Assessment of the performance of the Ministry of Interior after November 2012
Tbilisi, 26 April 2014 - Present report is a joint work of four nongovernmental organizations Transparency International (TI) Georgia, the Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI), the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC), and the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA). The report depicts monitoring results of activities of the Ministry of Interior of Georgia (MoI) after the 2012 parliamentary elections and covers the period from November 2012 until March 2014. The report assesses the Ministry's key legislative initiatives, actions taken for securing freedom of assembly, and the crime prevention measures. Further, facts of potential abuse of power by the Ministry staff are discussed. We have evaluated the Ministry's staff turnover and the results of the Ministry's work on the human rights protection in general during the post-election period.
Activities of the law-enforcement agencies are one of the most problematic issues since Georgia gained independence. Prior to the Rose Revolution, MoI's activities were heavily criticized in terms of corruption and the human rights violations. After the revolution, significant reforms were undertaken to eradicate corruption within the police, recruit qualified cadres in the agency and modernize the Ministry. Yet, problems remained with respect to the human rights protection, abuse of powers by police officers in recent years, and politicizing the agency.
Prior to the 2012 elections, one of the key promises of opposition forces related to reforming the very MoI. Comprehensive reform provided, inter alia, for separating the security segment from the Ministry. For this very reason, we decided to evaluate the work of the police under the new government.
Monitoring has identified several important trends:
- Although the MoI has drafted the development strategy at once, it did not include the separation of security segment from the Ministry.
- We welcome the development of the new Law On the Police, as the Georgian police was operating based on the legislation adopted in the 1990s. Nevertheless, the new Law has inherited considerable problems, including the oppressive mechanisms that could be used for the crime prevention but at the same time could authorize the police officers to infringe upon human rights on numerous occasions.
- Some of MoI's legislative initiatives were clearly non-progressive and detrimental to the reforms in the law-enforcement area. For instance, postponing the new procedure of interrogation of witnesses for 2 years is an obvious step backwards. Same applies to postponing legislative amendments aimed at increasing the defense attorney's rights.
- Initially the Ministry was exposed to certain problems in terms of securing the freedom of assembly. Ensuring the safety of assemblies of opposition parties remained a key challenge. The February 2013 developments by the National Library serve as a good example. Notably, improvements were noted over a certain period of time in this respect, and especially during the pre-presidential election period in 2013 (in view of certain exceptions). Yet, mild sanctions applied against potential offenders are still a problem.
- The MoI's activities aimed at securing the freedom of religion and freedom of expression of minorities are assessed negatively. This year systemic problems prevailing in the country in terms of freedom of religion were displayed very acutely and the police was ineffective in solving these problems. At the 17 May 2013 rally the police has failed to effectively plan safety measures required for holding the rally and to apply adequate punishment against the offenders.
- An old malicious system of operative surveillance and wiretapping is still a problem within the MoI. Incompliance of existing legislation with international standards is yet another problem.
- Several facts of pressuring the witnesses and failing to conduct effective investigation were identified during the reporting period.
- The so-called raids aimed at crime prevention were carried out over the reporting period, resulting in violation of the citizens' rights. The police has abused its powers.
- Investigation of abuse of powers and offences by the MoI staff is a significant problem. There is no effective mechanism of investigation of offences committed by the staff of law-enforcement agencies.
Nongovernmental organizations recommend that the MoI takes the following steps in the nearest future:
- It is important to launch a wide-ranging reform of the MoI, including the agency's reorganization, separation of the security segment, and management of the cadres;
- It is expedient that the MoI's legislative initiatives are consistent with international standards and serve the introduction of high standards of protection of citizens' rights;
- The MoI should enact the witness interrogation procedure and other progressive regulations in the shortest period of time;
- The MoI should, on one hand, necessarily analyze last year's challenges, especially in terms of securing freedom of expression, and on the other hand, plan effective ways for resolving these problems through, inter alia, training of the staff;
- It is crucial that all crimes related to potential abuse of powers by police officers are investigated in the shortest period of time;
- It is important to introduce within the MoI the system of surveillance and wiretapping compliant with international standards. To this end, it is necessary to adopt legislative amendments excluding the possibility of infringing upon private life to the maximum extent, and abusing the power by entities carrying out secret investigative actions;
- To set up the mechanism of supervision over secret surveillance and wiretapping, it is equally important to expand the circle of entities responsible for protection of personal information, activate them and grant them extra functions by the legislation;
- It is expedient to set up the special supervisory parliamentary commission, which would supervise the observance of procedures for examining, using and storing of information, as well as deleting and destructing the data obtained as a result of secret surveillance and wiretapping;
- Pursuant to the legislation of Georgia, crimes committed by police officers must be investigated by an investigator of the Prosecutor's Office. Yet, several occasions were reported in practice when the MoI's General Inspection was conducting the investigation ("inquiry"). It is crucial that this requirement of the law is observed unconditionally in each specific case;
- To conduct an objective, impartial and effective investigation of crimes committed by police officers, it is essential to set up the mechanism that would exclude or minimize the risks of improper investigation.