Statement about developments surrounding the Akhaltsikhe District Court - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

Statement about developments surrounding the Akhaltsikhe District Court

08 July, 2013


We would like to respond to the developments that have unfolded in the recent days in connection with the Akhaltsikhe District Court. As far as is known, the said Court was considering a case against the former head of the Borjomi Regional Division of the MIA and other individuals, which ended in a judgment of acquittal on July 3.

After the Court had rendered the judgment, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia released a statement which talked about the gravity and content of the charges brought against the aforementioned individuals. The Prosecutor’s Office also stated that the judge examining the case had engaged in unjustified communication with the prosecutor. The Chief Prosecutor’s statement was responded to by the Supreme Court, which denied the information released by the Prosecutor’s Office, noting that it was the prosecutor who had engaged in inappropriate communication with the judge. On July 5, a protest rally was held in front of the District Court. The protest of a group of citizens took unjustified forms and assumed the character of an offense. According to a statement released by the MIA, the police have launched an investigation into this incident.

First of all, we would like to point out that the judgment delivered by the judge cannot become the grounds for attacking the Court and for such protest against the judiciary, regardless of the content of the judgment and gravity of the charges. We give a positive assessment to the timely response to the incident by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and hope that the investigation into the case will be conducted objectively and transparently. Any form of pressure on and insult of the judiciary must be eliminated in a timely manner, in which law enforcement bodies should play a particular role.  

As for other circumstances related to the said incident, we believe that it’s necessary to start an inquiry into the alleged inappropriate communication between the judge and the prosecutor in a timely manner and to establish, in compliance with relevant procedures, whether the judge and/or the prosecutor have violated the Law on the Procedure of Communication with Judges of Common Courts. We have stated on many occasions and are stating again that any form of inappropriate communication between the judiciary and other branches of government, especially the state prosecution, is unacceptable, regardless of who initiates the communication. For the enhancement of the public’s trust in the judiciary and ensuring the independence of the judicial system, it is necessary to establish whether inappropriate communication has taken place and, if so, to respond to this incident in a relevant manner.

We would also like to state our position in relation to the statement released by the Supreme Court which says the following: ‘The judgment of acquittal rendered by the Akhaltsikhe District Court on July 3 was only based on materials presented in the case and on the major principle of adversariality of the parties.’ It remains unclear to us how the Supreme Court came to such a conclusion. It is obvious that the Supreme Court could not have studied the case materials, because the case is yet to be appealed in the Appeals Court, and without studying case materials it’s impossible to say whether or not a judgment was based on evidence in the case files or whether or not the principle of adversariality was observed. At the same time, the Supreme Court, as the court of cessation which might potentially continue the adjudication of the case, must refrain from preliminarily stating its position on a case. It should also be taken into account that, if appealed, this case will be examined by the Appeals Court, whose objectivity might be influenced by a preliminarily stated position of a higher court. In addition, the main guarantor of judges’ independence is the High Council of Justice, which has both the powers and the obligation to respond to such facts. The legislation clearly separates the competence of the Supreme Court and the High Council of Justice in this regard. 

In conclusion, we would like to note that we are waiting with particular interest for the actions of investigative bodies and, also, for the response of the relevant agencies to the possible incident of inappropriate communication. As for the judgment delivered by the Akhaltsikhe District Court, its legal analysis will only become possible after we have received the written substantiated judgment.