Joint Statement on the Trial of Nika Melia - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო
GEO

Joint Statement on the Trial of Nika Melia

17 February, 2021

 

Today, Tbilisi City Court will deliberate on using detention as a measure of pre-trial restriction against National Movement leader Nika Melia. Against the background of a serious political crisis prevailing in the country, given that the persons responsible for the disproportionate punitive actions against the 20 June rally [participants] have not yet been brought to account, and keeping in mind that over 18 months have passed since the launch of the criminal prosecution, imprisonment of an opposition leader points to the application of selective justice.

Nika Melia is accused of organising and participating in group violence at the rally held outside the Parliament on 20-21 June 2019. Within the framework of this case, on 26 June 2019, the Parliament stripped Melia of his parliamentary mandate based on an unsubstantiated, template-text proposal, while the court, in addition to a bail in the amount of GEL 30,000, imposed supplementary sanctions by prohibiting him from leaving his residence and making public statements. It is our opinion that restricting freedom of expression of a Member of the Parliament of Georgia is a disproportionate encroachment on an MP’s powers.

On 1 November 2020, Nika Melia demonstratively removed his electronic monitoring bracelet while making a speech, which the court deemed a violation of the conditions of the restriction measures imposed on Melia and increased the amount of his bail to GEL 70,000, setting 23 December 2020 as the deadline for payment. The Georgian Prosecutor’s Office did not respond in any way for six weeks after the deadline had passed, and only decided to proceed with the matter on 5 February 2021. Despite the appeals made by the Georgian Public Defender and the civil society, the Parliament of Georgia, in an opaque process, stripped Nikanor Melia of his immunity.

According to the law, imposition of restriction measures is not an end in itself; rather, it serves fulfilling concrete tasks. Specifically, these measures must be used if an accused is a flight risk, may destroy evidence and/or commit a new crime. Violation of the restriction measures should not automatically become a basis for detention. Especially in a case when more than 18 months had passed since the launch of the prosecution and the investigation has been completed.

Considering the circumstances described above, we, the undersigned organisations, call on the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia to consider the circumstances of the case and the difficult political context in the country, and to refrain from changing the measure of restriction. In addition, we call on Tbilisi City Court to conduct a detailed deliberation concerning the grounds and legitimacy of using detention as a measure of restriction. Selective prosecution of the leader of the largest opposition party would irreparably damage the country’s democratic image and, against the background of political polarisation, would create a real risk of destabilisation. The responsibility for the prevailing political crisis lies first and foremost with the ruling force. The steps taken so far by the government, including the Prosecutor’s Office, have only exacerbated the existing crisis. In order to avoid further tensions, we call on the parties to make decisions that would contribute to peace and democracy.

 

Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF)

Transparency International Georgia (TIG)

Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)

Democracy Research Institute (DRI)

Institute for Democracy and Safe Development (IDSD)

Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC)

Human Rights Centre (HRC)

Atlantic Council of Georgia

Sapari

Centre Empathy

Society and Banks

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)

Governance Monitoring Centre (GMC)

Liberal Academy

Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)

In-Depth Reporting and Economic Analysis Centre

PEN Centre Georgia (PEN Georgia)

Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS)

Green Alternative