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Consultations are going on to improve pardon mechanism


Lana Giorgidze

From April 16, the Pardon Commission temporarily stopped consideration of the prisoners’ applications, who were convicted for domestic violence. President Giorgi Margvelashvili made the decision after the murder fact in Barnovi street, Tbilisi. Vepkhvia Bakradze, suspect in the murder of 25-years-old girl, was pardoned by the President several months ago. In the past, Bakradze was convicted for domestic violence.

The president told media that he is ready to start consultations with interested parties with regard to this case. He clarified the grounds based on which sentence of Vepkhvia Bakradze was half-reduced. He said even if he had not pardoned Bakradze, he would have been already free as his full imprisonment term was due to expire several months ago. 

“The society had absolutely legitimate questions… In August 2014 the convicted person beat his wife but was not imprisoned for that; only four and half months later, in December 2014, he was arrested for car-crash. Finally he was sentenced for both crimes. When he first petitioned the commission, it was rejected. In his second petition, the commission received several significant documents, among them were the notification from the penitentiary department, positive evaluation from psychologist, positive conclusion from the regime unit and medical notification, which did not state that he had nervous breakdown. Apart to that, the petition was enclosed with the confession statement from the applicant, stating that he was a father of four children. In addition to that, the petition was enclosed with the request letter from the family to free him and here we cannot provide you with additional details. Then the Commission addressed me, based on this information, with the request to pardon him. It was particular case when we considered all information and half-reduced his sentence,” President Giorgi Margvelashvili told media on April 16.

The chairperson of the Pardon Commission Zviad Koridze also made clarifications over Vepkhia Bakradze’s case and said that both psychologist and medical personnel of the penitentiary establishment positively characterized him.

“The pardon procedure [over his case] was first discussed in the frame of the July 2015 commission. At that time, the Pardon Commission issued negative conclusion. As for the October 2016 commission, it delivered positive recommendation, considering the documents which the commission received. President half-reduced prison term for Vepkhia Bakradze. He had one year and two months left before expiration of his term and had to leave prison on December 28, 2017. Based on the pardon decision, he left prison on May 25, 2017,” Zviad Koridze said.

According to the chairperson of the pardon commission, after this particular case, Bakradze petitioned the pardon commission for early release six times but he was refused each time.

“We heard the representative of the Ministry saying that they relied on the negative evaluations. Now we wonder, if the prisoner was negatively characterized for the past six months, why they sent us his positive testimonial eight months before and why did we receive similar conclusion from the Ministry of Corrections? Did they do it on purpose?” Zviad Koridze noted.

Head of the legal department of the Ministry of Corrections Aleksandre Darakhvelidze said the President’s pardon commission and the early-release commission of the Ministry received equal testimonials. 

“It is not correct to speak about negative or positive assessments because I cannot confirm that the penitentiary establishment was recommending either pardon or early-release over his case. The crime, which he had committed as well as other crimes, his conduct in the facility… yes it is true that he was not punished but was not supported either. Considering that, we concluded that it was not reasonable to early-release him,” Aleksandre Darakhvelidze said.

The MPs from the parliamentary majority blame the president in irresponsibility after his statements. MP Vano Zardiashvili said in any civilized state the president would resign after similar mistake. “We heard irresponsible statements, when he blamed others in everything except himself. We saw the member of the High Council of Justice nominated by the President, who tried to justify low-qualified and subjective pardon decisions of the president by slamming my wife. In any civilized state the President would resign after similar mistake,” Vano Zardiashvili said.

“I do not think that President’s pardon was right decision,” deputy minister of interior Natia Mezvrishvili reacted to the pardon case of Vepkhvia Bakradze. She said, the strict policy of the MIA will not be implemented in relation with particularly grave crimes unless all institutions, including the president, implement strict policy over similar crimes.

“In the past this person was charged for domestic violence. He had injured his wife, whose daughter he killed now. I do not think that the president’s pardon was right decision. In general, the MIA has quite strict approach to similar crimes. We cannot implement our policy and effectively defend public safety unless all institutions, including the President, implements strict policy towards grave and particularly grave crimes,” Natia Mezvrishvili told media.

Tamar Chugoshvili of the Parliamentary Majority stated that the President and his administration shall be more careful with violence crimes. “If he stops and suspends the process now, it will not save and revive concrete victim.”

On April 19, the Minister of Corrections Kakha Kakhishvili met the President Giorgi Margvelashvili and the Pardon Commission members. They discussed the issues related with the pardon mechanism and the work of the commission. Reportedly, joint working group of the Ministry and the President’s Administration will be set up, which will work on all technical details, which will improve communication between the institutions as well as the pardon process itself. It was noted that representative of the Ministry of Corrections will also join the Pardon Commission. 

The article was prepared in the frame of the project – “Trial Monitoring for Women”, which is implemented by Human Rights Center with the Bulgarian Development Aid. The views in the article does not necessarily express the views of the donor and it is responsible for the content of the article. 

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