New department within the Prosecutor's Office: Specifics and case selection criteria are required
Under the 30 January 2015 Decree of the Government of Georgia, a new structural unit – Department for Investigation into Crimes Committed throughout the Judicial Process – was set up in the Chief Prosecutor's Office of Georgia. Prime Minister Garibashvili announced the creation of the Department in December 2014. According to the Prime Minister, examination of applications on various illegal deprivations of property and complaints by individuals who had unlawfully served sentence in prisons or had been victims of torture or inhuman treatment, submitted in last two years with the Prosecutor's Office has been completed. The Prime Minister stated also that the Government of Georgia will calculate damages and compensate them subsequently.
The activities of the Department for Investigation into Crimes Committed throughout the Judicial Process of the Chief Prosecutor's Office of Georgia are regulated by its by-laws. Pursuant to the by-laws, the Department shall pursue its activities by observing the principles of lawfulness and fairness, objectivity, impartiality and political neutrality. Its key tasks are to investigate crimes which may have been committed throughout the judicial process, and to pursue criminal prosecution. Priority is given to the following categories of cases:
inhuman and degrading treatment;
forced alienation of property;
other facts of duress.
The by-laws stipulate as well that the Department fully investigates and pursues criminal prosecution “of cases as determined by the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia”. The meaning of this wording in the by-laws, and limitations that it sets for the Department, are vague. It is unclear also if the Department investigates and pursues criminal prosecution on all cases within the scope of the by-laws, or if only certain cases will be selected. Even if selected, the criteria that the Prosecutor's Office of Georgia will be guided by are unknown.
Remarkably, just like the Department's creation and functioning, the potential crimes within the scope of its activities are not limited in time. This means that the scope of its activities includes investigation of potential crimes committed throughout the judicial process not only during the previous Government, but investigation of potential crimes committed after 2012 as well.
TI Georgia welcomes the formation of the new Department and hopes that its effective activities will lead to restoration of citizens' breached rights. Yet, it is crucial that the Prosecutor's Office takes into account the following comments and recommendations:
Categories of cases within the scope of the Department's activities require further specification and, the case selection criteria must be made publicly available.
We believe it is important that the categories of priority cases include potential offences committed by law-enforcement officers.
Given the principles guiding the Department's activities, namely to ensure objectivity and impartiality, it is important to define the procedure for recruitment and appointment of the staff, as well as securing maximum openness and transparency of the Department's operations.