Detention conditions of untried and convicted prisoners in Abkhazia’s prisons

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General rights situation of untried and convicted prisoners in Abkhazian prisons

According to the 2023 annual report of the ombudsperson of Abkhazia, conditions in Abkhazia's prisons amount to torture, inhuman treatment and punishment. According to the report, the main problems include: lack of proper medical services, poor sanitary norms, lack of beds in cells, etc. The report was submitted by the ombudsperson of occupied Abkhazia, Anas Kishmaria, to the de facto parliament of Abkhazia on March 14, 2024.

According to Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. According to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, no one shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Article 3 of the Convention imposes a positive obligation on the State to ensure that every prisoner is held in conditions that respect his human dignity, that the execution of the sentence does not cause ordeal or suffering, the intensity of which exceeds the inevitable suffering of imprisonment (ECtHR, Mouisel v. France, App. No .: 67263/01, 21/05/2003, §40; Kudła v. Poland [GC], App. No.: 30210/96).

Lack of prison facilities

Imprisonment should be carried out in the facilities of the category proportional to the severity and nature of the crime committed. However, there are no such prison facilities on the territory of occupied Abkhazia. Accordingly, those convicted of crimes of different severity serve their sentences in one and the same facility. According to the annual report of the ombudsperson of Abkhazia, all convicts in the Drandi facility serve their sentences under the same conditions, regardless of the degree of the crime committed.

According to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the penitentiary system needs to address the issue of proper classification and distribution of prisoners. According to Article 67 of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, classification of prisoners is necessary. The purposes of the classification are: (a) to separate the prisoner from those who, by their criminal past or bad qualities, may have a negative influence on him; (b) to categorize prisoners to facilitate work with them in order to prepare them for their return to society

Rights situation of juvenile and female prisoners

Another important problem in Abkhazia is the lack of a special institution for female and minor prisoners, which is why they are placed in the Sokhumi pre-detention isolators, which are subordinated to the de facto ministry of internal affairs. Women's cells are located on the same floor as the men's cells.

According to the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, men and women shall so far as possible be detained in separate institutions (Rule 8, paragraph a); Juvenile prisoners shall be kept separate from adults (Rule 8, paragraph e). "Male and female juveniles shall normally be held in separate institutions or units within an institution. Even where male and female juveniles are held separately, they shall be allowed to participate jointly in organised activities” (Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (2008)11, Rule 60). According to Article 37 (c) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child's best interest not to do so.

Conditions in the temporary detention cells of Sokhumi police department

According to the 2023 human rights monitoring report on Abkhazia's detention facilities, there are two temporary detention cells in the Sokhumi police department. It is allowed to place a detainee in the mentioned cells only for up to three hours. The walls of the cells are fully covered with inscriptions and paintings, most of which depict the symbolism of the criminal world. The sanitary condition of the bed mattresses and linens indicates that they have not been changed for a long time. In addition, the cells do not have electricity or conditions for adapting to the winter climate.

According to the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, all accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all sanitary requirements, with due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation (Rule 10).


Temporary placement isolator of the Gali district department of the ministry of internal affairs

Temporary detention facilities are subordinated to the Gali police department. According to the ombudsperson’s monitoring report, the condition of the walls of the cells of the Gali temporary detention facilities do not comply with sanitary norms; The walls are covered with various paintings and inscriptions.  There are eight cells in the detention center, of which only three are functional. The beds in the cell are not separated from each other, which does not comply with sanitary norms; The bars of the windows are covered with a piece of fabric, which prevents daylight from entering the cell; Due to damage to the sewage pipes, all detainees have to use one bathroom; Blankets and linens are in poor sanitary conditions, indicating that they are not being changed as needed.

According to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the cells in which prisoners are placed must be clean; Prisoners should have access to shower and bathing facilities that are hygienic and provide privacy. Every prisoner must be able to use a shower or bath at a temperature appropriate to the climate, daily, or at least twice a week (if necessary, more often), in the interests of general hygiene.  

The European Court of Human Rights considers that placement in a cell without windows and proper ventilation (Peers v Greece, App. No.: 28524/95, 19/04/2001, §75), where there are unsanitary conditions and dirt (Ghavtadze v. Georgia, App. No.: 23204/07, §89; Nevmerzhitsky, App. No.: 54825/00), or where the toilet is not functioning properly (Kalashnikov v. Russia, App. No.: 47095/99, 15/10/2002, § 99), amounts to degrading treatment and humiliation.

The conditions of serving a sentence in Abkhazia's prisons threaten the health, life and mental state of untried and convicted prisoners, contradict the principles of humanity of punishment, have an obvious punitive nature and prevent the goals of resocialization/rehabilitation of the offender.