At the ad hoc session of the Parliament of Georgia held on 30 July 2013, Ucha Nanuashvili, the Ombudsman of Georgia, presented to deputies the report of 2012 on the Situation of Human Rights and Freedoms in Georgia. Following the presentation, the Public Defender answered the questions of MPs.
Nanuashvili was asked a question by Zurab Abashidze, member of the Georgian Dream. He wondered about the situation of Vano Merabishvili and asked for explanations from the Ombudsman on why the former Prime Minister was not allowed to see his family members. Ucha Nanuashvili responded to the question as follows: “Our representatives have visited him [Vano Merabishvili] on various occasions and I can assure you that he has no problems... He wished to see his family members, but the existing legislation, precisely the one, adopted while the previous government was in power, forbids the visits of family members in the penitentiary establishments prior to termination of the investigation.”FactCheck
inquired whether or not the individuals in pre-trial detention are refused the right of seeing family members.
We contacted the Ombudsman and inquired to which law he was referring while making the abovementioned statement. Ucha Nanuashvili informed us that this issue was regulated by the Criminal Procedure Code. We examined the Criminal Procedure Code of Georgia, but found that it presents no regulations on visiting the defendants by family members.
The Article 17 of the Imprisonment Code, which was put into force on 1 October 2010, bans a complete isolation of a defendant (the status Vano Merabishvili was given) or a convicted prisoner. A defendant can be given a right to see family members based on a written request. In the same code, Transitional Article 123, which is in force until 1 January 2014, defines that a defendant is allowed to have no more than 4 short visits throughout a month, upon a permission from a prosecutor or an investigator.The fact that the law does not prevent the defendants from seeing the family members was confirmed by the Legal Aid Service
of Georgia. A letter from the Legal Aid Service states that no prohibition of that sort exists, although, when an individual is charged with imprisonment as a preventive measure and the investigation is in progress, permission for the visit of the defendant is issued by the prosecutor working on the case.
Conclusion As noted above, the law imposes no prohibition of visits to the defendant and therefore Ucha Nanuashvili’s statement is inaccurate. Although, it should be taken into consideration that the defendant can indeed be refused the right of seeing the family members based on the decision of the prosecutor or the investigator (provided the prosecution’s side finds a visit of the defendant to be harmful for the purposes of investigation). Considering this circumstance, we don’t rate the Ombudsman’s statement with our lowest rating - LIE. Instead, we conclude that the statement of Ucha Nanuashvili: “Vano Merabishvili wished to see his family members, but the existing legislation, precisely the one adopted while the previous government was in power, forbids the visits of family members in the penitentiary establishments prior to termination of the investigation,” is FALSE.