TAJIK PARLIAMENT PASSES PRISON REFORM LAW
April 14, 2011: Tajikstan's lower chamber of parliament voted to improve prison conditions for convicts serving life sentences, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported.
Tajik Justice Minister Bakhtiyor Khudoyorov said prisoners jailed for life will now be entitled to a minimum of two meetings per year with relatives and given a third meeting in the case of "good behavior." He added that the conditions for prisoners serving life sentences should be better than they are for other prisoners.
Under the new legislation, those serving life sentences will be allowed the unrestricted purchase of goods from the prison store.
Prisoners serving life sentences whose conduct is "good" will be kept no more than two in a cell.
Local and international NGOs and human rights defenders have criticized the conditions in Tajik prisons. They say almost all of the country's prisons were built 50-60 years ago and need to be modernized.
They also claim some prisoners are subjected to torture and harassment in jail.
Muhammadali Vatanov, who heads a committee in the lower house of parliament, said that after the revision of the criminal code with the new legislation, the Tajik human rights ombudsman now has the right to visit prisons and check on conditions.
Tajikistan announced a moratorium in 2004 on implementing the death penalty. Since then, the maximum penalty given to criminals has been life imprisonment. (Sources: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 14/04/2011)