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Human Rights Center to Monitor Trials on Former Senior Governmental Officials

February 8, 2013
Salome Achba

How the detention process of former senior officials is going on; whether political motivation is detected in it and will the new initiative about court juries make the discussion of the cases on former senior officials more transparent – interviewed executive director of Human Rights Center Aleko Tskitishvili about post-election legal environment in the country and detention of former senior officials. He said Human Rights Center starts implementation of a new project, in the frame of what Center’s lawyers and journalists will monitor trials held on the cases of former senior officials.

-How do you evaluate the detention process of former senior officials?

During many years, not only our organization, but also other human rights organizations have been requesting punishment of those senior governmental officials, who promoted political persecution, torture, inhuman treatment, etc of Georgian citizens. Besides that, we requested punishment of the people participating in the so-called elite corruption. By investigating and detention of those people, the new government implements the recommendations, which human rights organizations had issued during many years. We naturally stay on our opinion and believe that those cases shall necessarily be investigated and perpetrators punished in order not to establish and reinforce syndrome of impudent in the society.

However, there is another side of this problem. The new government has sort of temptation to turn this process into a political revenge. Our organization observes the process and we will have strict reaction if we detect signs of political revenge in any case. In the frame of the new project, lawyers and journalists of Human Rights Center will monitor trials whether right of any person to fair trial is breached or not, how legally the evidence was collected during preliminary investigation and whether criminal prosecution contained signs of political revenge. 

-How transparent is the ongoing process?

So far the process has been transparent. Unlike previous government, the quality of transparency is higher now because, for example, cases do not have Top Secret status like it happened during previous government. However, there are some shortcomings [in the activities of new government]. I think sometimes investigation is harrying to study cases and detain former senior officials. For example, there was no necessity to arrest Nika Gvaramia, former minister of education and minister of justice. We detected haste in some other cases too, when investigation had not yet reached the middle stage; people were interrogated with witness status but they got arrested on the day of interrogation. When a person cooperates with investigation, appears at the interrogation as a witness, it is no necessity to place him in prison.

It must be noted that sometimes we detect old manner of work in the activities of law enforcement agencies and they still use PR elements like previous government did. I mean, they still send secret audio/video recordings on different resonant cases to media sources. There is impression that it is done for PR and not due to interests of the investigation. We can recall one of recent cases when investigative bodies spread secret footage in media where representatives of sexual minority were recorded. Allegedly the purpose of the depicted footage was to assure the society that Megis Kardava had participated in the crime however those video-footage did not demonstrate Megis Kardava’s participation in the crime. Purpose of those video was to influence emotions of only society. We wish investigative agencies no to use similar PR elements in future.

-Today, many people say that former senior officials shall be politically amnestied; what do you think about it?

It is not nice to have one-sided approach to this issue. If the committed crime is not grave, if offenders were victims of the system, if they did not occupy high positions in governmental institutions during previous authority and received illicit orders from senior officials, political amnesty might be announced on their cases. As for grave crimes - like torture, inhuman treatment, elite corruption, we think those cases shall be investigated and all perpetrators shall be punished.

-According to one of the legislative initiatives, court juries shall pass verdicts on the cases of former senior governmental officials. What do you think about this initiative? Will it make the process more transparent?

Discussion of cases by jury promotes maximum participation of the society in the activities of judiciary authority and it is very important. As for the cases on senior governmental officials, we will welcome this initiative and it will promote transparency of the process and participation of the society in it. However, we think accused senior officials shall have right to choose who will discuss their cases - court jury or professional judges.