Process of interrogation of citizens by the Chamber of Control of Georgia
On March 12, 13 and 14, the Financial Monitoring Service of the Chamber of Control of Georgia conducted mass interrogation of members of political parties, volunteers and citizens in different districts of Georgia (Lanchkhuti, Chokhatauri, Ozurgeti, Batumi, Khelvachauri, Kobuleti, Poti, Zugdidi, Kutaisi, Zestaponi, Gori, Kareli, Kaspi, Gurjaani, Sagarejo and Signagi). The total number of citizens interrogated by the Revenue Service exceeded 150.
The members of the This Affects You Too campaign denounce the physical and psychological pressure exerted on citizens as well as instances of intimidation and threatening citizens by Chamber of Control officials during the interrogation process. In our opinion:
- The Chamber of Control’s activities, which the latter says were aimed to secure financial transparency of political parties, had signs of intimidating citizens having an alternative political opinion;
- There were a number of cases of abuse of power by Chamber of Control officials. In particular, apart from questions relating to financial activities of citizens, the Chamber of Control’s staff asked questions about political activities and individuals’ reasons for cooperation with a particular political party;
- The persons called by the Chamber of Control faced problems when they asked for lawyers to be present. There was one instance of verbal and physical abuse of a lawyer, who was not allowed to attend the interrogation process;
- Journalists were hindered in performing their professional duties;
- The Chamber of Control staff did not give complete information to invited citizens about the type of offense being investigated and the subject of the legal proceedings. Moreover, citizens were treated disrespectfully during the interrogation.
We think that the form of interrogation, the length of the process (quite often up to 6 hours), questions asked, disrespectful treatment of citizens by the staff of the Chamber of Control, and the instances of threatening and exerting pressure, seemed aimed at intimidating citizens rather than exposing illegal financial activities of political parties. Activities like this during an election year will definitely make citizens feel afraid to be involved in political and civil activities, however well-intentioned the investigations may be, and will further degrade the election environment in the country.