Gigi Ugulava's statement should not be ignored - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

Gigi Ugulava's statement should not be ignored

23 December, 2013

As publicly known, the Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava made a statement on 21 December 2013 before a court hearing that the judge trying the case is under pressure exerted by  certain persons including the current and former employees of the Interior Ministry's General Inspection. He has named concrete individuals who, as he alleges, are exercising pressure on the judge. We believe this statement requires prompt and adequate reaction from the relevant entities.

Over years, we have witnessed a number of attempts of pressure exerted on the judicial system by law-enforcement agencies, thus affecting the quality of justice and development trends of the system. There has been certain improvements in this regard after the parliamentary elections, but it is obvious that the situation is fragile and  unstable. In these conditions, any attempt of interfering with the judicial activities is extremely dangerous. For this very reason, it is of crucial importantance to promptly and duly inquire into all the facts which might be indicating on possible infringement of judiciary’s independence.

In this particular case, we consider that the Chairman of the Tbilisi City Court must immediately exercise powers granted to him by law and start inquiring into facts of alleged improper communication with the judge. Further, it is crucial that the High Council of Justice, as a guarantor of judge's independence, ensures that the Chairman of the Court carries out his above-mentioned obligation in a timely and duly manner. Should the elements of a crime prescribed by the Criminal Code be identified during the inquiry process, the case must be transferred to investigative authorities without delay.

It is vital for the general public to have a timely and justified response on whether the alleged facts in the statement of the Tbilisi Mayor are true. In addition, should such facts be proved, respective individuals should be held accountable.

At the same time, we would like to urge the representatives of all political parties to refrain from making political statements that may indirectly influence the judge's decision. Releasing false and inaccurate statements will clearly have a negative impact on the course of judicial proceedings.

We would like to express our position in respect of another issue as well: it is also known that the Prosecutor's Office was seeking pre-trial detention for Gigi Ugulava as a preventive measure. A court hearing was scheduled on December 21, at 18:00. According to the released information, prior to the hearing the Prosecutor's Office has submitted another motion in court requesting Gigi Ugulava's dismissal from office (we do not have precise information on whether dismissal from office or suspension of official duties was sought). The judge has examined the motion on pre-trial detention at an oral hearing with the participation of the prosecution and defense and rejected it. The defendant was released on bail in the amount of 50,000 GEL. Following the announcement of this ruling, the same judge has examined without the parties' involvement the motion of the Prosecutor's Office on dismissal of Gigi Ugulava from office and satisfied the request.

Pursuant to the Criminal Procedure Code, the court is authorized to examine similar motions without participation of the parties. Yet, taking into account the  high public interest towards this case and that the case concerns the directly elected Mayor of Tbilisi, and that several hours earlier before adopting this ruling the same judge had ruled on another motion of the Prosecutor's Office with involvement of the parties, it would have been best to examine the motion on dismissal from the office also with the participation of the parties and to provide the defense with an opportunity to advance its arguments. The Criminal Procedure Code is based on the constitutional principle of equality and adversariality of the parties, and it is crucial that each judge is guided by this principle while trying any case.

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)

Georgian Young Lawyers' Association

Transparency International Georgia

Georgian Democratic Initiative (GDI)

Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)

Georgian Bar Association

Article 42 of the Constitution