CSOs respond to Ministry of Defense arrests - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო
GEO

CSOs respond to Ministry of Defense arrests

11 November, 2014

On October 28 the Chief Prosecutor arrested 5 high ranking officials of the Ministry of Defense, for allegedly squandering GEL 4,102,872 of budget money during state procurement procedures. These are: Gizo Ghlonti - former head of the procurement department at the Ministry of Defense. Nugzar Kaishauri – head of J-6 communications and information technology department at the Joint Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces. Giorgi Lobzhanidze – head of administration at the procurement department of the Ministry of Defense. Archil Alavidze – chief specialist at the procurement department of the Ministry of Defense and Davit Tsipuria – head of administration of the J-6 communications and information technology department at the Joint Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces.

A pre-trial detention was issued by the Tbilisi City Court on October 30.

The important thing here is that the defense was denied copies of the evidence files at the time of filing of charges. The prosecutor’s office justified this decision by saying that the case involved secrets of state.

The defendant’s lawyers as well as the Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association have both made a statement regarding this matter. They claim that this constitutes a violation of article 83 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which requires that the prosecutor provide all evidence to the defense at any stage of court proceedings. Even worse is the fact that the court has taken no steps against this serious legal violation. Article 83 requires the court to declare the prosecutor's evidence invalid in a situation where in spite of requests the defense is given no evidence.

Therefore, since both the court and the prosecutor violate the above legal requirements, the defendants should at least be able to fully utilize their constitutional right to protection after the case has been declassified.

It should also be mentioned that the request to partially declassify the above case came from the Ministry of Defense itself, the same entity that had originally classified it. The Ministry of Defense requested the Chief Prosecutor’s Office to transfer copies of case files to the counterintelligence department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, arguing that according to articles 17 and 18 of the Law on State Secrets, declassifying information falls under the Interior Minister’s jurisdiction.

However, the prosecutor's office only partially declassified the evidence, so that no state secret would be disclosed. This was done based on a written consent from the Interior Ministry’s counterintelligence department, in order to “fully inform the public and ensure transparency of investigation”. This most likely means that the prosecutor’s office had transferred the full case file to the Ministry of Internal Affairs before launching an investigation. Therefore, it has the ability to declassify more of the case files if needed, in this case when requested by the Ministry of Defense.

The Ministry of Defense presented its official position regarding the disputed procurement on October 29. Based on information provided to us by the Ministry of Defense as well as statements made by the prosecutor’s office, it is, at this stage, difficult to identify any signs of crime. We believe that the prosecutor should have submitted weightier evidence and arguments against the defendants, especially when the case concerns the country's defense and security-related issues.

Based on the need to ensure full protection of the defendants’ rights to uphold the equality and adversarial principles, and considering the increased level of public interest, we call on:

1. The Chief Prosecutor's Office - to immediately transfer the case files to the defendants’ lawyers and the counterintelligence department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs;

2. The Ministries of Internal Affairs and Defense - to ensure disclosure of secret information in a way that does not pose threat to state security and national defense capabilities, and, at the same time, to facilitate transparency in the investigation process.

3. The Parliamentary Group of Confidence - to actively monitor and control case proceedings.

 

Georgian Young Lawyers' Association

Transparency International Georgia

Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)

Civil Development Agency (CIDA)

Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC)

Article 42 of the Constitution

Human Rights Center

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