NGOs are responding to the indictment of the former President of Georgia by the Chief Prosecutor's Office. Launching of criminal proceedings against MikheilSaakashvili has raised a number of questions in terms of political motivation and impartiality of the investigation both within the country and in Georgia's international partners. The US State Department and US senators have released statements in which they expressed concern about alleged political motives.
It is a matter of concern that the processes that have developed in connection with former high-ranking officials give rise to questions about the lawfulness of the legal proceedings. Political officials often make statements about detention of or launching prosecution against this or that person before the corresponding procedural actions are taken. At the same time, the presumption of innocence is violated systematically. All this gives rise to questions with regard to the rule of law, the protection of human rights and freedoms, and the county's democratic development, which may create a significant obstacle to Georgia's European integration. We call on the authorities of Georgia to refrain from making statements about the guilt of persons in advance, especially when thesepersons are politicians.
On July 28, 2014, at 11 AM, the former President of Georgia, MikheilSaakashvili was summoned to the Chief Prosecutor's Office to be interrogated as a witness. MikheilSaakshvili had also been summoned as a witness on March 28, 2014. After the former President of Georgia failed to show up as a witness, as a result of a briefing held at the Chief Prosecutor's Office, it became known that MikheilSaakashvili had been indicted for exceeding his official authority.
The aforementioned circumstances give rise to doubts that summoning MikheilSaakashvili to be interrogated as a witness was a mere formality and aimed at bringing charges against him. These doubts are deepened by the statement released by the Chief Prosecutor's Office which, in fact, confirms that the Prosecutor's Office intended to indict MikheilSaakashvili even if he had shown up for questioning, and the former president, who is now abroad, was only summoned as a witness to give him reasonable time to show up in law enforcement bodies and to cooperate with the investigatory organ.
In 2009, the European Court of Human Rights made a ruling on the case of Nikolaishvili vs. Georgia(an analogous case) in whichit established that Article 5 of the Convention had been violated. According to the Court, summoning a person as a witness when the real intention is to bring charges against him/her contradicts the principle of legal determination and, at the same time, diminishes trust in law enforcement bodies.
Proceeding from the principle of legal determination, we consider such interpretation of law as problematic in the case of the former President of Georgia. It is incorrect to interrogate a person as a witness if the investigatory body possesses a totality of evidence that is enough to indict him/her. The applicable legislation makes it possible to find evidence that was obtained during a protracted investigation inadmissible. Under such circumstances, the interests of the investigation may also be violated.
Thus, summoning a person as a witness when the grounds of his/her criminal responsibility are present contradicts both human rights and the public interests of investigation. We call on the Chief Prosecutor's Office of Georgia to rule out all such actions that will give rise to certain doubts about the lawfulness of legal proceedings against politicians. In this regard, it is important to take into account the case law of the European Court of Human Rights which concerns criminal responsibility of political officials, as well as Report CDL-AD(2013)001 of the Venice Commission of March 11, 2013, about political and criminal responsibility.
Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
Open Society - Georgia Foundation (OSGF)
Media Development Fund (MDF)
Georgia's Reforms Associates (GRASS)
Institute for Nonviolent Communication (INC)
Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)