Statement on yet another postponement of enactment of new rule of interrogating witnesses - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

Statement on yet another postponement of enactment of new rule of interrogating witnesses

24 December, 2013

The Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary would like to react to the legislative initiative of the Government of Georgia, dated December 20, 2013, which envisages yet another rescheduling of the enactment of new rule of interrogating witnesses during investigation process, for the period of two years – to December 31, 2015. The Coalition believes that the initiated change will adversely affect the development of criminal law justice and therefore, urges the initiators to withdraw the draft law from the parliament.

Bearing in mind that this is not the first instance of rescheduling the enactment of the rule, the Coalition has already expressed its stance on this issue. This time, however, we would like to underscore those issues of vital importance which, in our belief, will be harmed should the old rule of interrogating witnesses be kept on.

 In contrast to the old rule, the new rule of interrogating witnesses ensures:

  • Genuine equality of parties and adversarial nature of the proceedings which is a principle guaranteed under Article 85 of the Constitution of Georgia. To achieve the equality of parties, it is necessary to abolish those unfair advantages which the prosecution enjoys to date. In particular, a groundless advantage of the prosecution to oblige a witness to provide testimony on the stage of investigation whereas the defense lacks such a right. In contrast, the defense does not participate in the process of the prosecution interrogating a witness;
  • The control of courts on the interaction with witnesses, which will decrease risks of exerting pressure on witnesses and obtaining incorrect and coerced testimonies from them. Such a guarantee is expected to improve the attitude of society towards providing assistance to the delivery of justice in the capacity of witnesses.

It is very regrettable that since 2009 to date, the Government of Georgia has repeatedly used the postponement mechanism to delay the enactment of this norm. Bearing this in mind, we would like to remind both the initiators of the draft law and the legislature of the explanation provided by the Constitutional Court, which says: “It is true that lawmakers, taking into account various circumstances, have the right to suspend the operation of a normative act; however, this must not develop into a permanent exercise… Such attitude questions not only the realization of the right but also the existence of this very right. In such conditions, the rights are rendered fictional and devoid of content…. Constant unjustified suspension and/or postponement of operation of any law undermine the principle of the rule of law and gives rise to a sense of lawlessness among society.”

The Coalition reiterates that the postponement of the new rule of interrogating witnesses is a clearly negative fact and runs counter to the position of the Constitutional Court of Georgia as well the requirements of the Constitution of Georgia to ensure the equality of parties. Moreover, this initiative will not contribute to the improvement of society’s attitude towards the system of the status of witness.

Proceeding from the above said, the Coalition calls on the Parliament of Georgia to reject the submitted initiative. The Coalition also urges the initiators of this bill to call off the document from the parliament and to ensure the full enactment of the new rule of interrogating witnesses.