“Georgia has made a good deal of progress in reducing pre-trial detention. Given the general improvement, I was surprised to learn that such a large number of senior representatives of the previous government, currently in opposition, have been kept in detention, some of them in deep isolation, despite the presumption of innocence,” said Pedro Agramunt (Spain, EPP/CD), rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on “abuse of pretrial detention in Council of Europe member states”, speaking at the end of a fact-finding visit to Tbilisi.
“In the circumstances, I could not help getting the impression that this is part of a bitter campaign by the current authorities against their predecessors,“ said Mr Agramunt. “The demonisation of political competitors, which seems to be mutual in Georgia, is not healthy for a democracy, and the power to detain suspected criminals must not be used, or appear to be used, to settle political scores.”
Mr Agramunt met with the Chairs of the Georgian Parliament’s Committees on Legal Affairs and on Human Rights, the leaders of the factions of the majority and minority parties, the Georgian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly, the Minister of Justice, the Chief Prosecutor, and the Prime Minister’s adviser on human rights.
He also visited four high-profile inmates in Tbilisi’s prison No. 9, namely former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili, former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, former Defence Minister Bacho Akhalaia, and the former deputy head of the Georgian Criminal Police, Irakli Pirtskhalava. He also met with lawyers of pre-trial detainees, the Public Defender, and with representatives of non-governmental organisations.
Mr Agramunt has already made visits to Moscow and Ankara to prepare his report, which is due to be discussed in the Assembly before the end of the year.