We, the signatory non-governmental organizations, give a strictly negative assessment to the statements made by political officials about the Constitutional Court of Georgia and to the inappropriate response of public bodies to threats against the judges and their family members, which can be perceived as an attempt to put pressure on the Court. Believing that such an attitude contains a significant threat of interference with administration of justice, we call upon high political officials to respect constitutional institutions, on the one hand, and, at the same time, urge law enforcement bodies to fulfill their positive obligation, ensure the observance of requirements of the Law of Georgia on Assembly and Manifestations, and investigate the instances of threats against the judges and their family members, the information on which was released by the President of the Constitutional Court of Georgia.
As is known to the public, on September 16, 2015, the Plenum of the Constitutional Court of Georgia pronounced its judgment on the case ofGiorgi Ugulava v. Parliament of Georgia. The Constitutional Court partially granted the claim and, absolutely justly, found unconstitutional the normative content of Part 2 of Article 205 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of Georgia that allows detention of a defendant in a concrete criminal case if he/she has spent a total of nine months under detention as part of any criminal case against him/her after he/she was indicted in this case or after sufficient grounds for indictment were revealed. As a practical and legal outcome of the said judgment, the Criminal Panel of the Tbilisi City Court found Giorgi Ugulave’s pre-trial detention unlawful and released him.
We believe that the aforementioned judgment of the Constitutional Court of Georgia is in full conformity with both the Constitution of Georgia and international norms and standards of human rights. Personal freedom is considered one of the fundamental values of democratic society. Its deprivation directly affects the exercise of a number of rights envisaged by the Constitution of Georgia and international instruments on human rights. This factor serves as the basis of the strict criteria that national legislation must meet when strengthening the grounds for deprivation of a person’s freedom before a condemning court judgment is delivered. Specifically: 1) deprivation of freedom is only permissible in exceptional cases; 2) deprivation of freedom must be objectively justified; and 3) application of such a measure may only be prolonged for a period that is absolutely necessary. The possibility to prolong a person’s pre-trial detention for an indefinite period, naturally, failed to meet the aforementioned requirements.
Accordingly, it is the high public and constitutional interest of protection of a person’s freedom that gave rise to the decision of the Constitutional Court by which it found it impermissible "to apply detention as a measure of restraint against a person in a criminal case from the moment that the time he/she has spent in pre-trial detention after indictment in this case amounts to nine months.”
Due to its concrete outcome (release of Giorgi Ugulava from pre-trial detention), the said judgment was followed by critical statements by members of the majority in the Parliament of Georgia and representatives of the executive government. These included an accusation about possible cooperation of judges of the Constitutional Court with the United National Movement.
We believe that criticism of the judiciary is a necessary integral part of democratic processes, though the current situation surrounding the Constitutional Court goes beyond the limits of permissible criticism. The President of the Constitutional Court made a statement about pressure on judges of the Constitutional Court and their family members, which should have been followed by immediate appropriate response by law enforcement bodies.
It is noteworthy that protests are being held near the houses of judges of the Constitutional Court, which, in most cases, is accompanied by violation of requirements established by the Law of Georgia on Assembly and Manifestations. The protesters make threats against the judges, throw various objects at the buildings, and paint sidewalks.
Law enforcement officers are deliberately failing to respond appropriately, unlike other cases when protests were directed against policies of the executive government and when, on the contrary, they often exceeded their authority and unconstitutionally restricted citizens’ freedom to hold rallies and manifestations. This justly raises doubts that law enforcement bodies are guided by selective approach and the process is being masterminded by the executive government.
Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
Media Development Foundation (MDF)
Georgia’s Reform Associates (GRASS)