The Coalition Reacts to the Statement from the Ministry of Internal Affairs
The Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary reacts to the statement from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA)regarding the possible mistreatment of the person detained by the Police on September 22. Human Rights Center (HRC) issued a statement on September 26 alleging probable beating, torture and inhumane treatment of “S.M.” in one of the police departments in Tbilisi several days prior. HRC was demanding that the Prosecutor’s Office start an investigation and appropriately qualify the crimes. The next day, on September 27, the Public Defender also issued a statement regarding the case and also called on the Prosecutor’s Office to start an investigation.
In both cases the authors based their statements on the meetings of their representatives with S.M., during which multiple severe physical injuries were evident. It also emerged that the detainee has not undergone medical treatment as of the meetings (about 5 days after September 22) despite the fact that the Tbilisi City Court judge has seen S.M.’s injuries during his pre-trial hearing, indicating possible mistreatment by the police.
In its response to these statements, MIA called on the Public Defender to check such issues with MIA, since “such statements from defenders are neither first, nor the last”. The Minister also noted that the complaint filed with MIA’s General Inspectorate is forwarded to the Prosecutor’s Office and called on the Public Defender not to turn his office into “station redeeming criminals.”
Law enforcement bodies exceeding their powers and the ineffective investigation of cases of mistreatment have been significant challenges for years now, but Georgia still has no institutional guarantees for ensuring prevention, investigation and punishment for those guilty of these wrongful acts. The rise of instances of mistreatment at police stations, as noted by the reports of the Public Defender, is particularly noteworthy.
In this context we have to recall several highly publicized cases of probable planting of drugs and inhumane treatment from the current year, which unequivocally point towards the problems existing in the system and the need for systemic reforms.Unfortunately, in neither these nor in any other highly publicized cases of the past several years have we seen effective investigation; perpetrators were not identified and punished.
The government has not made systemic steps towards fighting impunity. Quite the opposite –the head of the MIA, the person directly responsible for the problems in the police system, is trying to discredit the work of a constitutional body and diminish its status and worth in the public eye.
The Coalition stresses that the Minister’s public positioning undermines efforts to have a meaningful discussion of the root problems and helps to push the problems away from the foreground. At the same time, such statements help create an attitude that talking about the violation of rights of “criminals” is not important. In this situation it is particularly discouraging that the Minister’s statement has so far not brought adequate reaction and evaluation from the legislative and executive branches.
The Coalition calls on the legislative and executive branches to:
- respect the Public Defender and his Office and not to endanger the effectiveness of its work with their actions;
- admit the severity of the problems and the need for systemic reforms in the law enforcement system;
- renew work on creation of an independent investigative mechanism and quickly make the political decision to establish a system that will have the powers of investigation and prosecution;
- equip the independent investigative mechanism body with a real and adequate mandate, competence and the power needed to effectively and timely investigate complex crimes, such as the violent or non-violent crimes committed by officers of law enforcement agencies;
- before the creation of the new mechanism ensure maximum transparency and accountability of the Prosecutor’s Office on what procedural and investigative actions are undertaken in cases of new crimes;
- obligate the law enforcement bodies, in particular the MIA, to produce a unified strategy for preventing abuse of power; and
increase the role of judges in preventing torture and undue treatment. If a judge has a reasonable belief that a person has been tortured or mistreated when defendants are first presented to the court, the judge should be given an opportunity to apply to the relevant bodies to start an investigation.