(Judicial Quest News Network)
GENEVA (18 October 2023) – Georgia has made significant progress in fighting torture and improving detention conditions, but extra measures are necessary to lower prison population, expand staff force and strengthen rehabilitation program, bringing its prison system up to 21st century standards, UN torture prevention experts said after their first visit to the country.
“We note that the prison population in Georgia has decreased by more than half in the last decade, and we commend the various reforms undertaken by the authorities to ensure safeguards against ill-treatment and enhance detention conditions,” said Massimiliano Bagaglini, who led the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) delegation to the country from 8 to 14 October.
“While we acknowledge the efforts made by the Government, the prison population rate of Georgia continues to be significantly higher than the European average in relation to the free population,” Bagaglini said, adding that “alternative measures to detention and conditional early release are essential to reduce the prison population.”
“A modern prison system especially requires a strong focus on rehabilitation. Staffing levels should also be raised to guarantee the welfare of both prison staff and detainees,” he stated.
The delegation visited various prisons, temporary detention isolators and police stations. The SPT experts conducted confidential interviews with detainees, personnel and medical staff in these facilities.
The delegation also held discussions with senior Government officials and the national monitoring body of Georgia, officially known as the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). The delegation carried out joint visits with the NPM to a prison and a temporary detention facility during the mission.
“The NPM in Georgia has been systematically and professionally monitoring places where people are deprived of liberty. The State party should continue and expand its support to ensure that the mechanism is well resourced to perform its preventive mandate in a sustainable manner,” Bagaglini said.
The SPT monitors how States that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) are fulfilling their treaty obligations, including establishing an independent national preventive mechanism. Georgia ratified the Optional Protocol in 2005.
The SPT will submit a confidential report to the Government of Georgia with its observations and recommendations on preventing torture and ill-treatment of people deprived of their liberty. As with all other States, the SPT encourages Georgia to make the SPT report public.
The SPT delegation comprised Massimiliano Bagaglini, head of Delegation (Italy), Jakub Czepek (Poland), Julia Kozma (Austria) and María Luisa Romero (Panama) and was accompanied by three secretariat staff.