TI Georgia releases an interim report on the judicial monitoring of high-profile criminal cases
TBILISI, 22 August 2013 – Since February 2013 Transparency International Georgia has monitored court hearings on high-profile criminal cases. This report covers the period from February 2013 until 19 July 2013. The organization's observers attended court hearings, at which the cases of former and current high officials are tried. Provided below is the information obtained from monitoring and the description of the cases. Notably, a part of the trials is already completed and the final judgments have been rendered, while the report still includes cases with pending proceedings.
Several noteworthy trends have been identified throughout observing the trials:
- The principles of equality and adversariality of the parties were observed at court trials. Defense, as well as the prosecution enjoyed equal opportunities for presenting their positions and they could freely exercise the rights safeguarded by procedural legislation.
- The prosecution has mainly (apart from several exceptions) built its cases on the witness testimonies only. Other pieces of evidence have not been presented until the drafting of the report.
- In several cases, the prosecution's witnesses have later changed their testimonies.
- Several representatives of the defense often made political statements during the proceedings.
- At the trials, the court has applied disciplinary measures three times.
- In all cases, when the defendants were offered jury trials, they had rejected such offers, stating that the general public was already prejudiced against them, which would have deterred rendering just decisions.
- Courts did not release information in advance on hearings, at which the application of preventive measures was to be decided. Such practice undermines the publicity of the high-profile cases.
- Notwithstanding the high public interest, in the Bachana Akhalaia case the prosecution has objected to video recording of the trial and thus publicizing the proceedings.
- In the course of the trials, public representatives and organized groups have rallied against the defendants.
Remarkably, in several cases final judgments have not yet been rendered, while in other cases the judgments of the first instance court may be still challenged, thus leading to potentially different results. Therefore, Transparency International Georgia refrains from reviewing court decisions on the cases. The organization will continue monitoring these high-profile cases and will provide its analysis in the future as well.
The report was prepared with the financial support of Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The content and opinions expressed in the report are those of Transparency International Georgia and do not reflect the views of the Swedish Government or Sida.