Public Defender Establishes Violation of Iveri Melashvili’s Right to Confidential Communication with Lawyer

The Public Defender of Georgia welcomes the court’s decision to change the measure of restraint used against Iveri Melashvili and Natalia Ilychova and hopes that they will be able to fully enjoy the right of defence during the trial. The Public Defender of Georgia continues to examine the materials of the case and to supervise the protection of procedural rights of the accused persons.

As part of the above, the Public Defender established the violation of Iveri Melashvili’s right to confidential communication with his lawyer and addressed the Minister of Justice on January 28, 2021 with a proposal to impose disciplinary sanctions on the employees of Penitentiary Establishment No. 8.

According to the protocols compiled by the Public Defender's authorized representatives, the examination of documents and other materials obtained from Establishment No. 8 made it clear that on December 30, 2020, Iveri Melashvili met with his lawyer to discuss the defence strategy issues. He wrote comments on the maps provided by the lawyer and requested that the materials be handed over back to the lawyer. Instead of handing over the documentation directly to the lawyer, the staff of the establishment read the content of the comments and only after that they offered the lawyer to receive the maps.

The confidentiality of communication between a lawyer and client is enshrined in Georgian legislation. According to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, the above represents a cornerstone of the right of defence and the right to a fair trial. The court allows access to the content of documentation that is to be handed over to a lawyer only if there is a substantiated assumption that this privilege is being abused for a criminal purpose or to the detriment of the prison regime. In the given case, there was no basis for such an assumption and therefore the establishment should not have read Iveri Melashvili's comments.

Accordingly, the Public Defender found that Establishment No. 8 of the Special Penitentiary Service had violated Iveri Melashvili's legal right to confidential communication with his lawyer and demanded imposition of disciplinary sanctions on persons responsible for the above actions.

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