The Joint Statement of Non-Governmental Organisations Concerning the Request by the Prosecutor’s Office to Human Rights Organisations to Disclose Source of Information

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Non-Governmental Organisations, signatory to this statement, express their utmost concern regarding the contents of the statement made by the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia on 21 November 2018. The statement contains an indirect message about imposing criminal responsibility on our colleagues and comes across as a warning to us, i.e., various organisations working in the field of human rights as well as every individual cooperating with us under the condition of confidentiality and providing us with significant information on human rights violations.

We believe that the statement of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office is the continuation of the targeted policy that the Georgian authorities have been maintaining actively against those NGOs that are independent of the former’s influence, actively fight to protect human rights, strengthen the rule of law in Georgia and promote Euro-Atlantic integration of the country. The authorities exceeded long time back the limits of acceptable criticism of NGOs in a democratic society and the said statement unequivocally demonstrates that the authorities are already planning to put their repressive instruments in motion to intimidate our colleagues and those persons cooperating with us.

We are unable to recall a single occasion since the enactment of the Law on Freedom of Speech and Expression in Georgia, in 2004, where any state agency questioned the right of those defending human rights to enjoy absolute protection for their sources of professional secrets.  We believe that this right is guaranteed by Article 24 of the Constitution of Georgia and is an integral aspect of freedom of expression. The Law of Georgia on Freedom of Speech and Expression guarantees in unambiguous terms the right of those protecting human rights to decline divulging their source of information, in particular: “The sources of professional secrets shall be protected in absolute terms, and nobody shall have the right to require disclosure of the source”.

The Office of the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia, through unsystematic application of the Criminal Procedure Code that contradicts the Constitution, is attempting to question this right and shackle our activities through courts. It is unfortunate that, despite the interpretation given by our colleagues, the prosecutor’s office does not want to acknowledge that procedures and competences under the Procedural Code will not become the ground for limiting this right. We believe that neither the prosecutor’s office nor the judiciary will be able to deny this right to us and we emphasise that we shall never place the competence of any state agency before human rights.

The state authorities ought to understand that their competences eventually serve the full and adequate realisation of human rights within constitutional framework; this is the ultimate goal of the authorities and the three branches of government; this is the constitutional duty of the authorities that stems from the rationale of human rights. The competence of any state agency cannot curtail, alter or diminish substance of any right since statutory determination of competences of state agencies aims at securing full respect for constitutional rights. Therefore, the means for achieving this goal should not negate this very goal.

Therefore, we call upon the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia to appreciate fully integral principles of a democratic society and consider its competences and functions in harmony with human rights. It should not distance itself from human rights the way law-enforcement agencies of authoritative states do. The prosecutor’s office should also reflect on those irreversible prejudicial effects for human rights protection activities in Georgia and its still fragile democracy that their measures can cause; the measures that according to their own statement might be taken in future.

Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)

Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)

Institute for Democracy and Safe Development (IDSD)

Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF)

Article 42 of the Constitution

SAPARI

Equality Movement

Rehabilitation Initiative for Vulnerable Groups (RIVG)

Partnership for Human Rights (PHR)

Media Development Foundation (MDF)

Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS)

Human Rights Centre (HRC)

Centre EMPATHY

UN Association of Georgia (UNAG)

Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)

The Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT)

Liberal Academy – Tbilisi

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