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Public Defender Demands Access to Certain Categories of Criminal Case Materials

On 29 November 2018, the Public Defender of Georgia applied to the Parliament of Georgia for an authority to have access to the materials of certain categories of criminal cases before the end of investigation.

In accordance with the legislation, the Public Defender of Georgia is authorized to get acquainted with criminal case materials only after the completion of judicial proceedings, when an investigation or criminal prosecution is terminated or when a court delivers a judgment. Due to this limitation, the Public Defender's Office has no access to the materials of cases pertaining to ill-treatment or violation of the right to life, investigations of which might be pending for years.

In recent years, the Public Defender's Office has paid special attention to the high-profile cases relating to the state’s procedural obligation to carry out an effective investigation. The cases were studied on the basis of individual permits and the advantage of having access to the ongoing case materials was well demonstrated.

The term of investigation of various categories of cases is related to the period of limitation of an offence, which makes it possible investigations to last for up to twenty five years or indefinitely in some cases. The Public Defender’s Office studies a number of cases every day, in which applicants refer to improper investigation and defects in this regard. Investigations into the mentioned cases may last for years, while the Public Defender's Office is unable to get acquainted with the case materials. That is why it is important that the Public Defender's authority be expanded and access to the ongoing case materials be granted for the Public Defender. This type of authority is enjoyed by ombudsman institutions of many European countries (Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia and Lithuania) and is completely compatible with the principle of separation of powers.

We recommend that the Public Defender be authorized to have access to the materials of ongoing criminal cases dealing with the investigation of ill-treatment and/or violation of the right to life. In this regard, we proposed formulation of the relevant legislative norm to the Parliament of Georgia.

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