The Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary and the Public Defender react to the recently circulated information concerning creation of an Independent Investigative Mechanism. They call on the Government of Georgia to manage this process with the involvement of civil society in a timely and transparent manner.
Effective Investigation of crimes committed by representatives of law enforcement agencies is a major challenge for Georgia. The lack of an independent and impartial mechanism has contributed to the widespread abuse of power and ill-treatment in the law enforcement system. Back in 2015 civil society representatives developed a legislative draft to address these systemic flaws. The legislative draft aimed to create an Independent Investigative Mechanism equipped with the investigative and prosecutorial functions.
Against this backdrop we welcome the statement by the Minister of Justice according to which there is readiness to create a mechanism at the high levels of the government. However, it needs to be noted that for many years the government representatives’ actions in relation to an Independent Investigative Mechanism have been limited to public statements. It is important for the government to manage the process concerning this issue in a timely and open manner. So far the process has been closed thereby threatening civil society’s involvement in the development of a legislative draft. Also, it is doubtable whether the Mechanism will have a mandate and structure that will ensure real and effective investigation of crimes committed by representatives of law enforcement agencies.
The government has to consider the issue of equipping the Independent Investigative Mechanism with a criminal prosecution function. For the last few years the Public Defender of Georgia and nongovernmental organizations applied to the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia to investigate more than 90 cases of alleged inhumane treatment. In only 2 of these cases alleged perpetrators were charged, but were not found guilty of a crime. There are various other problematic issues. Criminal charges are not properly classified, applications to receive a status of a victim are rejected, and prosecution is not started or is terminated. All of these decisions are made by a prosecutor. Correspondingly, a pure investigative mechanism without additional guarantees may be completely ineffective.
The media have also been spreading alarming information on how the Head of the Independent Mechanism will be selected. The members of the Coalition and the Public Defender of Georgia believe that a politically selected or affiliated Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism will contradict the essence of the Mechanism. A candidate has to be selected through a transparent process, according to criteria defined in the law and with the active involvement of the public. Otherwise the Mechanism will not be able to properly distance itself from political influences, implement independent investigations and acquire public trust.