Coalition and Public Defender Respond to Government’s Initiative on Establishment of Independent Investigative Mechanism

The Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary, together with the Public Defender of Georgia, echoes the latest reports about the establishment of an independent investigative mechanism and urges the Government of Georgia to conduct the mentioned process in a timely and transparent manner and through the engagement of the civil society.

Effective investigation of the offenses committed by the law enforcement agencies is a significant challenge in Georgia. The absence of an independent and impartial mechanism has contributed widely to the spread of abuse of power and ill-treatment in the law enforcement system. In order to improve these systemic shortcomings, the civil society drafted a bill on the establishment of an independent investigative mechanism with the functions of investigation and criminal prosecution as early as 2015.

In this context, the statement of the Minister of Justice about the high political will for the establishment of the mechanism is welcome. However, it should be noted that representatives of the Government have been limited to making public statements about the establishment of an independent investigative mechanism for years. It is important the authorities to ensure timely and open process on this issue. The current lack of openness creates risks that the bill will be drafted without the engagement of thecivil society. In addition, it is doubtful whether the mechanism will have the kind of mandate and structure that would ensure real and effective investigation of the offenses committed by the law enforcement agencies.

It is necessary the authorities to consider the possibility of granting the function of criminal prosecution to the independent investigative mechanism. In recent years, the Public Defender and NGOs have appealed to the Prosecutor's Office of Georgia with regard to more than 90 cases of alleged inhuman treatment. However, charges have been filed only in two cases and no criminal liability has been imposed in any case. In addition, incorrect legal assessment of the offense, refusal to grant a victim's status and termination or non-launch of prosecution are problematic in many cases. All of these decisions are made by prosecutors. Therefore, a mechanism without additional guarantees, equipped only with investigative powers, may turn out to be absolutely ineffective.

Media reports about alleged selection of the head of the independent mechanism are also alarming. Members of the Coalition and the Public Defender of Georgia consider that the appointment of the head of an independent investigative mechanism according to his/her political affiliation is completely contrary to the essence of the mechanism. The candidate must be selected through a transparent process, according to the criteria clearly defined by law and through high involvement of the public. Otherwise, the mechanism will not be able to properly distance itself from political influences, carry out impartial investigations or gain trust of the society.

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