08TBILISI546, OPCAT–GEORGIA WORKS ON IMPROVING PRISON CONDITIONS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI546 2008-04-02 13:41 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1198
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0546/01 0931341
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 021341Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9219
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000546 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/01/2018 
TAGS: PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: OPCAT--GEORGIA WORKS ON IMPROVING PRISON CONDITIONS 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b) and (d). 
 
 1.  (SBU)  In June 2007 The Government of Georgia created an 
Inter-agency Coordination Council to address the issue of 
torture in prisons and other closed facilities.  On March 31, 
this council met for the first time since September 2007 to 
discuss the action plan to implement the Optional Protocol to 
the Convention against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman or 
Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).  One of the key 
issues was the impending designation of the Public Defender's 
Office (PDO) as the independent monitoring body (or National 
Preventive Mechanism).  According to NGOs who are experts on 
prison issues, the appointment of the Public Defender as the 
NPM should not occur by Presidential Decree, as suggested by 
the Committee Chairman Giga Bokeria, but by amending the 
current law on the Organic Responsibilities of the Public 
Defender to give him and his office the authority and the 
funding to take on these new responsibilities.  Without 
amending the law, the PDO could run the risk of having the 
monitoring function without the authority or means to 
implement it.  Although the final decision has not been made, 
Bokeria appeared resolute that the  Presidential Decree 
decision would prevail.  End Summary. 
 
Inter-Agency Council 
-------------------- 
 
2.  (SBU)  Georgia signed the Optional Protocol to the 
Convention against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman or 
Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), part of the United 
Nations Convention Against Torture, in June 2006. 
Signatories were responsible for implementing an Action Plan 
within one year of signing OPCAT.  In June 2007, a 
Presidential Decree created the Inter-agency Coordination 
Council whose responsibilities were to designate an 
independent body (or National Prevention Mechanism (NPM)) to 
monitor all closed facilities (prisons, jails, pre-trial 
detention facilities, psychiatric hospitals, or facilities 
where detained and vulnerable persons are at risk) and to 
submit to Parliament an action plan. 
 
3.  (SBU)  The council, which met three times last September, 
recently took up its duties again, with newly appointed 
members to include civil society, NGOS, and international 
observers.  The Inter-Agency Council is made up Georgian 
ministry representatives, Georgian NGOS and Civil Society 
members and four international members representing the 
United Nations Human Rights Office, United Nations 
International Children and Education Fund (UNICEF), Penal 
Reform International (PRI), and the U.S. Embassy.  The 
Council's de facto chairperson is MP and influential insider 
Giga Bokeria and the co-chair Tina Burjaliani, Deputy 
Minister of Justice (MOJ).  Accordingly to the decree, the 
council is to meet once every three months, or more often if 
called.  By decree, the council should have appointed and 
voted on a facilitator at the first meeting in September, but 
Bokeria became the de facto chairman.  Prior meetings have 
been ad hoc, due in nature to the political events of Fall 
2007.  Recently the council was reconvened with some newly 
appointed members to continue working on the action plan. 
The plan, which was based on other European models, included 
some, but not all recommendations given by members. 
 
The Action Plan 
--------------- 
 
4.  (SBU)  The action plan, which includes provisions for 
2008 and 2009, is divided into seven sections that address 
medical care, promotion of public awareness, enhancement of 
safeguards to eradicate torture/maltreatment, and training of 
representatives from relative bodies. The primary criticisms 
of the plan from NGOs are the lack of measurable benchmarks 
with projected completion dates, the absence of complete 
baseline information, and insufficient projected timelines in 
which to complete the tasks.  More than half the tasks on the 
25 page document are listed as "continuous" for completion 
date.  The closed facilities which would require monitoring 
are spread among the Ministries of Education, Internal 
Affairs, Defense, and Health, Labor and Social Affairs. 
Gathering all of this data for complete baseline information 
is a formidable task which will not be done easily, as there 
is currently no one single focal point.  Lastly, the action 
plan is only projected through 2009, which PRI underscored as 
a minus given the reforms which need to be done and can not 
be done within in a mere year.  Bokeria's reasoning is that 
the hard tasks should be tackled first and if needed the 
council will extend the timeline, but not at the outset. 
 
The Means:  National Prevention Mechanism (NPM) 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
 
TBILISI 00000546  002 OF 002 
 
 
5.  (SBU)  A critical part of OPCAT is the NPM which is the 
independent body which oversees monitoring.  All agree that 
this body should not be subordinate to the MOJ, given that 
the prisons are generally its responsibility, but an 
organization which would be truly independent, such as the 
Public Defender
's Office (PDO).  Civil Society and Public 
Defender's Office representatives support amendments to the 
law which would broaden PDO's authority and resources to do 
the job which would have a permanent framework.   A 
Presidential decree could be rescinded at any time and would 
give the PDO the NPM responsibilities without the funding 
stream, making him a de facto paper tiger.  Conversely, 
Bokeria's point was that the PDO currently already has the 
legal basis to monitor any facility, so a change in the law 
is not needed.  As far as funding, the budget law would have 
to be changed to reflect the budget priorities for the task, 
but this would need to happen regardless of how the PDO is 
appointed.  Perhaps more telling from the discussion is the 
observation that the PDO does not believe his current 
authority is enough (his staff says he is not permitted 
access to MOD prisons).  Bokeria is opposed to changing the 
law, which the PDO proposes to amend to include extending 
immunity to those carrying out NPM duties (free from arrest, 
search, detainment), permitting videotape recording at 
facilities, and giving them access to more internal 
documents.  Bokeria is also opposed to permitting NGOs to 
take part in the monitoring. 
 
What's Ahead? 
------------ 
 
6.  (SBU)  When the council adjourned, Bokeria announced that 
there would be one more round of updates to the action plan 
which would come back to the council when they reconvene in 
"several months."  Once the action plan has been approved, 
then the council would continue to oversee the plan to make 
sure that the benchmarks are completed and that the NPM is 
working properly.  According to the decree, members should 
vote on the course of action of how to appoint the NPM, but 
Bokeria and Burjaliani seem resolute that a presidential 
decree is the remedy. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
7.  (C)  The OPCAT Action Plan, if properly implemented, 
could go a long way to addressing accountability of prison 
officials and police in their maltreatment of prisoners and 
addressing poor health care in prisons, by establishing a 
means to do so with objective milestones to define success. 
In order for it to be truly successful, however, some 
ministries will have to overcome their reticence to share 
data about their respective facilities and PDO will 
necessarily need the access and resources to monitor all the 
facilities within his purview.  The biggest risk could be 
that the PDO is appointed as the NPM, but not given the 
access and resources to implement the plan successfully. 
Currently his office is not equipped for the myriad new 
tasks, and although NGOs are willing and able to help, the 
tough call will need to be made as to which NGOs, who are 
very competitive and entrenched in the process, will assist 
and what their selection criteria will be.  It's critical 
that the PDO be given the resources to carry out assigned 
OPCAT tasks, or it runs the risk, as in the example of the 
Domestic Violence Law, of "checking the block" to satisfy 
international players, without the funding stream to make the 
provisions viable.  The U.S. is not a signatory to OPCAT and 
so post is careful in its role in this forum, but sees the 
action plan as a potentially powerful tool to improve 
chronically poor prison conditions. 
 
TEFFT

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