Natisni vsebino

1. Introduction

1. Introduction

The number of convicts serving sentences in Slovene prisons has grown in recent years. The 1997 report of the Human Rights Ombudsman showed that the average number of convicts serving prison sentences was 480 to 500. At the beginning of 1999 the number was already 564 (state as at 15 January 1999). The life of convicts goes on behind closed doors, away from the eyes of the public, who often view many of those in prison with mistrust and with too little understanding. Public interest in the conditions in which convicts live, and in their rights and freedoms, is not great and is mainly limited to individual important and sensational cases. The work of the Human Rights Ombudsman in relation to convicts serving prison sentences is not always very popular with the general public. Criticisms of this work have even appeared in the media. It is however worth mentioning that in most cases convicts are people who have been pushed to the margins of society and are therefore specially vulnerable and powerless. Perpetrators of criminal offences sentenced to imprisonment are punished by deprivation of liberty. Criminal law does not stipulate that they should also be punished in some other way. Thus a fundamental principle in the implementation of a prison sentence is that the human rights and freedoms of the convicted person may only be restricted to the extent necessary for the implementation of the criminal sanction. The only admissible restrictions are those which are the necessary consequence of the deprivation of liberty during the serving of the prison sentence.

Special attention and care with regard to convicts serving prison sentences are a feature of most institutions working in the field of the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The United Nations, at the world level, and the Council of Europe, at the regional level, have issued several resolutions and recommendations by means of which they hope to improve the living conditions and protection of persons deprived of their liberty. The European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has led to the founding of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, charged with examining the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty with the help of visits. Within the Council of Europe an additional protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is under preparation. This is designed to guarantee specific additional rights to persons deprived of their liberty. The strengthening of the protection of such people from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is closely linked to democracy and the concept of a state governed by the rule of law. It is thus no surprise that Article 21 of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia should guarantee the respect of human personality and dignity during deprivation of liberty and the implementation of punishment.

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