TBILISI, DFWatch — Foreign diplomats in Tbilisi are concerned about the many speedy trials against former officials, saying the whole process looks like political revenge.
The new government in Georgia has received seven thousand complaints from people who say they have suffered some form of abuse at the hands of the governments appointed by President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Human Rights Watch is among many groups that are concerned about the process, saying the new government should ensure that trials are transparent.
According to a new survey done by the organization, the Prosecutor’s Office has initiated criminal cases against dozens of former officials and close associates, arresting over 20 people.
One of the officials who has been arrested after Georgian Dream replaced the National Movement in government, is Bacho Akhalaia, the ex minister of internal affairs. Chief of Joint Staff, Giorgi Kalandadze and the commander of the Fourth Brigade, Zurab Shamatava were arrested too.
The document mentions a statement by the new government saying that it has received over 7 000 complaints of alleged abuse by the former government.
“Foreign diplomats and policymakers have expressed public concern that the criminal cases and arrests amount to political retribution,” the document says.
Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) examined 21 cases involving 55 individuals. Analysis of the cases revealed some violations: Arrest of opposition party activists frequently on charges of illegal possession of arms and narcotics of resisting police officers, incomplete investigation, wrong legal argument, reasonable suspicion towards investigators and the court, based on cumulative evidence.
A monitoring of Tbilisi City Court done by GYLA in 2012 showed that judges granted all motions filed by the prosecution regarding the admissibility of evidence, while denying all defense motions that the prosecution did not support.
“Many defendants accept plea bargains because they do not trust the judiciary, which convicts in more than 98 percent of cases. As a result, over 87 percent of cases ended in plea bargains in which defendants agreed to pay damages to avoid prison. Once the plea bargain deal was struck, the case materials were closed and never made accessible to the public. Trials were also closed for video, photo, and audio recordings,” the survey report says.
“This is commendable, but the new Georgian government still has to prove that it can protect rights while rectifying past abuses,” Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch said.
“Georgia’s new government is under pressure to deliver human rights improvements fast, but in the process it shouldn’t make shortcuts at the expense of rights.”