The Legislative Amendments and Current Risks of the Early Conditional Release Institute were presented

The annual report of the Public Monitoring Group Conducting oversight in penitentiary institutions of Armenia was presented on October 30 of 2017.

Hasmik Harutyunyan, member of the Public Monitoring Group, legal expert of the Protection of Rights without Borders NGA also participated and delivered a speech during the event.

Firstly, H. Harutyunyan presented the previous legal regulations on the institute: “It should be stated, that the procedure of the early conditional release was quite complicated. The three degree system was operating. After the expiration of the respective deadline for the detention, the detainee used to submit a written application to the administration of the penitentiary institution after which the administration discussed and decided the issue of submitting the question of early conditional release of the detainee to the discussion of the independent committee or not. In case of submission, the independent committee discusses and decides either to reject or file a motion to the court, which was entitled to make the final decision of early conditional release. As recorded, decisions on rejection were mainly made, which were not justified and well-reasoned”.

In addition, Harutyunyan mentioned that currently, certain measures are being taken directed at the reform of the early conditional release institute. Particularly, changes are intended by the RA Law on “Making Amendments and Supplements to the RA Criminal Code” and the RA Law “On Revoking Article 1 of the RA Criminal Code” adopted on May 17 of 2017, as well as by the RA Law on “Making Amendments and Amendments to the RA Criminal Procedure Code”.

The above mentioned legislative amendments stipulate the following

– Early conditional early release is commenced upon completion of the conviction by a part of the sentence prescribed by law

– the functions of the administrations of the independent commission and the penitentiary institutions are separated,

– the subcommittee institution is reduced from the staff of the independent committee, including psychologist, psychiatrist from the RA Ministry of Health, social worker form from the RA Ministry of Labour and Social Issues, criminologist from the Ministry of Justice, representatives from the Administration of the RA President, from the Staff of the RA Human Rights Defender Office, as well as from the civil society organizations involved in the penitentiary reforms and protection of detainees’ rights programs within the last five years. The candidacies of the representatives to be involved in the staffs of the civil society are selected and presented by the RA Minister of Justice,

– concrete criteria on decision making are established, which will evaluate the factors of the detainee’s past and present, as well as the conduct of the latter during the punishment.

– the decisions made by the independent commission become a subject of appeal.

Though it will be possible to evaluate the impact of the suggested legislative amendments on the detainees after their factual application, there are issues which are still a matter of concern.

First of all, the question of evaluation application in practice as a problematic issue is presented. On one hand it is positive, since there are concrete legislative criteria established by law, on the other hand evaluation by those criteria is still unrealistic, since the penitentiary institutions are not yet vested with the sufficient resource to implement the latter. The system is now simplified, but the role of the penitentiary administrations is reduced, which may be problematic in practice.

Another issue on the engagement of the civil society organizations with the administration of the independent commission has been presented. As mentioned by H. Harutyunyan, the Justice Minister himself decides and invites the member organizations, without any public competition.

At the end of the speech, H. Harutyunyan mentioned, that on the whole the reforms are welcomed, but the mentioned and other problems still need changing. And the positive functioning of the institution can only be recorded after the efficient application of the changes in practice.