GDI Statement on Illegal surveillance of Bachana Akhalaia

Georgian Democracy Initiative expresses concern over revelation of illegal recordings carried out in the detention cell of former Interior and Defence Minister Bachana Akhalaia and calls upon the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia to launch investigation as well as identify and hold those responsible to liability. GDI also calls upon the Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia to immediately prohibit any covert recordings of inmates in the without prior court permits.

On October 2, 2013 Kakheti Information Center issued video recordings of Mr Akhalaia (who is in pre-trial detention), with various visitors, including MPs and other individuals such as members of the Public Monitoring Council authorized by the Minister as well as Chairman of Parliament. The video, allegedly recorded in the penitentiary institution No 7, was accompanied by clearly audible recording of the conversations.

The Ministry claimed that the recordings did not breach the law and was in fact authorized by Mr Akhalaia himself.

GDI wishes to stress that the Georgian legislation allows for inmates electronic and visual surveillance, which differs in principle from covert surveillance (both video and audio). Any covert surveillance can only be carried out in the context of an investigation and must be authorized by court in advance.

By undertaking the surveillance, which might have also included members of the the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) members, without such authorization, the Ministry committed an illegal act. Both the Organic Law of Georgia on Public Defender of Georgia and the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture provide for the confidentiality of NPM members’ meetings with inmates as well as prohibits their recording.