A statement of the Georgian Democratic Initiative (GDI) in connection with violation of the presumption of innocence

The Head of the Public Relations Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, Nino Giorgobiani, at a briefing held on May 1, 2013, informed the public about the detention of several high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia.

In a statement which has also been published on the official website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the charges against the defendants are given in the affirmative form. Specifically, the statement says that “In January 2013, the Ministry purchased tractors and the necessary equipment, at which time the officials, acting criminally, embezzled GEL 2,500,000 allocated from the state budget to help the population. With the aim of  concealing the crime, the persons who had been exposed exerted pressure on a group of experts working on the criminal case, in order to obtain a conclusion that would be suitable for them and to avoid criminal responsibility.” The statement also includes the names and surnames of concrete persons detained in connection with the case.

Unfortunately, the form in which the Ministry informed the public contradicts a right guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia and violates the presumption of innocence of the defendants. In accordance with Paragraph 40 of the Constitution of Georgia, “An individual shall be presumed innocent until the commission of an offence by him/her is proved in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law and under a final judgment of conviction.” The aforementioned right is also protected by Paragraph 2, Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

According to the explanation of the Constitutional Court of Georgia, “Everyone (should be) treated with the assumption that he/she is innocent until the commission of an offence by him/her is proved through a due procedure, with a judgment of conviction passed by the court.” According to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, there is a difference between expressing an assumption of commission of an offence and formulating a charge in the affirmative form when the person concerned has not yet been found guilty with the procedure prescribed by law. The ECHR considers the latter as a violation of Paragraph 2, Article 6.

Unfortunately, in spite of the aforementioned requirements, cases of violation of the presumption of innocence are quite frequent in Georgia. Due to all the aforementioned, we call upon the Ministry of Internal Affairs and all other relevant agencies and persons to respect the presumption of innocence, take particular care with their assessments and expressions, and, in order to avoid violation of human rights, refrain from presenting charges brought against defendants as trustworthy facts to the public.