How Acute is the Need of Addressing Miscarriages of Justice in Georgia

News | Rule of Law | Publications | Article 23 March 2015

After the parliamentary elections of 2012, establishment of the Commission for the Identification of the Miscarriages of Justice was declared by the new government as one of the main mechanisms of restoring justice and the rule of law in the country. Victims of the miscarriages highlighted their hope that the establishment of the Commission would serve as a guarantee for unbiased and independent investigation of their cases. Nevertheless the process of establishing the commission has been protracted in time. In order to address the skepticism coming from a part of the society government presented a new initiative of creating a special department within the auspices of the Prosecutor’s Office. The department would be focused on investigating thousands of claims and applications linked with the misconducts committed by public officials before the parliamentary elections of 2012. Here it is important to mention the statements of the high officials where they have been highlighting that the basis for the miscarriages of justice should be looked for within the system of the Prosecutor’s Office itself, as this institution was significantly influencing decisions taken by the representatives of the judiciary branch. Hence there is ground for arguing that investigating the applications linked with the miscarriages of justice by the Prosecutor’s Office itself might be assessed by different stakeholders as a non-effective mechanism for addressing the problem.

 

Taking into consideration the abovementioned developments, on December 24th, 2014 IDFI referred to the Prosecutor’s Office with a FOI letter requesting the following statistical information: number of applications/notices received by Prosecutor’s Office which revealed different misconducts committed by public officials; Number of applications/notices linked with illegal seizure of immovable property; Information on the number of public officials at the Prosecutor’s Office who have been employed after the Parliamentary elections of 2012. IDFI also tried to find if there were cases, when claim was considered by the prosecutor against whom a claim was filed.

 

Unfortunately, the Prosecutor’s office failed to respond to the FOI request within the timeframes set by the Georgian Legislation, hence IDFI filed an administrative appeal against the decision. It should be highlighted that the response on the administrative appeal was received by IDFI on the last day of the one month period during which administrative appeals are to be considered. Moreover the requested information was provided only partially and the prosecutor’s Office highlighted that the institution did not possess requested statistical data. Inter alia information on the claims which were considered by the prosecutor against whom a case was filed was nor provided.

 

The information received from the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia highlights that during the period of October 2012 to January 2015, 52 530 appeals/notices linked with the misconducts of public officials have been received by the Prosecutor’s Office. 10 379 of these applicants requested a launch of investigation on the facts of the case provided. It should be emphasized that 3495 of these applications were linked with the misconducts of the representatives of penitentiary department or law enforcement agencies, 697 touched upon the issue of illegal deprivation of immovable property, whereas the rest 6187 were linked with other misconducts carried out by public officials.

 

Moreover the received information emphasizes that 814 public officials are employed within the auspices of the Prosecutor’s Office. 558 of these were appointed at the positions before the parliamentary elections of October 1st 2014, whereas 256 were employed in the period following the elections. 319 of the said 558 public officials hold the position of the prosecutor.

 

 

The Prosecutor’s Office also provided us with the information on the number of public officials against whom prosecution has been launched. Precisely, investigation for the crimes committed before October 1st, 2014 was launched against 367 public officials, in 147 cases the accused was found guilty, 29 public officials were found not to be guilty and 13 were diverted from prosecutions. Investigation is still under way in the remaining cases.

 

It is crucial that all the steps taken with the aim of addressing the cases of miscarriages of justice are not superficial and unprepared. The reform should ensure that independent and unbiased investigation is conducted on every given case, that court decisions in force are reviewed and the victims of the misconducts are well compensated. The Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary and the 33 member organizations of the coalition in their joint statement call on the government to develop a comprehensive package of the reform, which will not be restricted to creating structural entities within the Prosecutor’s Office. The statement also emphasizes the need to avoid implementation of a superficial reform, as this will not succeed to develop trust in society. It should be mentioned that in October 2013 the Coalition created the Miscarriages of Justice, Property Rights and Economic Governance Working Group. In the process of addressing the miscarriages of justice we find it crucial for the government of Georgia to ensure the involvement of the member states of the coalition as well as civil society as a whole. Ensuring that public is well informed is also crucial. This will strengthen public trust towards the process of addressing miscarriages of justice.

 

 

 

Other Publications on This Issue