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At the plenary session of the Parliament of Georgia held on 2 April 2014, the representative of the Parliamentary Minority, Chiora Taktakishvili, stated:  “On 27 March, the European Commission issued concrete recommendations to the Georgian Government. About five of those recommendations relate to the abolition of politically motivated cases under the rule of law. The European Commission openly demands from the Georgian Government to exclude the persecution and incarceration of political opponents and the politically motivated exploitation of the Prosecutor’s Office.”

FactCheck

inquired about the accuracy of the MP’s statement and examined the report of the European Commission along with the recommendations elaborated within.

The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union and represents the interests of the EU as a whole. The Commission drafts European laws and presents them to the Parliament and the Council. It implements EU policy and administers EU funds and programmes. The Commission is comprised of 28 commissioners, each of them being a representative of an EU member state. The President of the Commission is elected by the 28 governments of the EU and approved by the European Parliament. Other commissioners are nominated by their national governments in agreement with the new President and then the 28 members as a single body are subject to a vote of approval by the European Parliament. The commissioners are appointed for a term of five years but they do not represent the governments of their countries; instead, each is responsible for a specific field of EU policy. The European Commission document, entitled Implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy in Georgia – Progress in 2013 and Recommendations for Action,

dated 27 March 2014, reports on the progress made in implementing the EU-Georgia European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) Action Plan between 1 January and 31 December 2013.

The report indicates (below we name only those recommendations and suggestions which are closely related to the statement of the MP): with a view to the sustained implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan in 2014, Georgia is invited to:

  • ensure that criminal prosecutions are conducted in a transparent and impartial manner, free of political motivation, in order to avoid any perception of politically motivated justice;
  • ensure that prosecution activities are performed according to the highest standards of independence, transparency and avoidance of political bias, including through effective oversight of the Prosecutor’s Office;
  • ensure that pre-trial detention is used only as an exceptional measure, in line with the law, in order to safeguard, inter alia, the principle of the presumption of innocence. Revise rules on administrative detention in compliance with fair trial norms; and
  • increase the accountability and democratic oversight of law enforcement agencies. Consider establishing a fully-fledged independent and effective complaints mechanism. Investigate abuses and implement structural reforms and effective monitoring of the prison system.

The European Commission’s document also discusses the steps to be undertaken to ensure the independence of the judicial system, the increased independence of the judiciary in relation to the Prosecutor’s Office and so forth. Nevertheless, despite the developments outlined above, the Commission notes that 35 former officials of the previous government have been charged with criminal offences at the time of writing. Accusations ranged from embezzlement to the abuse of power and torture. Fourteen are in pre-trial detention, 14 have been released on bail, one was released without restrictive measures, one has been pardoned by the President after conviction and five have left the country. Dozens of other former civil servants suspected of sympathising with the opposition UNM party have also been charged or convicted. In this context, the EU has voiced the need to ensure fair, transparent and evidence-based due process, free from political interference, as reads the document. The report also mentions the former Prime Minister and Secretary General of the opposition United National Movement, Vano Merabishvili, as follows: “The former Prime Minister and Secretary General of the opposition United National Movement was charged with criminal offences as well. On 20 February 2014, he was sentenced to five years in prison on two charges.” The document stresses that allegations of undue pressure placed upon Merabishvili by prosecutors need to be properly investigated.

Conclusion

Chiora Taktakishvili rightfully points to the recommendations of the European Commission related to the rule of law. The document does indeed include several recommendations concerning the exigency of fair, transparent and evidence-based due process, free from political interference.

The MP is not entirely accurate when stating that the European Commission openly demands from the Georgian Government to exclude the persecution and incarceration of political opponents and the politically motivated exploitation of the Prosecutor’s Office. However, the given recommendations emphasise the need for the Georgian Government to safeguard criminal prosecution from political interference and ensure the independence, transparency and political impartiality of the Prosecutor’s Office.

Consequently, we conclude that Chiora Taktakishvili’s statement, “On 27 March, the European Commission issued concrete recommendations to the Georgian Government. About five of those recommendations relate to the abolition of politically motivated cases under the rule of law. The European Commission openly demands from the Georgian Government to exclude the persecution and incarceration of political opponents and the politically motivated exploitation of the Prosecutor’s Office,” is MOSTLY TRUE.