special report reflected both - truth and rumors. As of January 19, 2020, the total number of persons in custody summited 9762. 7968 of those were sentenced, while the rest were imprisoned awaiting conviction.
“In 2019, 16 inmates died in Georgian prisons. For comparison, this number was 144 in 2010, 140 in 2011, and later, up to 20 in 1013-2018”, - Tea Tsulukiani commented. As the Minister added, if, according to the Public Defender's report, inmates were in daily danger, this number would be higher. "Probably because the staff of all 15 penitentiary establishments are working 24 hours a day", - Tea Tsulukiani reported and noted that as of this morning, 27 inmates are on hunger strike in Georgian prisons, 16 of them are accused and their claims are not with the penitentiary system, rather with the criminal prosecution or investigative body, and only 11 of those on strike are convicted.
According to T. Tsulukiani, the Committee has heard the report of the Public Defender, who has been in office for the third year without paying frequent visits to the inmates. As the Minister added, in 2018 Ms. Nino herself visited the penitentiary system only 4 times, examined 1 inmate in the medical facility, and visited the 7th facility when it was empty, i.e. before opening. In August 2018 she visited Giorgi Mamaladze at the 9th Establishment and in October she called round Mirza Subeliani at the Gldani Establishment.
According to the Minister, in 2019 the Public Defender did not visit any inmate. “In 2020, amid the political turmoil that was taking place over Ms President's decision, Ms Nino visited Giorgi Mamaladze on Christmas Day. When an inmate insists on meeting the Ombudsman in person, the Ombudsman shall go to prison in person, and even if not requested, she should have the professional capacity to go to prison and meet with the prisoners. It is unfortunate that this is not happening so”, - Tea Tsulukiani delivered.
“I am proud to be the Minister of the Georgian Dream, the first Minister of Justice to govern the penitentiary system and to make public servants before they are released. These people in Gldani prison enjoy the digitalization project - they can get out of the cell in the morning, work, earn a living and get into a cell in the evening. These people wrote you a letter and you have not provided any reply yet”, - Tea Tsulukiani responded to Nino Lomjaria.
The members of the Committee introduced their views on the special report of the Public Defender and asked related questions.
According to the Chair of the Committee, Sofo Kiladze: “Last year the Committee considered more than 84% of the Ombudsman's recommendations, but we cannot take into account today's report in the form you submitted. For instance, the allegations on the possible influence of the criminal subculture that runs the penitentiary system or the assertions as if we had an incredible scale of violence are untrue. Though, the fact that the penitentiary system needs further improvement is stubborn”, - Sopho Kiladze addressed the Public Defender and noted that the Committee will elaborate on a conclusion regarding the hearing of the special report.