At the meeting of the Committee on Human Rights - attention to ensuring the rights of convicts during quarantine period and gratitude to the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office for cooperation

7 June 2020

Normantas Augustinas

At the meeting of the Seimas Committee on Human Rights, the issue of ensuring human rights in the institutions subordinated to the Prison Department during an emergency situation was discussed. During the meeting, Augustinas Normantas, the Head of the Seimas Ombudsmen‘s Office, drew the attention of the participants to the fact that quarantine conditions are currently being mitigated; therefore, it is necessary to talk about quarantine mitigation measures in correctional facilities.

The Chairman of the Committee on Human Rights, Valerijus Simulik, welcomed the fact that during this extremely difficult situation, the number of complaints from convicts was not very high and this was due to the constant monitoring of human rights by the Seimas Ombudsmen.

 Speaking about the situation in correctional facilities during the pandemic, the Seimas Ombudsman noted that at the beginning of the introduction of quarantine the situation caused a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety, so he had to contact the Ministry of Justice and the Prison Department, drawing their attention to potential problems concerning ensuring of human rights in places of detention during qurantine.

"In addressing the responsible authorities, we have proactively sought to recall international human rights standards that should apply during a pandemic in the democratic state. By addressing the heads of the institutions, we encouraged the updating of emergency plans, the provision of the necessary protection measures and the information of employees and convicts on how to behave during a pandemic,” noted A. Normantas.

The Head of the Seimas Ombudsmen's Office also pointed out that after the imposition of quarantine there were fears regarding fostering of contact between convicts and their relatives, therefore the letters were prepared and sent to correctional institutions with an aim to draw their attention to the necessity of ensuring remote communication of convicts with their relatives. Virginijus Kulikauskas, the Head of the Prison Department, admitted that organization of remote communication of convicts with their relatives helped to manage the psychological tension in the places of imprisonment. Moreover, he assured that during the whole quarantine period the possibility for convicts to call their relatives was not restricted.

"At the beginning of the quarantine, we received complaints from convicts regarding the lack of communication with relatives and family members. The convicts‘ relatives had worries for not being provided with information on the situation in specific places of deprivation of liberty, but now we are pleased to acknowledge that this problem has been resolved. It is noted that the communication of convicts with their relatives is one of the most important and necessary measures on their particularly sensitive path of social integration,” the Seimas Ombudsman, Augustinas Normantas, shared his thoughts.

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