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Abuse of pretrial detention in States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights

Report | Doc. 13863 | 07 September 2015

Committee
Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Rapporteur :
Mr Pedro AGRAMUNT, Spain, EPP/CD
Origin
Reference to committee: Doc. 12844, Reference 3839 of 9 March 2012. 2015 - Fourth part-session

Summary

Pretrial detention has multiple negative effects both on the detainee and on society as a whole. The European Convention on Human Rights establishes limits for the use of pretrial detention and rules applying to the treatment of pretrial detainees.

The high number of pretrial detainees in Europe is an indication that the permissible grounds for pretrial detention, notably to prevent a suspect from absconding or interfering with witnesses and/or other evidence, are – in a number of instances – interpreted too widely or invoked pro forma in order to justify pretrial detention for other, abusive purposes. These abusive grounds for pretrial detention aim to put pressure on detainees in order to coerce them into confessing to a crime or testifying against a third person; to discredit or otherwise neutralise political competitors or to promote other political objectives; to put pressure on detainees in order to compel them to sell their businesses or to extort bribes from them, and to intimidate civil society and silence critical voices.

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, noting a certain number of root causes for the abusive use of pretrial detention, calls on States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights to implement specific measures aimed at reducing pretrial detention and stamping out its abuse.

A Draft resolutionNote

1 The Parliamentary Assembly stresses the importance of the presumption of innocence in criminal proceedings. Pretrial detention (detention on remand) should be used only exceptionally, as a last resort, when alternative measures of restraint are insufficient to safeguard the integrity of the proceedings.
2 The Assembly notes the multiple negative effects of pretrial detention, both on the detainee and on society as a whole, most of which also occur when the detainee is subsequently acquitted:
2.1 negative effects of pretrial detention on detainees:
2.1.1 risk of job loss or bankruptcy; their families suffer economic hardship in addition to the human consequences of prolonged separation;
2.1.2 in many instances, exposure to violence by other inmates and officials, the nefarious influence of hardened criminals, contagious diseases and difficult detention conditions, which are often worse for pretrial detainees than for convicted criminals serving their prison term;
2.1.3 threat to the right to a fair trial guaranteed by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5, “the Convention”) due to the psycho-social consequences of pretrial detention, which is often accompanied by severe isolation and undermines the detainees’ ability to defend themselves effectively;
2.2 negative effects of pretrial detention on society as a whole:
2.2.1 the high budgetary cost of detention in comparison with other measures of restraint, such as bail, house arrest, curfews or restraining orders, with or without electronic supervision. The resources spent on pretrial detention could be put to better use for crime prevention, increasing the rate of elucidation of crimes, and the re-socialisation of offenders;
2.2.2 the loss of the economic contribution of pretrial detainees, the de-socialising effect of detention on the detainees’ family and the negative effects of detention on the spread of infectious diseases;
2.2.3 the fact that pretrial detention without effective controls creates opportunities for corruption and generally undermines the public’s trust in the proper functioning of the criminal justice system.
3 The European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights, has established clear limits for the use of pretrial detention and rules applying to the treatment of pretrial detainees.
4 The Assembly notes that the laws of most member States are generally in line with Convention standards, but their application by the prosecutorial authorities and the courts is frequently not.
5 As the different practices in this respect, even among member States of the European Union, threaten the effectiveness of international legal cooperation, the European Union has commissioned extensive comparative research to identify problems and possible solutions.
6 The high number of pretrial detainees (in absolute terms and in relation to the total prison population), almost 425 000 (25% of all prisoners) in Europe (2013), is an indication that the permissible grounds for pretrial detention, notably to prevent a suspect from absconding or interfering with witnesses and other evidence, are generally interpreted too widely or invoked pro forma in order to justify pretrial detention for other, abusive purposes.
7 The following abusive grounds for pretrial detention have been observed in a number of States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights, namely to:
7.1 put pressure on detainees in order to coerce them into confessing to a crime or otherwise co-operating with the prosecution, including by testifying against a third person (for example the case of Sergey Magnitsky, in the Russian Federation);
7.2 discredit or otherwise neutralise political competitors (for example certain cases of United National Movement (UNM) leaders in Georgia);
7.3 promote other, including foreign policy-related, political objectives (for example the case of Ms Nadiia Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot and member of the Ukrainian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly, in the Russian Federation);
7.4 put pressure on detainees in order to compel them to sell their businesses (for example the Gusinsky case in the Russian Federation) or in order to extort bribes;
7.5 intimidate civil society and silence critical voices (for example the case in Turkey of a 16-year-old placed in pretrial detention for allegedly insulting the President via social media, the cases of prominent human rights defenders and lawyers in Azerbaijan, and the lengthy pretrial detention of peaceful protesters in the “Bolotnaya” and other cases in the Russian Federation).
8 The over-representation of foreign nationals among pretrial detainees gives rise to concerns that the legal grounds for detention are applied in a discriminatory way.
9 Some countries, such as Poland, have made considerable progress in reducing pretrial detention, by implementing substantial reforms to execute relevant judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
10 Other countries, such as the Russian Federation, Turkey and Georgia, have adopted legal reforms accompanied by practical measures which have led to a clear reduction in the number of pretrial detainees and considerable improvements in the treatment of the majority of detainees, even though abuses of pretrial detention, as mentioned above, continue to occur.
11 The root causes of the abusive use of pretrial detention include:
11.1 a political and legal culture which rewards those who are perceived as tough on crime, at the expense of the presumption of innocence;
11.2 a structural imbalance between the prosecution and the defence in terms of power and available resources (access to relevant information, time, funding);
11.3 the fact that decisions on pretrial detention are frequently taken by more junior judges, who tend to be overworked and reticent to assert their authority vis-à-vis the prosecution. The result is, in a number of instances, a widespread practice of rubber-stamping of the prosecution’s requests by judges, without taking into account the circumstances of the individual case;
11.4 the possibility of “forum shopping” by the prosecution, which may be tempted to develop different strategies to ensure that requests for pretrial detention in certain cases are decided by a judge who, for various reasons, is expected to be “accommodating” (for example in Georgia, the Russian Federation and Turkey);
11.5 the possibility for the prosecution to circumvent statutory time limits imposed on pretrial detention by modifying or staggering indictments (for example in Georgia).
12 The Assembly therefore calls on:
12.1 all States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights to implement measures aimed at reducing pretrial detention, including by:
12.1.1 raising awareness among judges and prosecutors of the legal limits placed on pretrial detention by national law and the European Convention on Human Rights and of the negative consequences of pretrial detention on the detainees and their families and on society as a whole;
12.1.2 ensuring that decisions on pretrial detention are taken by more senior judges or by collegiate courts and that judges do not suffer negative consequences for refusing pretrial detention in accordance with the law;
12.1.3 ensuring greater equality of arms between the prosecution and the defence, including by allowing defence lawyers unfettered access to detainees, by granting them access to the investigation file ahead of the decision imposing or prolonging pretrial detention, and by providing sufficient funding for legal aid, and also for proceedings related to pretrial detention;
12.1.4 taking appropriate action to redress any discriminatory application of the rules governing pretrial detention with regard to foreign nationals, in particular by clarifying that being a foreigner does not per se constitute an increased risk of absconding;
12.2 the Russian Federation, Turkey and Georgia, in particular, to:
12.2.1 take appropriate measures to prevent “forum shopping” by prosecutors;
12.2.2 refrain from using pretrial detention for purposes other than the administration of justice and to release all detainees currently held for any abusive purposes.
13 The Assembly commends the European Union for the initiatives taken in recent years aimed at reducing pretrial detention in European Union member States and invites the competent bodies of the European Union to continue basing their work on the standards set by the European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights.

B Draft recommendationNote

1 The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Resolution … (2015) on the abuse of pretrial detention in States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights and to Committee of Ministers Recommendation Rec(2006)13 on the use of remand in custody, the conditions in which it takes place and the provision of safeguards against abuse.
2 Drawing the attention of the Committee of Ministers to the continuing shortcomings, including over-representation of foreign nationals in pretrial detention, which have been documented in recent research carried out on behalf of the European Union, and to the examples of abuses of pretrial detention in a number of States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5) referred to in Assembly Resolution … (2015), the Assembly calls on the Committee of Ministers to:
2.1 consider ways and means of reducing recourse to pretrial detention in general and its abuse for specific purposes such as the pursuit of political or corruption-related objectives, in particular in light of recent developments;
2.2 encourage relevant bodies of the Council of Europe to intensify their co-operation with their European Union counterparts in order to ensure that any action to tackle pretrial detention issues is taken in a co-ordinated way, on the basis of the standards laid down by the European Convention on Human Rights as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights.

C Explanatory memorandum by Mr Agramunt, rapporteur

1 Introduction

1 The motion for a resolution presented by Mr Dick Marty and othersNote was referred to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for report on 9 March 2012. The committee appointed me rapporteur on 24 April 2012. On 1 October 2012, the committee considered an introductory memorandum,Note held an exchange of views and authorised fact-finding visits to the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine. On 10 December 2014, the committee authorised me to carry out a fact-finding visit to Georgia in 2015 instead of the previously authorised visit to Ukraine. I carried out the three visits from 11 to 13 November 2013 (Moscow), on 11 and 12 June 2014 (Ankara) and from 15 to 18 February 2015 (Tbilisi). Because of unforeseen delays in my work, the reference was extended several times, lastly until 30 September 2015.
2 I was obliged to be selective due to the limited resources available for the preparation of this report. The selection of one country rather than another for a fact-finding visit – on the basis of a statistical analysis of violations found by the European Court of Human Rights – or the choice of a limited number of examples for analysis in the report was due to practical necessity and not an expression of unfair selective criticism or the use of double standards.
3 In short, the movers of the motion are concerned that in a number of Council of Europe member States, pretrial detention
  • is used too frequently;
  • is often excessively long;
  • detention conditions in pretrial detention are often unacceptable.
4 These are serious worries indeed, given the legal context in which the instrument of pretrial detention is placed under the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5, “the Convention”), to which all member States of the Council of Europe have acceded:
  • the right to liberty is a core human right and its respect a key prerequisite of the rule of law;
  • any interference with the right to liberty must be in strict conformity with the limitative list of permissible restrictions in Article 5 of the Convention;
  • persons held in pretrial detention are presumed innocent and have the right to be treated as such;
  • the use or abuse of pretrial detention has a strong impact on the fairness of the trial, which is guaranteed by Article 6 of the Convention.
5 In light of the facts collected during my three information visits and some jurisprudential and statistical research, I have come to the conclusion that worries about the above-mentioned issues are indeed justified. In a number of countries, another issue must be added, namely that pretrial detention is used for the wrong reasons, including for putting pressure on detainees in order to coerce them into co-operating with law-enforcement authorities, and even to discredit and incapacitate the political opposition by jailing its leading public figures.
6 Contrary to my intention, I no longer intend to cover the issue of police detention (police custody), for the simple reason that taking up the two issues in one report would far exceed the resource limitations imposed on the Assembly’s rapporteurs for one mandate.
7 As regards pretrial detention, I intend to begin by recalling the rules laid down by the European Convention on Human Rights. I will then report on my findings during the three fact-finding visits to the Russian Federation, Turkey and Georgia. In light of these examples, which I had chosen in agreement with the committee, I will finally draw some conclusions on the situation in the member States of the Council of Europe in general.

2 Rules on pretrial detention applicable to States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights

8 The first and foremost source of inspiration for any rapporteur of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, both as regards the problems that arise in a given field and Convention-based approaches to their solution is the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (“the Court”) (section 2.1 below). But as usual, I will also avail myself of other work done within the Council of Europe (section 2.2), and draw lessons to the extent possible from ongoing reform discussions in individual member States of the Council of Europe (section 2.3) and from comparative research carried out by academics (section 2.4).

2.1 Case law of the European Court of Human Rights

9 The basis for determining what constitutes an “abuse” of pretrial detention/detention on remand in member States of the Council of Europe is the European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights. Rules on pretrial detention are found, in particular, in Article 5 of the Convention. But abuses of pretrial detention can also constitute violations of Article 6 (fair trial guarantees), Article 3 (protection against torture and inhuman and degrading treatment), as well as Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights, prohibiting in particular politically motivated interferences with human rights).Note
10 The following issues and leading cases appear to be particularly noteworthy.

2.1.1 Purpose of detention

11 Under Article 5.1.c, the purpose of the arrest or detention must be to bring the detainee before the competent legal authority on suspicion of his or her having committed an offence, and detention must be a proportionate measure to achieve the stated aim. This would exclude arrests for petty crimes for which the court is unlikely to impose a custodial sentence even if the suspect’s guilt is established.Note

2.1.2 Requirement of reasonable suspicion

12 Whilst definitive proof of the crime giving rise to the arrest is not required to justify detention, there must be a plausible basis for “reasonable suspicion”, which would satisfy an objective observer that the person concerned may have committed the offence.Note This requires also that the facts relied on can be reasonably considered as falling under one of the sections describing criminal behaviour in the Criminal Code.Note

2.1.3 Prohibition of the use of excessive force

13 The use of excessive force makes an arrest unlawful and may also constitute violations of other fundamental rights such as the right to life.Note

2.1.4 Requirement of prompt presentation to a judge

14 There is extensive case law on what is considered as “prompt”, and the required status of the officer exercising judicial power within the meaning of Article 5.3. Such an officer must be independent of the executive and of the parties and must have the power to make a binding decision as to the continued detention.Note

2.1.5 Appropriate conduct of the court hearing

15 The European Court of Human Rights requires that the court hearing on judicial review of the detention must be conducted in an appropriate and non-threatening manner,Note in the presence of the detaineeNote and of his lawyer,Note who must be given access to the case file.Note

2.1.6 Duty to account for persons kept in custody

16 The duty to account for persons held in custody is a key measure to prevent enforced disappearances. Both the CourtNote and the Parliamentary Assembly, in its reports on the fight against enforced disappearances,Note have laid down strict requirements aimed at ensuring accountability of the authorities for any deprivation of liberty.

2.1.7 Conditions of detention and prevention of ill-treatment

17 The prevention of ill-treatment, both during early police custody and during pretrial detention, is a major concern. It is important for ensuring the fairness of the trial, by avoiding undue pressure to obtain confessions or false testimony against third parties, and in its own right as a matter of the prevention of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment within the meaning of Article 3 of the Convention. Unfortunately, a number of recent cases have shown that conditions in pretrial detention are still troublesome, often considerably worse than in prisons where persons who were already convicted of a crime serve their sentences. I should like to recall that during pretrial detention, we are dealing with persons who are presumed innocent. Reading the statements of fact in some of the Court’s leading cases, describing in some detail the dismal conditions of detention in these very real cases, sends a chill up one’s spine.Note My visit to a pretrial detention centre in Tbilisi in February 2015 also worried me, especially regarding the prolonged isolation of the detainees from their families.Note

2.1.8 Provision of adequate medical care

18 The controversy over the inadequacy of medical care afforded to former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko is well-known.Note Insufficient medical care in pretrial detention can have tragic consequences, as in the case of a cancer patient who did not receive timely diagnosis and treatment for a relapse.Note In Russia, Sergei Magnitsky was diagnosed with severe pancreatitis whilst in detention. The failure to adequately treat this dangerous and painful condition contributed to his horrific death, which was the subject of a separate report of the Assembly in 2014.Note Let us not forget, once again, that the persons concerned are presumed innocent!

2.1.9 Justification of detention on remand

19 The European Court of Human Rights has set fairly strict standards following which the competent authorities must justify having examined the presence of the legal grounds for detention in view of the circumstances of each case, including consideration of possible alternatives to detentionNote (in particular bail). Acceptable grounds for (continued) detention, following the Court’s case law, include: a) the risk that the accused will fail to appear for trial; b) the risk that the accused, if released, would take action to prejudice the administration of justice (for example put pressure on witnesses or otherwise interfere with evidence); c) commit further offences; or d) cause public disorder.Note
20 Regarding preservation of public order as a ground for detention, the Court has developed particularly stringent criteria.Note When the authorities intentionally stir up public disorder through a co-ordinated campaign against well-known former high-ranking officials, as in certain cases I came across in Georgia, this surely does not create a valid ground for detention according to these criteria.Note
21 Formulaic references to the existence of grounds such as the gravity of the charges or the likelihood of the suspect absconding or obstructing the course of justice are not sufficient.Note The arguments for and against release must not be “general and abstract”, but refer to the specific facts and the suspect’s personal circumstances justifying his detention.Note The burden of proof for the circumstances warranting detention is on the prosecution.Note The European Court of Human Rights also points out that the relevant considerations may change over time so that a fresh assessment becomes necessary at regular intervals.Note Unfortunately, actual practices in many member States differ considerably from these standards, even in member States of the European Union covered by an in-depth comparative research project carried out under the auspices of the European Commission.Note It has been observed that requests by the prosecution for placement of a suspect in pretrial detention routinely do not refer to the specific facts of the individual case and even reproduce the same spelling mistakes. They are nevertheless “rubber-stamped” by judges, who are typically very junior, thus lack experience and are weary of drawing attention to themselves by rejecting requests for detention.Note Sadly, despite the fact that such practices clearly depart from the standards set by the European Court of Human Rights, they often do not reach the Court, which, according to practitioners interviewed as part of an European Union-sponsored research project “is no longer viewed as a useful forum in which to raise issues relating to pretrial detention ... due to the length of proceedings and the costs involved”.Note

2.1.10 Length of detention on remand

22 Article 5.3 of the Convention lays down the right to a trial within a reasonable time or to be released pending trial. The Court has not set a fixed maximum duration for pretrial detention. The question whether or not a period of detention is reasonable must be assessed in each case according to its special features, including the complexity of the investigation.Note While the severity of the sentence incurred is relevant in the assessment of the risk of absconding, the gravity of the charges by itself cannot serve to justify long periods of detention on remand.Note Also, with passage of time, the requirements of the investigation no longer suffice to justify detention: normally, the risks of interference with the investigation diminish over time as the inquiries are carried out, testimony is taken and verifications are made.Note When the suspect is in detention, the authorities must display “special diligence” in the proceedings.Note It should be noted that bail may also be required only as long as reasons justifying detention prevail.Note

2.1.11 Reasons for detention other than the pursuit of criminal justice (Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights)

23 In its recent judgment in the case of Yuri Lutsenko,Note the former Interior Minister of Ukraine, who was arrested along with former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko following a change of government, the Court recalled that an arrest and the subsequent detention on remand also breaches the Convention when it is motivated by considerations other than the administration of justice. In the case of Mr Lutsenko, the Court found a violation of Article 18 of the Convention – a rare feat in view of the very high threshold of evidence the Court set in its first Khodorkovskiy judgment.Note The detention of Mr Lutsenko was found to be obviously motivated by such “political” considerations as weakening him as a senior figure of the opposition, whose leader, Ms Timoshenko, was also in prison.Note In an earlier judgment concerning the Russian Federation, the Court had found that the detention of Mr Gusinskiy on suspicion of fraud was in reality motivated by the authorities’ desire to put Mr Gusinskiy under pressure to sell his company, Most Media/NTV, to Gazprom (which subsequently shut down the news channel which had provided, inter alia, realistic coverage of the atrocities of the first Chechen conflict).Note The Court consequently found Mr Gusinskiy’s detention to be in violation of Article 18.Note The Court’s evidentiary standards for finding a violation of Article 18 are very high, to the point that in its first Khodorkovskiy judgment,Note the Court did not find such a violation despite the numerous indications for the political motivation of the detention of Mikhail Khodorkovsky summed up in the Assembly’s report on “The circumstances surrounding the arrest and prosecution of leading Yukos executives”.Note During my own fact-finding visits, I have come across a number of cases where such “extra-judicial” motivations may well be the real cause for placing a person in pretrial detention.Note

2.2 Previous work of the Council of Europe

2.2.1 Recommendation Rec(2006)13 of the Committee of Ministers on the use of remand in custody, the conditions in which it takes place and the provision of safeguards against abuseNote

24 In this recommendation, the Committee of Ministers stated:
“Considering the need to ensure that the use of remand in custody is always exceptional and is always justified; Bearing in mind the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons deprived of their liberty and the particular need to ensure that not only are persons remanded in custody able to prepare their defence and to maintain their family relationships but they are also not held in conditions incompatible with their legal status, which is based on the presumption of innocence; …Recommends that governments of member States disseminate and be guided in their legislation and practice by the principles set out in the appendix to this recommendation.”
25 The appendix to the recommendation recalls basic principles drawn from the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and from the work of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) and relevant United Nations treaty bodies.

2.2.2 Recommendation Rec(2006)2 of the Committee of Ministers on the European Prison RulesNote

26 Similarly, in the appendix to Recommendation Rec(2006)2, the Committee of Ministers sums up in some detail the minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners (including remand prisoners). These “European Prison Rules” are still the most comprehensive set of standards on prison conditions in Europe. Whilst they explicitly stateNote that “[p]rison conditions that infringe prisoners’ human rights are not justified by lack of resources”, numerous judgments of the European Court of Human Rights finding violations in this respect show that, in practice, these Rules are still not fully applied in all member States of the Council of Europe.

2.2.3 SPACE statisticsNote

27 The Annual Penal Statistics of the Council of Europe (French acronym: SPACE) provide statistical information on prison populations (stock and flow) in all member States of the Council of Europe, as well as breakdowns according to different criteria (such as grounds for detention, duration, nationality, etc.). The SPACE statistics are valuable tools enabling comparisons between countries and over time. They permit policy makers to discern trends and allow them to place the situation in their own countries in a comparative perspective.

2.3 Work by European Union and United Nations bodies

28 Given the importance of the subject matter of pretrial detention, it is not surprising that a considerable amount of comparative research has already been carried out. The following are but two particularly interesting examples.

2.3.1 European Commission study on pretrial detention in the European Union

29 The European Commission initiated an in-depth study on pretrial detention in the European Union.Note This study provides detailed factual information and legal analysis on the situation concerning pretrial detention in EU member States. This compilation is referred to in the European Commission’s June 2011 Green Paper on “Strengthening mutual trust in the European judicial area – A Green Paper on the application of EU criminal justice legislation in the field of detention”.Note As the Green Paper explains, mutual trust is the pre-condition for mutual recognition and execution of judicial decisions. Mutual trust in turn depends on reasonably comparable legal rules and judicial practices throughout the region.
30 In June 2014, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) “Fair Trials International” launched another substantial comparative law project on the practice of pretrial detention in EU member States funded by the European Commission, involving 10 partners from Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Spain, the Netherlands and England and Wales.Note
31 Proper implementation of EU law based on mutual trust can indeed contribute to reducing the use of pretrial detention against foreign residents. Foreign suspects may well be subject to pretrial detention more often than local residents in comparable cases because of the higher risk of absconding, in the eyes of the local law-enforcement bodies. Foreign nationals are indeed over-represented among pretrial detainees in all countries covered by the comparative research project. The EU rules on mutual recognition of judicial decisions, including decisions on non-custodial supervision measures as an alternative to provisional detention, may reassure a judge that an alternative measure will be supervised just as reliably in the suspect’s home country as in the country where the alleged crime took place.Note But the mutual trust needed to make these rules fully operational still needs some time to develop. In a motion for a resolution in the European Parliament on the mid-term review of the Stockholm Programme in March 2014, the movers noted that standards in many EU member States in relation to pretrial detention fall short of human rights standards and call on the Commission to revisit the case for establishing “minimum and enforceable standards in relation to pretrial detention” through legislative action.Note The European Parliament is now preparing to negotiate a new Directive on “presumption of innocence” to ensure that the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty is fully respected in EU member States.Note
32 I cannot but welcome the sustained attention paid by different EU bodies to the issue of pretrial detention. But it should be noted that common minimum standards already exist. They are provided by the European Convention on Human Rights, which is in force in all EU member countries. In order to avoid duplication of work and diverging standards, it is therefore important that this relatively new field of activity of the European Union is developed in close co-operation with the Council of Europe.

2.3.2 Compilation of standards and practices by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights

33 The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) has also compiled a useful summary of standards and practices concerning pretrial detention, on the basis of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the case law of the relevant treaty bodies, with references also to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.Note

3 Pretrial detention in Council of Europe member States – some facts and figures and recent developments

3.1 Some facts and figures

34 The most recent detailed statistical data available (SPACE I 2013, published in February 2015) show that there are still big differences in the use of pretrial detention among the States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights despite the fact that they are all subjected to the same standards (see above, paragraphs 8-23).
35 In terms of the number of detainees without final sentence per 100 000 inhabitants, the highest numbers are found in Turkey (89.2), Albania (68.1), Russia (65.6), Monaco (63.4), Latvia (61.9), Montenegro (58.3), and Luxembourg (55.5). The lowest scores are found in IcelandNote (4.0) and Liechtenstein (5.4), and among the larger countries in Bulgaria (10.6), Finland (10.8), Slovenia (12.4), Ireland (12.8) and Germany (13.8). The average stood at 31.
36 In terms of percentage of detainees without final sentence as part of the total prison population, the highest numbers are found in Andorra (59.6), Turkey (49.6), the Netherlands (46.3), Luxembourg (41.6) and Switzerland (40.6). The best performers are Poland (8.3), Iceland (8.6), Bulgaria (8.8) and Romania (10.9). The average stood at 25.8.
37 The former set of figures reflects the absolute numbers of pretrial detainees (more precisely, of detainees against whom no judgment has yet entered into legal force), in relation to the general population, the second the proportion of pretrial detainees as a percentage of the total prison population. The figures show that a high level of imprisonment in general correlates with a high level of pretrial detention and with a high percentage of pretrial detainees among the total prison population. Worldwide figures compiled by the International Centre for Prison StudiesNote show that the countries with the highest proportion of the total prison population in pretrial detention are those with serious institutional and governance problems across the board: the Comoros (92%), Libya (87%), Liberia and Bolivia (83% each), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (82%).Note In these countries, the total prison population is not even particularly high. But the judiciary can obviously not keep pace with arrests by the police, which in turn uses the out-of-control practice of pretrial detention as a tool to extort bribes.
38 What lessons can be drawn from these figures? First, the worldwide comparison supports the conclusion that high numbers of pretrial detainees are an alarm signal for the functioning of the judicial system and of law-enforcement in general. Second, both so-called established democracies and more recent democracies appear among the countries with high as well as those with low counts of pretrial detention. This means that high numbers of pretrial detainees are not a fatality – progress is possible, as the impressive positive examples of Poland, Bulgaria and Romania show. At the same time, even countries that are solidly anchored in the rule of law, such as the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland are not immune to backsliding – which means that continuous vigilance is needed.
39 It is therefore worth recalling the disadvantages of pretrial detention in relation to other measures of restraint such as bail, house arrest, curfew (if need be, enforced with the help of electronic monitoring devices), reporting obligations, targeted surveillance of communications (to prevent tampering with evidence) and others.Note

3.2 Detrimental effects of pretrial detention on detainees and society as a whole

40 Pretrial detention has a very strong negative effect on the suspect, who is suddenly cut off from his or her professional and family life. Resulting social stigmatisation has long-term prejudicial consequences for the detainees and their families. The detainees may often be exposed to institutional violence, torture and gang violence. Homicide and suicide rates are higher among pretrial detainees than among sentenced prisoners. Pretrial detention is thus an extremely costly measure from the point of view of the accused, but also for the taxpayers, given the high cost of detention.Note
41 The living conditions in pretrial detention are often worse than those for convicted prisoners.Note They may also impair an accused’s ability to prepare for trial and even contribute towards a deterioration of the detainee’s mental health, sometimes affecting how well a detainee can prepare for and cope with the trial.Note
42 Having visited a number of pretrial detainees during my fact-finding visits, I have seen for myself how long-term isolation affects their psychological well-being. I cannot help suspecting that harsh conditions are sometimes created on purpose, in order to put pressure on detainees to make a confession or otherwise co-operate with the law-enforcement bodies. Such cases may well violate the fair trial guarantee in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which includes the presumption of innocence and the right to remain silent, the privilege against self-incrimination and the right to be present at trial. Depending on their severity, conditions of detention may also violate Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment).
43 The cost of detention both to the detainee and to society at large increases with the length of detention. Unfortunately, the 2013 figures reflected in the latest set of statistics published in February 2015Note have not improved since 2011. The median length of pretrial detention has remained at 3.8 months, with wide disparities running between 36.1 months in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and 16.6 in Turkey and 0.3 months in Liechtenstein, 0.6 months in Switzerland and 0.7 months in Sweden.

3.3 Recent positive developments in some Council of Europe member States

3.3.1 Poland

44 Poland has historically had many problems regarding excessive use of pretrial detention, as shown by numerous findings of violations by the European Court of Human Rights. Progress in this respect is reflected in the Assembly’s last report on implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.Note These reforms have triggered a positive trend towards a reduction of the use of pretrial detention in Poland, which has continued over the past years, culminating in the excellent figures reflected in the SPACE I report for 2013 (paragraph 36 above).

3.3.2 Germany

45 An important reform of the rules governing pretrial detention in Germany entered into force in January 2010. The main improvements concern the right of detainees to be assisted by a lawyer (if necessary, depending on the accused’s means, paid for by legal aid) from the first day of detention and not only after three months (as was the case before). Lawyers must also be given access to the case file throughout the period of detention (no longer only after the completion of the investigation). Finally, detainees must be informed of their rights at the very start of detention, in writing and in a language that they understand.Note The SPACE statistics show a trend towards a reduction of the use and duration of pretrial detention.Note

4 The situation in the countries visited (Russian Federation, Turkey and Georgia)

46 In line with the committee’s decisions based on, in particular, the statistical data on numbers of relevant violations found by the European Court of Human Rights, I visited three countries, namely the Russian Federation, Turkey and Georgia, for the purpose of drawing some lessons from these examples that could also be useful for other member States. I should like to use this opportunity to thank all three national delegations for their excellent co-operation and hospitality during my fact-finding visits.

4.1 Russian Federation

47 In Russia, some general progress can be noted in terms of a downward trajectory of the number of pretrial detainees in relation to the general prison population, though it must be said that this downward trend has started at an extremely high level.Note An effort has also been made to improve the detention conditions, including medical care. During my fact-finding visit to Moscow, in the autumn of 2013, I was given fairly impressive official statistics documenting the reduction in the number of pretrial detainees and of the overcrowding of pretrial detention facilities. By way of example, I was shown recently renovated cells in the Butyrka pretrial detention centre. I was also informed about recent relevant legislative reforms, including a change in the ultimate responsibility for detainee health care, which has been transferred from the local prison director to the Federal Prison Service’s medical staff.
48 The resulting positive impression is strongly contradicted by a special report I received from the Fédération Internationale de l’Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture (FIACAT), which provides numerous examples of serious shortcomings of the conditions in pretrial detention in Russia. These include notoriously overcrowded facilities, which are badly maintained and lack ventilation in summer and heating in winter, a lack of basic medical care and the frequent circumvention of measures to prevent torture and other forms of pressure on detainees.Note
49 Another reform presented to me in Moscow concerns the exclusion, in principle, of pretrial detention for economic crime. In a particularly interesting meeting with members of relevant Duma committees, I gained the impression that our parliamentary colleagues in Russia are quite aware of the problems in this area. I was impressed with the frankness of the reasoning for the abolition of pretrial detention for economic crimes, namely the fact that pretrial detention had indeed frequently been abused by corrupt law-enforcement officials, before this reform, to put pressure on successful entrepreneurs in order to make them “share” or even sign over their business altogether to predatory law-enforcement officials – a tactic described as “hostile take-over, Russian style”.Note I sincerely hope that this odious practice, which has destroyed the lives of numerous businessmen and – women and impeded the development of a sound economic structure based on vigorous small and medium-sized businesses, can be stopped in this way.
50 But given the ease with which cases can be fabricated out of thin air as long as the prosecution and the courts lack professionalism and independence, corrupt law-enforcement officials can always plant drugs or weapons on their “takeover target”. The resulting case will not be an “economic crime” covered by the exclusion of pretrial detention. In my view, the problem is that as long as the powers that be refuse to let go of the judiciary by fostering a true culture of independence, because they want to keep the possibility of prosecuting and jailing political opponents at will, it will not be possible to avoid the politically unwanted fall-out of abuses by corrupt officials either.
51 Lawyers and NGOs have submitted a number of concrete cases to me, which seem to show that pretrial detention continues to be abused by Russian law-enforcement bodies. I need not go into any detail on some cases, which have already been the subject of separate reports of the Assembly and/or judgments of the European Court of Human Rights:
52 Vladimir Gusinskiy was effectively “persuaded” whilst in pretrial detention to sell his news channel NTV to Gazprom. NTV had been instrumental in stopping the first Chechen war by its realistic coverage of the horrors of war. Gazprom promptly turned NTV into a sports channel.Note
53 Mikhail Khodorkovskiy spent years in pretrial detention, during which time his company, Yukos Oil, was dismantled and most of its assets were taken over by State-owned Rosneft – after Mr Khodorkovskiy and Yukos became a threat to the powers that be by funding opposition groups and threatening Gazprom’s pipeline-based domination of the gas market by engaging in liquefied natural gas (LNG) co-operation projects with foreign partners. The European Court of Human Rights found numerous violations of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case brought by Mr Khodorkovskiy, but stopped short of finding a political motivation for the arrest and detention; another case concerning the second trial of Mr Khodorkovskiy is still pending before the Court.Note
54 Sergei Magnitsky was detained and ill-treated in pretrial detention in order to make him change his testimony against corrupt officials and accuse his client, William Browder, instead. When he refused, he was denied vital medical care and died in suspicious circumstances whilst still in detention. The case has been described only recently in a special report by our colleague Andreas Gross. It has led the Assembly to recommend targeted sanctions against the officials involved.Note
55 The “Bolotnaya case” following the “March of the Millions” towards Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on 6 May 2012, the day before President Putin’s controversial return to power, involves a large number of long-term pretrial detentions whose justification seems to be particularly doubtful.Note The arrests appear to be aimed at intimidating opposition activists and deterring any future mass protests. Reportedly, over 200 investigators have worked on this case. Twenty-seven peaceful protesters, some of whom were trying to protect themselves or others from police violence, were – so it would seem – arrested more or less at random and placed in pretrial detention, some of them for almost two years. The proceedings against them have been described as a “hideous injustice” and a “show trial”.Note
56 In addition to these high-profile examples, lawyers and NGOs brought some less well-known cases of abuse of pretrial detention to my attention.
57 Mr Sergey Mokhnatkin, a well-known human rights activist, had defended Mr Sergey Krivov in the above-mentioned “Bolotnaya case”, who had been placed in pretrial detention (like many other participants in the peaceful mass protest on Bolotnaya Square) for many months despite his critical state of health. On 31 December 2013, Mr Mokhnatin was arrested himself during a protest meeting (“Strategy 31”), after he called on the police to refrain from using excessive force. He ended up being beaten by the police (photos of the beatings are publicly available), but instead of the police officers who had beaten him, he himself was charged with a criminal offence and placed in pretrial detention until he was transferred to the Serbsky State Scientific Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry (Moscow). He was continuously kept in Serbsky, even beyond the time of detention ordered by the court and was only released from the psychiatric institution on 8 October 2014, after he filed an urgent complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. In November 2014, he was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.Note
58 Mr Gleb Fetisov, a billionaire former member of the Russian Federation Council (Senate) and leader of the Green Party was arrested in February 2014 on embezzlement charges qualified as “politically motivated” by his supporters. His pretrial detention was last extended until August 2015. According to his lawyer, during the last court hearing on the extension of the detention, even the prosecutor stated that another measure of restraint could be sufficient, but the court decided otherwise. Mr Fetisov also complains about the harsh detention conditions to which he is exposed despite his health problems.Note
59 In its 2014/2015 report on the State of Human Rights 2014/2015,Note Amnesty International noted that repeated instances of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees at the prison colony and pretrial detention centre IK-5 in the Sverdlovsk Region were reported by a Russian public monitoring body. But even photographic evidence of torture injuries allegedly sustained by a pretrial detainee (Mr E.G.) gave rise to a dismissive response of the Prosecutor’s Office – it concluded on the basis of questioning the staff of IK-5 and the paperwork held by the prison administration that the injuries had predated his transfer to the detention centre.

4.2 Turkey

60 In 2013, Turkey’s general prison population rate stood at 180 per 100 000 inhabitants,Note which was roughly half that of Russia. But the trend has long gone in the opposite direction: the Turkish prison population increased by 78.9% between 2004 and 2013.Note The same is unfortunately true for the number of pretrial detainees, which increased from 44 per 100 000 inhabitants in 2000 to 77 in 2010 (+ 75%). This strongly negative trend had somewhat tempered by 2013, when the pretrial detention rate decreased to 64, which still exceeds the 2000 figure by 45%. Other worrying numbers include the average length of pretrial detention, which stood at 16.6 months in 2013,Note and the fact that in the same year, around 40% of all prison inmates were pretrial/remand detaineesNote (23% of all prison inmates had not even been convicted at first instance yet),Note which means that they were presumed innocent.
61 My official interlocutors in Ankara were generally aware of these numbers and of their significance. They stressed the positive trend which has established itself in recent years, in particular regarding the proportion of persons not yet convicted among the total prison population, which came down from close to 50% in 2006 to 23% in 2012Note and 13.5% in 2014. According to these statistics, Turkey would rank among the countries with the lowest proportion of pretrial detainees among all member States of the Council of Europe, ahead of Spain (14.1%) and Germany (16.7%), for example.Note
62 Officials in Ankara also pointed out the legislative reforms already adopted or in the process of adoption, which are expected to generate further progress. These are part of an “Action Plan” for the execution of the “Demirel group” of 176 judgments of the European Court of Human Rights finding violations of the Convention linked to pretrial detention.Note In these judgments, the Court found violations of the right to liberty and security (Article 5 of the Convention) due to, among others, the lack of relevant and sufficient grounds in the decisions about detention, failure to use alternative measures, excessive length of pretrial detention and the lack of effective remedies. The general measures included in the Action Plan include improvements for the protection of juveniles, legislative clarifications of the grounds for pretrial detention, and a reduction of the maximum period of pretrial detention from 10 years to 5 years. As the statistics show, these measures have had some success. This has also been recognised by the Committee of Ministers, which “welcomed the recent efforts made by the Turkish authorities, in particular within the context of the ‘Third and Fourth Reform Packages’, with the aim of aligning Turkish legislation and practice with Convention requirements; [and] noted with satisfaction the statistical information demonstrating that there is a significant decrease in the length of detention on remand and that the use of preventive measures as an alternative to detention has been increasing”.Note
63 After the entry into force of a relevant reform in 2012, the number of people to whom alternative judicial control measures were applied increased by 95% from the first to the second semester of 2012, according to statistics I was given in Ankara. But this number remains small in comparison with the number of detentions ordered.
64 I was also told by officials in Ankara that a new reform law was in the pipeline for adoption by parliament, which would require “actual evidence” for pretrial detention to be ordered. Admittedly, I was surprised that this was not already the case before. At a meeting with defence lawyers and academics, I was told that evidence is routinely fabricated by the authorities. I was given the example of a journalist on whose computer an (unprotected) email was found in which she purportedly made arrangements for planting a bomb. But in the recent report by Pieter Omtzigt on “Mass surveillance”,Note we have seen how easily computers can be “hijacked” and compromising material planted. When I raised the issue of the possible manipulation of digital evidence at the Prosecutor General’s office, I was informed that Turkey has a public authority which checks relevant complaints independently.
65 Another recent reform – the introduction, in 2014, of the so-called Criminal Courts of Peace – has been criticised for having adverse effects on pretrial detention. These new courts, allegedly staffed by judges hand-picked for their proximity to the party in power, have been accused of being instruments to enforce the government's wishes by authorising arrests of dissenting journalists, activists and even police officers. Reportedly, recent operations against police officers and journalists have indeed been carried out with the participation of the Criminal Courts of Peace. Critics enjoying a great deal of credibility, such as the former President of the Turkish Constitutional Court, Haşim Kılıç, have expressed fears for the independence of the judiciary in view of the pressure under which judges have come.Note
66 A number of recent cases have worried me; for example those of young activists, including two 16 and 17 year-old high school students in Konya, and several others in different parts of Turkey, who were placed in pretrial detention for “insult to the President”.Note Putting young activists in pretrial detention for several weeks for slogans chanted at protest meetings or letting off steam in social media effectively amounts to summary punishment, to set examples intended to intimidate others. This is not what pretrial detention is for.
67 Another set of cases that give rise to concern are those linked to the Gezi Park protests in the summer of 2013. On 1 August 2013, in Ankara, 35 persons accused of having organised the protests were arrested and placed in pretrial detention, six of whom remained in detention past the end of the month. They were accused of serious offences, including membership of an illegal organisation and attempting to overthrow the government by force. At the end of August, the proceedings were declared secret so that defence lawyers did not have access to the file. Similar crackdowns took place in Istanbul, Izmir, and Antakya. In Istanbul, police detained 48 members of “Taksim Solidarity”,Note including Ali Çerkezoğlu, General Secretary of the Istanbul Medical Association, and Mücella Yapıcı, General Secretary of the Chamber of Architects and Engineers. I should like to stress that requests to place Ali Çerkezoğlu, Mücella Yapıcı and 10 others in pretrial detention were rejected by the court.Note The final outcomes of the prosecutions have been varied, some courts having pronounced acquittals as the protesters have merely used their right to freedom of expression, whilst others have convicted protesters on the basis of highly controversial evidence.Note
68 The most worrisome development is also the most recent, namely the dismissal, on 12 May 2015 by the High Judicial Council (HSYK), of judges and prosecutors who had taken part in a corruption probe in December 2013, which involved persons close to members of the government. This decision comes shortly after the suspension by the HSYK and arrest of two judges who had refused the prolongation of pretrial detention against a journalist and a number of police officers who had respectively reported on and participated in anti-corruption investigations. Reportedly, numerous members of the legal profession as well as a former Justice Minister strongly criticised these decisions, which were seen as punishing judges and prosecutors for their judicial decisions and as the result of political influence on the HSYK.Note When judges risk losing their jobs for refusing pretrial detention, this sends a chilling message to all of their colleagues who strive to implement European standards in this field.

4.3 Georgia

69 My third and final fact-finding visit took me to Georgia, where I met with key parliamentarians representing the parties in government and in opposition, the Minister of Justice, the Chief Prosecutor, the Ombudsperson, as well as representatives of relevant local NGOs (including the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and the Georgian chapter of Transparency International), and last but not least a number of lawyers representing pretrial detainees. I also visited three high-profile detainees in prison, namely Mr Ivane Merabishvili, former Prime Minister, Mr Giorgi Ugulava, former mayor of Tbilisi, and Mr Bachana Akhalaia, former Minister of Defence, former Minister of the Interior and former head of the Penitentiary Department of the Ministry of Justice.
70 Georgia had an extremely high imprisonment rate (including pretrial detention rate) under the government headed by the United National Movement (UNM) until the elections in October 2012.Note In 2014, the pretrial detention rate in Georgia stood at 40 per 100 000 inhabitants, after 28 in 2013, but 61 in 2010 and even 117 in 2005.Note My interlocutors from the UNM argued that the high detention rate was the unavoidable consequence of the much-needed crackdown on crime, including organised crime. They recognised that this policy had unwanted side effects such as prison overcrowding and harsh detention conditions. They had planned to scale down their “zero tolerance” policy in due course, after it had produced the desired effect of making Georgia safer from crime.
71 The representatives of the authorities led by the “Georgian Dream” coalition criticised their predecessors very strongly and pointed to the marked improvement of detention statistics since the change of power after the elections in October 2012. They explained that the new upward trend for detentions observed in 2014 could be explained by the fact that after the 2012 amnesty law, a number of released prisoners re-offended, in particular in drug-related crimes, which exposed them to pretrial detention on the ground of prevention of new crimes. Most importantly, the courts had become far more ready to turn down requests by the prosecution to order pretrial detention. According to the Georgian authorities, courts granted 99.5% of prosecutors’ requests for pretrial detention in 2010 and even 99.9% in 2011. This figure went down to 78.6% in 2013 and 66.5% in 2014. I tend to agree with the assessment by the Justice Minister and the representatives of the High Council of Judges that this shows that courts have taken a more independent attitude vis-à-vis the prosecutors’ requests. The figures reflect clear progress in tackling the problem of the over-use of pretrial detention in general, and my conversations with relevant actors have given me the impression that they are generally aware that further reductions in the number and duration of pretrial detention are desirable.Note
72 At the same time, an astonishing number of individual examples of selective and presumably abusive use of pretrial detention against political opponents show that the new authorities appear not to have resisted the temptation to make use of existing law-enforcement mechanisms to harass and weaken the opposition. As a matter of fact, a large number of former officials are either in pretrial detention or wanted for arrest, beginning with former President Mikheil Saakashvili, former Prime Minister Ivane Merabishvili, former Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili, Former Mayor of Tbilisi and UNM election campaign manager Giorgi Ugulava, former Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili, former Health, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zurab Tchiaberashvili, former Defense and Interior Minister Bachana Akhalaia, as well as his brother David Akhalaia, former head of the Interior Ministry’s Constitutional Department. In April 2015, I received a list of 24 former senior officials who have been prosecuted by the new authorities.
73 During my visit in Tbilisi, I was struck by the deep divisions between the supporters of the current government and their predecessors. At the chief prosecutor’s office, I was shown shocking video footage of instances of ill-treatment in prison allegedly taken by whistle-blowers and of killings during special police operations, for which I was told leading representatives of the previous authorities, including Mr Bachana Akhalaia (former Minister of Defense, Minister of Internal Affairs and former head of the penitentiary department in the Ministry of Justice), were directly responsible. When I raised these videos with the UNM representatives, I was told that the video on ill-treatment in prison, which had been aired on television and was now even shown to schoolchildren, had indeed strongly influenced the election against the UNM. The video had been made public many months after it was filmed, at the height of the election campaign. In their view, whilst ill-treatment of prisoners certainly existed, in particular as a consequence of the temporary overcrowding problem, it had never been government policy. The timing of the publication of the video (whose authenticity is not in doubt) and the fact that the guards who were shown torturing prisoners got off with very mild sentences after the change of power pointed, so it is suggested, to the scandalous incident being “orchestrated” by Georgian Dream supporters. As regards the killings during a special operation, these were the result of a shoot-out with violent organised criminals. The belated arrests, nine years after the operation in question, of senior police officers, including Mr Irakli Pirtskhalava (whom I met in the pretrial detention centre), were, in the opinion of the accused, a political pay-off ordered by Georgian Dream “puppet master” Ivanishvili, as a payback vis-à-vis a senior organised crime figure who had helped in collecting the signatures Mr Ivanishvili needed to obtain Georgian citizenship and whose son had been killed in a police operation. The senior crime figure was himself killed in an explosion at his son’s graveside.Note
74 I made it clear to both sides that it is not part of my mandate to take position, one way or another, on the guilt or innocence of the detainees I met, or of any others. It is even less my role to come to the defence of my political colleagues of the UNM – which Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani explicitly accused me of at the outset of our meeting in her ministry. My role is merely to collect information and comment on the way pretrial detention is applied, in the States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights in general and in the three countries selected for my visits on the basis of objective criteria, in particular, on the basis of the standards set in the European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights.
75 In this respect, I was indeed confronted with some worrisome facts, including the participation of senior representatives of the current authorities in a bitter public campaign against their predecessors, which preceded their arrests and appears to violate the presumption of innocence. The Minister of Justice, in particular, publicly declared the destruction of the UNM as her aim,Note and she and other leading figures of Georgian Dream called prominent opponents “criminals and guilty”,Note even “monsters”, before they were detained, let alone convicted. UNM representatives pointed out a recurrent pattern, which consisted in former officials being first subjected to public accusations of despicable human rights violations, followed by highly-publicised arrests, lengthy pretrial detentions, and finally far less publicised acquittals or convictions for different, less serious offensesNote – in the hope that some dirt would stick to the persons concerned, and rub off on the UNM as a whole. I was also given specific examples of pressure on judges who refused to order pretrial detention, and of forum shopping techniques designed to ensure that requests for pretrial detention against former officials are decided by judges considered as favourably disposed by the prosecution.
76 I do not assert that all the former UNM leaders are innocent, and I certainly do not favour impunity for politicians who commit crimes whilst in office. But I find it hard to imagine that practically the whole of the former Georgian Government are criminals. In fact, for some of the above-mentioned persons, extradition requests were denied by judicial authorities in Ukraine (Mr Saakashvili), France (Mr Kezerashvili) and Greece (Mr Davit Akhalaia), because they considered the extradition requests as politically motivated.
77 During my visits to MM. Ugulava, Merabishvili and B. Akhalaia in their places of detention, I also noted that they had been kept in pretrial detention for an unusually long time. In particular, the detention of Mr Ugulava was prolonged beyond the legal nine-month time limit just after my visit to Tbilisi. Georgian NGOs had pointed out that the legal time limit was frequently circumvented in “political” cases by the prosecutors’ practice of “serial accusations” consisting in launching one case after the other against the same people, each time starting a new nine-month term. I also noted that the three men were kept in an unusual state of isolation, including from their families. Mr Ugulava complained that the authorities refused to allow him to meet with his wife and children (between 5 and 13 years old) because of the “interests of the investigation”. The first phone call with his family was allowed only in January, after six and a half months in prison, despite the fact that the law allowed him three 15-minute calls per month. Mr Akhalaia had spent two years in pretrial detention. He was not allowed any family visits or phone calls for the entire duration of pretrial detention, and was not even allowed to see his new daughter born shortly after his arrest. When I raised these issues with the Chief Prosecutor, he could not remember having turned down any requests for family visits by these persons but promised to examine the files. But the information I received from the authorities after my visit is incomplete and inconclusive.Note
78 The “Trial Monitoring Report Georgia” of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR), released on 9 December 2014,Note also makes numerous critical remarks concerning the trials of senior opposition figures it has monitored, including violations of the presumption of innocence and doubts on the impartiality and independence of the prosecutor’s office,Note and failure to comply with international standards concerning the imposition and prolongation of pretrial detention as a measure of restraint.Note
79 In the circumstances, I could not help getting the impression that detentions of senior officials of the previous government are part of a bitter campaign by the current authorities against their predecessors. The demonisation of political competitors, which I have observed on both sides of the political playing field in Georgia, is not healthy for a democracy. Nor is the pervasive politicisation of the judiciary healthy for the rule of law. The politicisation clearly did not start with the change of power in 2012, but it was also not discontinued by the new authorities. The power to detain suspected criminals must never be used, or appear to be used, to settle political scores.NoteNote

5 Conclusion

80 As we have seen, abusive use of pretrial detention – it is applied too often, for too long, and above all, for the wrong reasons – is still prevalent in numerous States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights. Statistics show that overuse of pretrial detention is not only a problem for the so-called new democracies, but also for some States that have well-established judicial systems based on the rule of law. The fight against the abuse of pretrial detention therefore concerns, in principle, all States Parties to the Convention. The draft resolution and recommendation preceding this report therefore include a number of findings and recommendations addressed to all our member States. These are designed to point out ways and means of improving practices everywhere, by learning from successful examples, such as Poland, in order to bring down the number and duration of pretrial detention in the interest of the detainees and of society as a whole.
81 In addition to the issue of overuse of pretrial detention, which concerns most, if not all States Parties to the Convention, I have also come across instances of the abuse of pretrial detention for purposes other than the administration of criminal justice: detention used to put pressure on detainees in order to coerce them into confessing to a crime or otherwise co-operating with the prosecution, including by testifying against a third person; to discredit or otherwise neutralise political competitors; to promote other political, including foreign policy-related objectives; to put pressure on detainees in order to compel them to sell their businesses or in order to extort bribes from them; or to intimidate civil society and silence critical voices.
82 I came across such cases in the three countries I visited (Russia, Turkey and Georgia), but I do not exclude that they occur also elsewhere, for example in Azerbaijan, whose weak, politically influenced judicial system I have come to know as co-rapporteur on this country for the Monitoring Committee.Note The main cause for such cases happening is the persistent lack of independence of the judiciary in these countries.
83 As long as the powers that be refuse to “let go of the judiciary” by fostering a true culture of independence, because they want to keep the possibility of prosecuting and jailing political opponents at will, it will not be possible to avoid the politically unwanted fall-out of abuses by predatory officials either. The judiciary can only be independent or not independent. And if it is not independent, even politically undesirable street-level abuses of pretrial detention for “non-political” motives cannot be excluded. Those in power must choose. My impression today is that in Russia, the choice for true independence of the judiciary has not yet been made, to the detriment of the legal security of ordinary citizens and of the development of a sound economic fabric of small and medium-sized enterprises. This is unfortunately also true for Azerbaijan. Turkey and Georgia, in turn, had progressed a long way towards rendering the judiciary truly independent, but the current authorities appear to be tempted to backtrack, as shown by the recent instances of pressure on judges mentioned in the respective country chapters.

Appendix – Dissenting opinion by Ms Eka Beselia (Georgia, SOC),Note member of the committee

I do not agree with the words in brackets in paragraph 7.2 of the draft resolution. Reference to a single political party is not relevant in this case because pretrial detention is used not because they are affiliated to some political party but because we are bound by Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Pretrial detention should be used only as an absolutely necessary last measure in the specific criminal cases on most of which there are final court judgments already. In some cases involving the UNM members no pretrial detention measure was used (for example in the case of Mr Chiaberashvili). Moreover, in most of the criminal cases the court used pretrial detention measure only after a person did not appear before the investigation body or absconded from justice.

I also cannot agree with paragraph 11.4 of the draft resolution because the rapporteur does not mention any single fact in the explanatory memorandum to prove the statement. I would agree with the formulation if it referred to the period before the change of government in October 2012.

Paragraph 11.5 states that the Prosecution somehow manipulates pretrial detention periods. This is absolutely wrong because only the courts take decisions on restraint measures in Georgia. According to the statistics, the level of independence of courts in Georgia has significantly increased since 2012 where use of pretrial detentions has shrunk by 34%.

Sub-paragraph 12.2.2 should be corrected because such a demand goes beyond the authority of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and belongs to the exceptional competence of national courts and the European Court of Human Rights. As the meaning of sub-paragraph 12.2.1 is really vague and general, I would rather suggest merging these two sub-paragraphs with the following wording: “the Assembly urges the States to consult Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights and abide by the standards of the Convention when using pretrial detention.”

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