“Prison Watch” Public Association has been founded in January, 2004.
The “Prison Watch” Public Association was registered on 29 December, 2004 in the Justice Ministry of the Azerbaijan Republic.
The primary purpose of the “Prison Watch” Public Association is the protection of rights and legal interests of persons held in detention places, as well as preparation and implementation of reforms in the penitentiary system of the Azerbaijan Republic. Basic directions of the organization’s activity include monitoring of confinement institutions, protection of convicts’ rights and freedoms, their social welfare, legal education, international cooperation, and so on.
At the same time, for the purpose of developing convicts’ (especially women and youth) outlook and legal knowledge, as well as strengthen their links with outer world, raise their interest in labor, education, literature, culture and sport, and make their spare time more interesting. The Association started publishing the “Convict and Society” monthly newspaper in August 2005 intended for prisoners’ use and aimed at their provision with various-type information. As a newspaper addressed to a special group of readers, the “Convict and Society” aims at reintegration of convicts into the society. In addition, the Association renders free legal service to confined persons through the newspaper. The newspaper is spread on free of charge basis among prisoners via the Penitentiary Service of the AR Justice Ministry.
Within the framework of monitoring program of confinement institutions, the Association employees hold regular monthly monitoring of penal institutions since May 2005. Monitoring results are submitted to relevant state bodies and human rights organizations as reports.
Since 2004 several projects of Prison Watch:
– October 6 and December 27 of 2004 – The Association arranged meetings with NGO representatives and “Penal Reform International”. Above all, the meetings were held to discuss a draft of “Public Council on control over provision of rights of persons jailed in detention facilities”. Maura Harrington, the representative of “Penal Reform International” (England), Tsira Chanturia, the coordinator of monitoring development project and the heads of local NGOs attended the meeting.
– In 2005, the “Prison Watch” Public Association held a conference devoted to the issue “mprovement of legislation regarding provision of rights of suspects and convicts during a detention term”. The event aimed at attracting public attention to the problems existing in this area, providing protection of rights and legal interests of confined persons and those subject to preventive punishment, preventing application of tortures and violence, and working up basic directions for legislative reforms.
– 23 May, 2005 – “Prison Watch” Public Association and “Penal Reform International” (PRI) organized a conference on subject “Facultative Protocol of the Convention against Tortures and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” at the Hyatt Park.
– On June 10-11, 2005 – the “Prison Watch” Public Association together with the Human Rights – XXI century Azerbaijan Foundation and Bulgaria “Reintegration of Convicts” Association held the international conference on subject “Political Prisoners Problem in Azerbaijan – development of effective mechanism of public control”. 37 experts from Germany, Slovenia, Netherlands, Great Britain, Romania, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Estonia and Latvia were the participants at this conference. The conference was also attended by MPs, scientists in law field and experts specialized in the “political prisoner” subject.
– 2005 – The Association, together with the Azerbaijan NGO Alliance for Children’s Rights participated in the preparation of “Alternative NGO report (1998-2005) regarding the execution of Concluding Recommendations of the UN Convention on Children’s Rights and Committee for Children’s Rights adopted in 1997″. The Association also realized a project “Monitoring of practical application of juvenile justice” within the framework of Juvenile Justice Development Program in Azerbaijan together with the Alliance.
– December 2005 – “Voice of Convict” project. “Prison Watch” Public Association together with the administration of a selected penal facility made a list of convicts inclined to reformation and provided them with the opportunity to have telephone talks with their relatives as an incentive action. The project was implemented via the “Space” Radio which broadcasted a special program with convicts’ participation.
– 2006 – The Association won the grant contest announced by the USAID for monitoring of temporary detention places in June 2006 and signed a grant agreement. According to the agreement, the Association monitored temporary detention places (penal facilities, pre-inquest jails and temporary detention places of police stations) located in Guba, Gusar, Davachi, Khizi, Shamakha, Ismayilly Agsu, Goychay, Agdash, Mingachavir, Gazakh, Astafa, Tovuz, Ganga, Shaki, Zagatala, Ali-Bayramly, Salyan, Jalilabad, Masally, Lankaran and Astara regions.
– 2006 – The project of “Prison Watch” Public Association won also the grant contest announced by the OSCE Baku Office in August 2006. According to the project, the “Educational Centre of Computer Skills” was established for convicts in the educational institution for juveniles of the Penitentiary Service of the AR Justice Ministry. The project provides primary training of convicts’ computer skills, as a result of which, they will get acquainted with a computer structure, will be able to use Windows systems and learn various programs (Word, Excel, Power Point, Photo Shop, Corel Draw, etc.). Juvenile convicts were also able to get acquainted with Internet bases, collect information obtained from the net and work with it. Afterwards, a created on-line library gave them a chance to increase and improve their knowledge.
– Furthermore, the organization had been implementing the “Hot line” project since January, 2005. According to this project, the lawyers of the organization provided free consultative-informative service to people regarding the issues of convicts’ rights.
In September 2006, chair of the “Prison Watch” Public Association, Doctor of Law, Professor Kamil Salimov, was elected a member and coordinator of Public Committee “On Public Participation in Supervision of Penal Institutions and Correction of Convicts” under the AR Justice Ministry. It should be noted that the Prison Watch Public Association was the first to initiate this Committee.
– March 2007 – The Association held a round table in March 2007 on subject “Influence of religion on correction process” to discuss and inquire into the problem, put forward clear proposals and provide religious agencies, the MJ Penitentiary Service and NGOs with opportunity to proceed to more efficient activity together with the Caucasian Moslems Department, the Roman Catholic Church in Baku and Caspian Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church. At the end of the event, a joint declaration of the “Prison Watch” Public Association and mentioned religious agencies, addressed to the Justice Ministry, was adopted.
– December, 2006 – Association arranged the performance of Ravan Tohidogly’s tale-show “Power is in unity” by a troupe of actors of the State Young People’s theatre from its repertoire for juvenile convicts serving terms in educational institution. The performance given on 19 December, 2006 was supported by the AR Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Penitentiary Service of AR Justice Ministry. The striking event attended by the representatives of the AR Justice Ministry, its Penitentiary Service and Human Rights Commissioner (Ombudsman) office, as well as various local and international NGOs, international organizations and mass media was heartily welcomed by the participants, right defenders, mass media, convicts and their relatives, and the republican community in general.
– February 13, 2007 – Continuing its initiative, the Association organized the performance of Ilyas Afandiyev’s “Mad and Clever people” play by a troupe of actors of the National Academic Drama theatre from its repertoire for convicts in penal institution No. 13 on February 13, 2007 at the support of the AR Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Penitentiary Service of the AR Justice Ministry.
– June 2010 till December 2011- “Prison Watch” Public Association with cooperation “El” Development Program and “Azerbaijan Human Rights Centre” with support of “Penal Reform International” (PRI) finished the second stage of the project “Conducting the research into the situation of life-sentenced prisoners, organizing a national conference and workshop/ training on the related topics; assist in implementing the Advocacy/ Lobbying campaign for promoting the concrete steps to improve the situation of lifers in Azerbaijan”. It was intended to conduct the research into the area of life imprisonment in the first stage of the project. During joint researches monitoring of prisoners’ detention situation and the results of applying the recommendations in line with international standards and norms were socialized. Trainings were held by the experts of Penal Reform International and the employees of Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice to the staff of Gobustan prison on the subject “Life-Sentenced Prisoners – international standards” in the framework of the second stage. In general, 65 employees of Gobustan prison were involved in the trainings. It should be noted that national conference devoted to the situation of life-sentenced prisoners, international standards and the results of the project in the third stage of the project. Project duration is from June 2010 till December 2011. Experts of program were Eldar Zeynalov, Elmira Alakbarova, Givi Mikanadze (from PRI).
– April -June, 2011 – Our Organization started to implement the project named “Promotion of prisoners premature release applying conditional punishment”. The seminars be held the convicts and the employees of the penitentiary service in 10 penal institutions about premature release institute will be held for 650 people in April-June. The topics of the seminar will include convicts’ rights and duties, implementation mechanisms of premature release institute, national and international documents on premature release, national and international experience in the field of premature release. At the end of the project, a round-table on the subject â€œExisting problems and its solution ways in the field of application of premature release instituteâ€ will be held.
– 2006 – Besides, the “Prison Watch” Public Association worked out the draft-bills on “Detention of convicts and suspects”, “Provision of inmates jailed in penal facilities with freedom of conscience and rights to practice devotions” and “Socio-legal, psychological and medical aid to women jailed in confinement institutions”. Along with it, the organization is working on the projects “Reintegration of juvenile convicts serving terms in penal facilities into the society” and “Rehabilitation program of convicts after release”. In general, the Association has worked up 5 bills and submitted them to the Milli Majlis.
– To carry out legal education among convicts, the Association published a book entitled “100 questions and 100 answers regarding convicts’ rights” which covers clearly and thoroughly the matters of convicts rights and their provision with these rights. The book is spread among convicts and their families free of charge.
– Member of World Association of Nongovernment Organizations (WANGO) since February, 2005.