Amicus Curiae Brief on Nikanor Melia's Case
On 28 November 2019, the Public Defender of Georgia filed an amicus curiae brief with the Tbilisi City Court and called it to ensure that the additional obligations imposed on MP Nikanor Melia as a preventive measure does not disproportionately restrict the performance of duties by him under the legislation or the parliamentary mandate.
According to the court rulings, the Member of Parliament is forbidden to make public statements or leave the place of residence without notifying and getting permission from the investigative body. Even the elementary parliamentary activity, such as arrival at the administrative building of the Parliament, depends on the good will of the Prosecutor General's Office. The inability to carry out parliamentary activities, such as to make public statements, as well as the obligation to warn the Prosecutor General's Office about arriving at TV channels for participating in programmes, is an important problem. In addition, it is unclear why the Member of Parliament should not be allowed to participate in TV programmes from the building of the TV channels instead of his own home.
The Public Defender considers that a substantial restriction on freedom of speech should only be used in an extreme case and should not restrict free political debate in the Parliament. According to the Venice Commission, freedom of expression of a parliamentarian is a key subject of parliamentary immunity. Freedom of speech for a member of a representative body is of even higher content and enjoys stronger protection than for an ordinary citizen.
The Public Defender also draws attention to the practice of the Constitutional Court of Georgia, according to which, the officials democratically elected by people have special legitimacy, and limiting their authority requires special grounds and justification.
Accordingly, the Public Defender considers that when applying a preventive measure and imposing additional obligations, the Court must take into account the particular essence of the parliamentary mandate protected by the constitution and legislation, as well as the role played by each parliamentarian. The parliamentarians should be able to freely leave their homes for the Parliament and make public statements. Consequently, the current restriction on Nikanor Melia’s freedom of expression may be seen as a disproportionate restriction of the exercise of authority by a parliamentarian.