President Saakashvili has vetoed amendments to the code of criminal procedure, which were passed by the Parliament on May 1.
Although President notes in his objections that the amendments, developed by the Ministry of Justice, in overall provide more guarantees for equal opportunities for parties in a trial, there were two issues related to defense lawyers’ rights which became reason for vetoing the entire bill.
The bill envisages a provision according to which defense lawyers will have the right to request for a court warrant to carry out number of investigative measures, including to conduct a search. This right, however, is given to defense lawyers, according to the bill, starting from September 1, 2014.
The President has proposed to enact this clause a year earlier, from September 1, 2013.
Another issue that became reason for vetoing the bill is a provision, which starting from September 1, 2014 deprives defense lawyers the right to submit evidence “of special importance” when a trial is on its stage of discussing a criminal case on its merits. The President says in his objections that removing this clause is “inadmissible” and offers the Parliament to maintain defense lawyers’ right to submit evidence during the trial even if such evidence was not presented during a preliminary hearing.
Presidential objections echo those of the Georgian Bar Association (GBA).
GBA chairman, Zaza Khatiashvili, and a group of lawyers held a protest rally outside the Parliament in Kutaisi on May 30, calling on the lawmakers not to override the presidential veto. Protesters were wearing t-shirts reading “Stop Institutional Persecution of Lawyers” and were handcuffed to each other.
GD parliamentary majority has yet to decide whether it would override or not the presidential veto. But Eka Beselia, chairperson of the parliamentary committee for human rights, who met a group of lawyers, protesting outside the Parliament, said that lawyers’ protest was “fair and justified.”