Code of ethics for the monitoring group conducting public oversight in RA MoJ penitentiaries

We, the monitors conducting public oversight in RA MoJ penitentiaries,

-        perceiving the necessity of maintaining the codes of professional ethics and consolidating around it, and the obligation of the monitors to maintain possible high working and moral standards,

-        highlighting that human rights are universal rights of fundamental nature that each individual has in his/her relations with the state,

-        pointing out the necessity for protection of independence,

-        accepting that monitors are accountable to the society and each other,

adopt the following principles and obligations proceeding from them.

Accuracy and Impartiality

  • To check truthfulness of the information received from any source before making it public, not to conceal or distort facts, not to publish evidently fake information,

if the monitoring group has received significant information for the public, but was not able to check the facts, then while making it public they should mention about it,

  • When doing analyzes and making comments refer to true facts, clearly distinguish between narration of facts and information and the opinions, analyzes and comments.

Respect for people’s private life and other rights

  • Be sensitive when the source of information or the heroes of the publication are children or minors. Be careful when revealing the identity of teenager defendants, as well as victims of sexual crimes,
  • When you collect information about people who had tragedy or grief, be sensitive towards them if you want to publish an interview or a photo, or broadcast an audio or video material,

Honesty in your relations with the public

  • Support free exchange of opinions, irrespective of their being different from the opinion of the Group,
  • Accept one’s own mistakes and be ready to correct them,
  • Encourage public to express their criticism towards the Group, be ready for a dialogue with the public on issues of ethics.

The main goals of public oversight are:

  1. Public oversight of the protection of rights of individuals held in penitentiaries, improvement of their living conditions, informing the public about the problems in penitentiaries,
  2. Prophylactics and disclosure of human rights violation cases in penitentiaries,
  3. Submitting conclusions and recommendations to the Republic of Armenia Police and the public on the analyzes of the situation in the penitentiaries,
  4. Study of the legislation and legal acts regulating the activity of the penitentiaries, if necessary, submission of recommendations on making changes and amendments, on preparation of new legal acts.

For the implementation of the aforementioned goals, organization and conducting of monitoring should be based on the universal principles adopted by the Monitoring Group, the maintaining of which is mandatory for all the members of the Monitoring Group.

The main principles of conducting public oversight in penitentiaries by the Monitoring group

  1. Dedication to the fundamental values of human rights
  2. Independence
  3. Neutrality
  4. Professionalism
  5. Impartiality
  6. Loyalty to the principle of presumption of innocence
  7. Transparency
  8. Constructivism
  9. Confidentiality
  10. Objectiveness

Principles of activity of the Monitoring group

  1. Each Monitor realizes that human rights are universal rights of fundamental nature that each individual has in his/her relations with the state. The monitor realizes the superiority of the human rights over the authoritative, political and state interests.
  2. Each member of the Monitoring group is called to protect human rights, as they have inalienable nature, i.e. each person is born with those rights and you cannot deprive him/her of it in other way than by law, and that human rights belong to all individuals, in all situations without discrimination.
  3. The independence of the Monitoring group, as a guarantee for prevention of torture, degrading or other inhuman attitude, ensures

-        Stipulation of the Monitoring group member’s mandate by law,

-        Autonomy of the Monitoring group consisting of independent experts,

-        Independent process of assigning group members (their assignment must be formulated by an official act and should be transparent)

-        Financial independence (with future own budget).

  1. The Monitoring group, as an independently managed body, in its activity should be loyal to neutral policy. That is why the Monitoring group, as a collegial body, should conduct independent activity without following any state, party, political or other interests.
  2. Each member of the Monitoring group, during his/her activity, should resist any intervention based on the fact that he/she is independent in exercising his/her powers. During its activity the Monitoring group is guided by the RA Constitution, RA Legislation, Regulation of the Monitoring group and the Code of Ethics of the Group.
  3. All members of the Monitoring group must have the necessary potential and professional knowledge. To the extent possible, the staff of the Group should include lawyers, doctors, psychologists, as well as human right defending and other specialists.
  4. Each member of the Monitoring group should be prepared to conduct monitoring activity.

-        Must know international and domestic legal documents related to human rights and fundamental freedoms,

-        Must study the RA legislation in advance, as well as legal documents regulating powers and actions of the law enforcement bodies, internal regulation of the penitentiaries,

-        Must have relevant working tools.

  1. Impartiality towards the penitentiary staff as well as towards detained and convicted individuals, is a mandatory condition for maintaining authority. It is necessary to be respectful towards the staff, towards individuals held in penitentiaries and towards the established internal regulation.
  2. Each member of the Monitoring group should have high moral values, be able to attentively listen to the interviewee, be polite, mannered and discreet when expressing subjective assessments. In no way should the interview be turned into an interrogation.
  3. It is necessary to pay special attention to complicated cases.

Meanwhile, it is necessary to avoid promising settlement or solution of a problem.

  1. During the publication of a public oversight, report or any other activity conducted within the scope of the Monitor’s mandate, each member of the Monitoring group should be guided by the principles of justice and non-discrimination, while disregarding any national, gender, religious, ideological or any other feature.
  2. It is important to be able to control one’s own emotions, feelings in front of detained and convicted individuals held in terribly bad conditions or those who are extremely desperate, who have become victims of inhuman attitude by controllers, or other members of administrative staff.
  3. Transparency is provided through submission to public the report about the work and activity of the Monitoring group. It is also necessary to periodically inform the public about the general situation in the penitentiaries and the results of the public oversight.
  4. It is necessary to cooperate and consult with representatives of various civil society institutions, as the latter are a valuable source of information.
  5. It is also necessary to establish constructive relations with other organizations that conduct oversight in other detention places, thus to strengthen and support the efforts in preventing violations of rights of detained individuals.
  6. Before visiting penitentiaries, it is necessary to clearly define the purpose of the visit and prepare the relevant tools. The visits, depending on their purpose, can be planned as well as ad hoc.
  7. In their actions, the members of the Monitoring group should be accurate and persistent. They do not have the right to act outside their mandate, i.e. oversight should be conducted in line with the designed plan and stated in it goals.
  8. It is necessary to have practical cooperation with the administration of the penitentiaries and aspire to establish constant dialogue with them for better implementation of the objectives set in front of the Monitoring group.
  9. After the monitoring, in conversation with the head of the penitentiary or one of the staff members, one should be careful when formulating the conclusions about the visit, although it is also desirable not to fully conceal advantages and disadvantages revealed during the visit.
  10. It is necessary to agree with the head of the penitentiary on a possible timeline or approaches about measures to be taken against the cases of specific attention identified during the visit.
  11. Each member of the Monitoring group must respect the right of confidentiality of private life. The monitor should not put at risks the individual who provided the information, be it an inmate or a convict, or a penitentiary employee, i.e. the monitor should work with the principle of “do not hurt”.
  12. Notes or questionnaire should be anonymous, and the gathered data of personal nature can be made public only with the consent of the person who gave it.
  13. The results of the monitoring are introduced in the form of planned or extra-planned reports. The report should include the general description of the situation, facts about violations, conclusions and, if possible, recommendations and proposals.
  14. The fact included in the report must be substantiated and checked. You had better not mention about the situation which does not have sufficient evidence, then include non-checked and non-creditable information.
  15. The report should be submitted to the RA MoJ to inform about the results of the monitoring and to make recommendations about possible means and ways to improve the situation.

The powers and obligations of the member of the Monitoring group

  1. The powers of the Group member

The Group member has the right

  1. To get familiar with all the documents related to the activity of the group, including

-        Protocols of the group meeting,

-        Reports made after the visits,

-        Decisions made by the group,

-        Applications and inquiries made by the group, as well as the replies,

-        Programs prepared by the group,

-        Financial reports, etc.

  1. To be aware of any meeting a group member has with other bodies, as well as of the results of the meeting if it is connected with the activity of the group.
  2. To make visits in the following cases:
  3. Planned
  4. Extra-plan (envisaged by the program)
  5. Based on the calls, which should be described in detail and substantiated with a report. The Chairperson of the group and the secretariat are informed about the visit paid. A report is made about the visit, which is sent by e-mail to the Chairperson and to the secretariat of the group.
    1. to make recommendations about the activity of the group, as well as about improvements of the activity of the group.
    2. Convene ad-hoc meetings with prior notification about the agenda.
    3. Any member of the group, including the Chairperson, after approval by the group, can propose a grant program to the international organizations to assist the work of the group.
    4. For the granted program, the given organization submits an annual report to the monitoring group.
  1. Obligations of the group member

 The group member must:

-        be present at all monthly meetings convened by the group. In case of three unexcused absences, the issue of suspending the powers of that member is put to vote.

-        implement decisions made by the group,

-        contribute to raising the authority of the group with his/her activities,

-        get consent of the group for the actions to be taken before speaking on behalf of the group,

-        not use the membership of the group for one’s own interests,

-        be impartial, i.e. be respectful to the group members, penitentiary staff, as well as to individuals held in penitentiaries,

-        if a member misses 12 of the annual planned and extra-plan visits and does not submit the visit reports, then the issue of suspending the given member’s powers is put to vote,

-        make reports about the visits and within seven days submit them to the secretariat,

-        inform the head of the group about the time and place of the coming visit, as well as about the composition of the visiting group,

-        ensure confidentiality, i.e. not to put at risk the information-providing individual, be it a penitentiary staff representative, or an inmate held in the penitentiary.

In failure of implementing obligations, the group member can be dismissed from the group with 2/3 majority of the group members’ votes.

After working for three years in the group, the group members must offer a new candidate member from the group, who replaces him/her.

Only authorized by the group individuals, in a group of minimum two people, can take part in the meetings with the staff of the RA MoJ penitentiaries.

The main requirements for the membership of the Monitoring group and the acceptance regulation

The candidate for the membership in the monitoring group submits an application in the name of the Chairperson of the group. The candidate attaches the copy of the passport, the CV, the reference letter from the introducing organization and the copy of the organization’s charter to the application. The monitoring group gives preference to those organizations and individuals, who operate in RA marzes, and whose activity during the last year is related to the implementation of the goals defined by Paragraph 2 of the activity regulation of the monitoring group in the RA MoJ penitentiaries, i.e.

  1. Public oversight of protecting the rights of the individuals held in penitentiaries, improvement of their living conditions, informing the public about the problems of penitentiaries,
  2. Prophylactics and revealing cases of violating human rights in the penitentiaries,
  3. Submission of conclusions and reports to the Republic of Armenia Ministry of Justice and the public, based on the analyzes of the situation in the penitentiaries,
  4. Study of the legislation and legal acts regulating the activity of the penitentiaries, if necessary, submission of recommendations on making changes and amendments, on preparation of new legal acts.
  1. The group consists of no less than seven and no more than twenty-one people. Moreover, each non-governmental organization can have one representative in the group.
  2. The decision on including a new member in the group is made by the consent of 2/3 of the group members, after which it is submitted to the Republic of Armenia Police for approval.
  3. Any Republic of Armenia citizen of age 18 and knowing Armenian can become a member of the group, irrespective of nationality, race, gender, religion, political or other beliefs, social origin, property or other status.
  4. Preference is given to lawyers, pedagogues, doctors, psychologists.
  5. The group member should be a person of high moral values.

Individuals that cannot become members of the group

  1. was found by court to not have or to have limited work capacity,
  2. was convicted for a crime, and the conviction has not been taken away or extinguished according to the established procedure,
  3. has a disease that can obstruct the performance of his/her duties,
  4. is a public servant.

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