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Press-Conference about Malicious Practice in Penitentiary Establishments


 Kristine Pakhomov

On July 6, Human Rights Center and Georgian Bar Association held press-conference to express concern with the malicious practice in penitentiary establishments when prison officers demand the lawyers to present them the notes they made during the meetings with their accused/convicted clients in prison. Leaders of Human Rights Center and Georgian Bar Association call on the Minister of Corrections to get interested in the situation in penitentiary establishments and take effective measures to combat hindering of the attorneys’ professional activities in prisons.

Incident happened on July 1 and July 5, in Prison # 7 and Prison # 18 where lawyers of Human Rights Center met clients and prison officers demanded them to present the notes from the meeting when the lawyers left the facility. 

“Visual examination during the visits in prisons is allowed but the prison officers do not have right to demand the lawyers to show the notes made during the meetings with the clients. I want to underline that it is not first fact. In 2014, I petitioned to the Ministry of Corrections and requested them to clarify the motives of similar control and whether the activities of the prison officers were justified by the relevant internal regulations. The Ministry replied nobody had right to interfere in the professional activities of the lawyer and the law does not prohibit them to write even a phone number in the notes,” Nestan Londaridze, lawyer of Human Rights Center, said at the press-conference.

Lawyer of Human Rights Center Eka Lomidze spoke about the threat from the prison personnel. She said during one of the visits in the prison, the officers demanded her to show the notes; in case of disobedience, they threatened the lawyer with destroying the notes.

In accordance to the Article 4 Subparagraph “c” of the Law of Georgia on Attorneys, an attorney may meet a detainee, a prisoner or a freedom-restricted person in the places of detention without obstacles, at any time and without any control in accordance to the regulations set by the Criminal Procedure Code of Georgia. She/he may have correspondence with the client; the attorney is authorized to respect the professional ethic code, whose Article 4 guarantees principle of confidentiality: information obtained by the attorney during his/her professional activities is confidential.

Chairman of the Georgian Bar Association Zaza Khatiashvili said any lawyer, who will breach the professional ethic norms and obey the instructions of the prison officers, will be unconditionally expelled from the Bar Association. Zaza Khatiashvili addressed the lawyer to immediately inform him about similar facts in order to adequately respond to the violation. 

“In 2014, after we addressed the Ministry about similar facts, they confirmed that it was hindering of professional activities of the lawyers that is violation of the law. They asked us to immediately inform them about similar fact if it will happen again. Due to recent frequent facts we decided not only petition to the Minister to eradicate all systemic problems and violations, but also make the problem public. We addressed the Georgian Bar Association and its chairman Zaza Khatiashvili, who has been fighting against interference in the professional activities of lawyers and eradication of oppression on them,”
executive director of Human Rights Center Aleko Tskitivhsili said.

In response to the joint press-conference of Human Rights Center and Georgian Bar Association, head of the legal department of the Ministry Sandro Darakhvelidze told TV-Company Imedi false information as if the Human Rights Center’s lawyer had visited the prison to meet “famous” “high risk prisoner” Shalva Abuladze, who had handed a piece of paper to the lawyer and the lawyer tried to leave the facility with it.

Human Rights Center denies the information of the Ministry and states that none of the lawyers of the organization had visited Shalva Abuladze in prison. Moreover, Human Rights Center does not provide Abuladze with legal aid. 

“In neither case, which was mentioned during the press-conference, prisoners did not try to give any piece of paper to the lawyer and neither the lawyer tried to leave the facility with it. It should be noted that even high risk possibility does not allow prison personnel to control and conduct illegal surveillance of the meeting between attorneys and convicts except the control mechanisms set by the law,” the statement of the Center reads.

Human Rights Center calls on the Minister of Corrections and Legal Department of the Ministry to start investigation into the facts of hindering professional activities of the lawyers in prisons # 7 and # 18 on July 1 and 5. At the same time, the Ministry shall immediately archive the video-recordings from the cameras installed in the watch-room, entrance and the room of visual search of lawyers of the facility; also the recordings from the cameras in the meeting room of the lawyer and the convict as evidence of the abovementioned allegation. Also, the Ministry of Corrections shall deny the disseminated false information. 

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