Citing financial reasons, the government has decided to delay launch of a commission to look into alleged miscarriages of justice cases, Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani said.
“We [the Justice Ministry] have put this draft law before one of the recent government sessions. Although no one is against of setting up of this commission, but if a person is acquitted [meaning that miscarriage of justice is proved], it will then allow such person to seek pecuniary [compensation] through civil lawsuit; today our country is not financially ready for that,” Tsulukiani said on November 28.
“It was the only reason why [such a commission] was deemed to be premature at this stage,” she added.
Draft law, which was prepared by the Justice Ministry, says that after the October, 2012 parliamentary elections thousands of citizens have filed complaints to the authorities claiming that they were unlawfully and unjustly convicted of criminal offences in 2004-2012. It says that government’s intention is “to restore law and justice with respect to all those persons who were convicted unlawfully and/or unjustly, for which reason it is necessary to design some additional and temporary legislative mechanisms.”
The draft law on creation of “Temporary State Commission on Miscarriages of Justice”, which has been put on hold by the government, was proposing setting up of a 15-member commission for a three-year term with a possibility to extend its authority for maximum one more year.
The commission, according to proposal and if ever established, will be authorized to study applications filed by those who think that they were unfairly convicted in cases involving “grave” or “especially grave” crimes; those, convicted for “less grave crimes”, will also have the right to apply for review of their cases if they were sentenced to imprisonment. It was also proposed to give the commission authority to look into those cases which were settled through plea bargaining, in particular by assessing whether these plea bargain deals were or not made in conformity with relevant procedures set by the law. If the commission finds that there was a miscarriage of justice, the bill says, the case should to the court, which has to review it.
Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs, Venice Commission, said in its opinion on this bill that massive examination of possible cases of miscarriage of justice by a non-judicial body “raises issues as regards the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.” It recommended the Georgian authorities to make it explicit in the draft that decision in cases which are reopened has to remain with the judiciary only.