Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) adopted on October 1 a resolution criticizing Georgia, along with Turkey and Russia, for “abuse of pretrial detention”.
The resolution “Abuse of Pretrial Detention in States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights” was adopted with 89 votes to 10.
Opposition UNM lawmakers of the Georgian delegation supported the resolution, while the Georgian Dream ruling coalition denounced it as "biased" against Georgia.
The resolution was based on a report compiled by Spanish lawmaker Pedro Agramunt, chairman of the European People’s Party group in PACE, a body which is made of 324 lawmakers from the parliaments of the Council of Europe’s 47 member states.
The report was prepared after Agramunt’s fact-finding trips to Georgia, Russia and Turkey and as a result the adopted resolution mostly draws upon cases in those three countries.
UNM MP Davit Bakradze, who leads parliamentary minority group in Georgia, said during the debate that the PACE should “not turn a blind eye” to problems in Georgia and called on the Assembly members to support the report and the draft resolution. He added that PACE’s voice has always been an important driving force for addressing shortcomings in his country.
GD MP Manana Kobakhidze, who is a vice speaker of the Georgian parliament, told the Assembly that the proposed report and the draft resolution was “biased” and had “nothing to do with the current situation in Georgia.” She also said that the text “demonstrates sympathy” towards the UNM opposition party, a member of the EPP group. She also said that “certain elements” of the report show “disrespect” towards the judiciary in Georgia.
The GD members of the Georgian delegation were pushing for a number of amendments to the draft resolution, most of them seeking striking off critical references to Georgia from the text, but their proposals were rejected.
In one amendment, GD lawmakers wanted to include the fact that use of pre-trial detention as a restraining measure has significantly declined in Georgia, but that was also rejected. Rapporteur Pedro Agramunt said that this point was noted in his report and there was no need to mention it in the resolution.
The resolution says that a number of “abusive grounds” for pretrial detention have been observed in some countries, including “pressure on detainees in order to coerce them into confessing to a crime or otherwise co-operating with the prosecution, including by testifying against a third person (for example the case of Sergey Magnitsky, in the Russian Federation; and certain cases of opposition leaders in Georgia).” It also says that in some cases the use of pretrial detention aims to “discredit or otherwise neutralise political competitors (for example certain cases of United National Movement (UNM) leaders in Georgia).”
Among the root causes of the abusive use of pretrial detention, the resolution lists the possibility of ‘forum shopping’, when the prosecution tries to ensure that requests for pretrial detention in certain cases are decided by a judge who, “for various reasons, is expected to be ‘accommodating’ (for example in Georgia, the Russian Federation and Turkey).”
Among those causes, the resolution also lists the possibility for the prosecution to circumvent statutory time limits imposed on pretrial detention by modifying or staggering indictments; here the resolution brings an example of former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava and ex-defense minister Bacho Akhalaia. The resolution also notes that it was the case in Georgia before the Constitutional Court ruled in September that pre-trial detention beyond 9-month limitation is unconstitutional.
According to the resolution, some countries “such as the Russian Federation, Turkey and Georgia, have adopted legal reforms accompanied by practical measures which have led to a clear reduction in the number of pretrial detainees and considerable improvements in the treatment of the majority of detainees, even though abuses of pretrial detention… continue to occur.”