Council of Europe (CoE) Human Rights Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, said he was told by the Georgian officials that they would address issues of “severe sentences” and “extremely low” rate of acquittals as part of a planned criminal code reform.
Speaking at a news conference in Tbilisi on April 20 at the conclusion of his four-day visit, Hammarberg said that officials told him Georgia would soon start work on a new criminal code which would deal with some of the concerning issues.
“These are positive responses I received from the government,” he said.
Hammarberg said that over an extended period he had received reports from various sources and individuals about their concerns over the administration of justice. He decided to visit Georgia to investigate the matter on the ground.
The types of complaints received are “quite serious,” he said, ranging from unnecessary pre-trial detentions to allegations of fabricating evidence and a lack of professional investigations.
“These are, of course, serious allegations because if they are true it means that the impartiality and the independence of the system of justice is not up to standard,” Hammarberg said.
Other complaints he has received relate to the insufficient investigation of cases involving abuses and violence by the police during the opposition protest rallies of November 2007 and spring 2009.
“There was recognition from the government side that the investigations into the alleged crimes by the police in connection to those demonstrations had not been pursued in a way that was desirable; they were just too slow,” Hammarberg said.
During the visit, Hammarberg met with representatives from the government, Parliament, civil society organizations, as well as with the Chairman of the Supreme Court, the Chairman of the High Council of Justice and a group of judges. He also visited a prison in Rustavi.
Hammarberg said that, based on the information gathered during his visit, he would prepare a report to be released this summer. Among the issues raised in the report, he said, would be “the need to abolish practices which give the impression of selective justice.”
“Another point, which will certainly come in the report, relates to concrete measures needed in order to address abuses by the police in connection to those two sequences of events,” the opposition protest rallies in November 2007 and spring 2009, he said.