Human Rights Activists From Armenia Azerbaijan Georgia Meet in Yerevan

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–A meeting of human rights activists was held in Yerevan March 25 as part of the joint project "Human Civil and Political Rights in the South Caucasus." The project–which is jointly implemented by the "Fund against Violations of Law" (Armenia)–"Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights" (Georgia) and "Azerbaijan’s Human Rights Protection Center," is one of the eight projects implemented under the "Eurasia" Fund’s "Synergy" regional program. The first meeting of the human rights activists dealt with the problems of penitentiary system and reforms in the sphere.

The official of Armenia’s Ministry of Justice Nikolay Arustamian said that the new Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure have not yet been adopted. Armenia’s entire penitentiary system–which consists of five remand prisons–colonies with different regimes–one closed prison (12 penitentiary institutions in all)–is still under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior–instead of the Ministry of Justice as judicial reforms imply. According to Arustamian–financial difficulties are also one of the obstacles to the transition from the camp to prison system.

Director of "Azerbaijan’s Human Rights Protection Center" Eldar Zeinalov provided detailed information of Azerbaijan’s penitentiary system–stressing that the organization in his charge has access to nearly all correctional labor institutions in Azerbaijan as well as to remand prisons. In 1999–the human rights activists were allowed to visit the closed-type remand prison of the Ministry of National Security of Azerbaijan.

That remand prison is the only one beyond the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice. Six months have passed since Azerbaijan’s entire penitentiary system (46 penitentiary institutions in all) was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice. According to Zeinalov–Azerbaijan’s application for membership in the Council of Europe was an impetus to the judicial reforms.

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