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20.08.2009

Halinsky promises a human face to the Penal Department

   

The new Head of the State Department for the Execution of Sentences [the Department] Oleksandr Halinsky gave his first press conference today, 20 August, and promised to make the penitentiary system democratic and open. 

He said that he aimed to organize the Department’s work with strong focus on civic and human rights organizations in order to be able to receive information about negative elements in the work of the system that may be being hushed up.

Mr Halinsky stated that next week he should be presenting the Government with a new structure for the central apparatus of the Department in line with modern demands. In addition he plans to create a Public Council attached to the Department. He added that such a public council in Odessa where he headed the Department’s division up had shown positive results.

Answering journalists’ questions, Mr Halinsky stated that there are at present around 146 thousand prisoners in Ukraine, however he considers the main problem to be in remand units [SIZO]. He says that the SIZO system is outdated and in need of fundamental reform.

He also promised that the Department would initiate changes to legislation in order to democratize the penal system and increase forms of suspended sentences, in keeping with European standards. One of the main tasks, in his view, is to restore trust in the penal system, both public confidence and the trust of penal staff. As far as the latter are concerned, Mr Halinsky will make proposals for an increase in salaries and social guarantees in the State Budget for 2010.

The Acting Minister of Justice Yevhen Korniychuk stressed that this was the first time that the appointment of a Head of the Department had taken place with public participation, noting that representatives of some human rights organizations had been present at the Cabinet of Ministers meeting on Wednesday. He also pointed out that Mr Halinsky is a man with experience of the penal system itself.

While the stated aims of the new Head of the Department are much to be welcomed, it is not entirely correct to say that human rights organizations were consulted over the appointment, and some major human rights organizations did not attend since they would have been there to add gloss to a decision made at political level. Nonetheless, the energetic campaign over the last week and appeals to the government to ensure that a person with experience of the system and willingness to work with civic society appear to have worked, and human rights organizations look forward to fruitful cooperation with the new management in order to promote badly-needed reform.

From information at http://human-rights.unian.net/ukr/detail/191946

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