This policy brief covers a period of January-November, 2017
Author: Ana Natsvlishvilion behalf of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA). Peer review by Dr. Tobias Schumacher.
Georgia has a long history of impunity of law-enforcement officials’ for serious human rights violations, including torture. As widely believed, it was the leak of secretly recorded videos depicting widespread torture in Georgian prisons that played a decisive role in the opposition’s victory in the parliamentary elections in 2012. Considering this background, it was not a surprise that the new government was strongly recommended to set up an independent mechanism for fighting torture and similar crimes.
The EU-Georgia Association Agreement, concluded in June 2014, in conjunction with the accompanying Association Agenda 2014- 2016, further stresses the need for Georgia to increase the accountability and democratic oversight of law enforcement agencies. The document underlines the importance of providing “professional, effective mechanism for credible response” to complaints against the police and prosecutors; for this purpose, the Association Agenda suggested to “consider establishing a full-fledged independent and effective complaint mechanism to investigate such cases.”
The National Strategy and Action Plan for Human Rights, an official document adopted by the government in 2014, further commits the state to the obligation to consider creating such a mechanism. Last but not least, national and international human rights organizations, as well as the Ombudsman, are also strongly advocating for the creation of such a mechanism. Despite this, to date, investigating the cases of police abuse (including torture) remains in the hands of the prosecutor’s office – the body that was also responsible for such investigations before 2012 and dramatically failed to perform its tasks. Due to this past, as well as the more recent cases of police abuses that have not been effectively and timely investigated, the body enjoys very low trust by the Georgian public. The practice shows that while gravity and scale of ill-treatment cases today are clearly different (particularly as far as the penitentiary system is concerned) and not as severe as they were before 2012, the efficiency of the state’s response to such cases in terms of independent, speedy and effective investigations is still missing – as in the past. Impunity for ill-treatment is still a serious challenge. Moreover, despite the recent institutional reforms carried out, the prosecutor’s office is still considered to be politicized.
Considering the above-mentioned facts, the question arises: is Georgia safe from sliding back to widespread and systemic torture or other malpractices if no significant legislative and institutional guarantees have been put in place after the period when torture was a widespread problem? Can Georgia achieve the goals defined by the Association Agenda and consolidate its democracy without establishing a fully independent, transparent and efficient law-enforcement system, including an independent investigative mechanism? This policy memo demonstrates the scope of the problem, its effects on the rule of law and democracy in Georgia, and the importance of the EU in putting the stronger emphasis on Georgia’s commitment to set up an independent investigative mechanism.