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HFHR on prisoners employed on motorway construction

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has contacted the Minister of Justice, seeking explanations in relation to an article printed in the latest edition of Newsweek. The piece presents the story of prisoners who have been “leased” from penitentiary facilities to work on a junction of A2 motorway.

The inmates worked for a contractor hired to build one of the route’s sections but did not receive any compensation for the performed work. The whole project was reportedly approved by the Prison Service authorities under the guise of local community work.

In its statement to the Minister, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights pointed to the laws that guarantee compensation for inmates’ work. The statement noted that the Criminal Enforcement Code describes only a limited number of cases in which inmates can lawfully be deprived of their right to receive compensation. There is no provision in the Code that would allow private contractors selected in a public bidding process to employ prisoners without remuneration.

“This is why the situation should be classified as an example of disrespecting inmates’ dignity by turning them into a free workforce. Already in 1997 the Constitutional Tribunal expressly held that the different legal status of prisoners did not mean that their work compensation can be determined in an unrestricted manner”, reads today’s statement.

The HFHR called on the Minister of Justice to provide explanations on this case, also in respect of the situation of Prison Service officers who were dismissed from work after they reported the above irregularities.

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