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Narco-Policy in Georgia is unfairly strict and inhuman

17.05.2018

 
Lana Giorgidze

Nongovernmental organization Human Rights Center analyzed the court judgments into drug-related criminal cases passed against female convicts and identified legislative miscarriages in them, as well as positive tendencies. 

The survey aims to assist all interested parties to identify miscarriages and problems, evaluate the measures taken by the state in reference to the drug-related crimes committed by women, learn universal and European standards, share experience of other countries and select the model and mechanism which will be the most relevant to the Georgian reality. 

The report presents the tendencies in the use of preventive measures, practice and gaps in the use of imprisonment term and bails, as well as alleged facts of ill-treatment and respond mechanisms to similar facts from the side of the state. The report pays attention to the practice of search and withdrawal of evidence; it evaluates effectiveness of the judiciary control over the legality of detention, and also presents miscarriages and tendencies identified during the court proceedings. Of course, the report reviews the tendencies observed during substantial discussion of the case.

All 32 studied judgments in the frame of the survey are guilty verdicts; in 87, 5% of them the parties reached plea-agreement. According to the survey author, in all these cases, the court hearings finished without substantial discussion.

The author of the survey Lazare Jibladze said the analysis of the studied judgments revealed another significant problem, namely procedural gaps with regard to the search of the accused person.

“In most cases, only police officers participate in the process of the accused person’s search. The search, as the most actual and painful investigative procedure, needs particular accuracy and accurate implementation of the law regulations. As the analysis of the practice showed, only police report, written notification of the police officer about operative information, is enough to verify the legality of the search, which cannot satisfy the standard of “well-grounded assumption” separately. Based on the survey files, in one of the cases, convicted women reported about the intimidation from the side of police officers. The evidence provided by the prosecutor to the court cannot exclude this fact as investigative activities were carried out by those police officers, who were blamed in the intimidation,” Lazare Jibladze told humanrights.ge.

Review of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights is also very important. “When discussing the cases related with the right to privacy, the ECtHR permanently pays attention to the fact whether search was used as ultimate, proportional and reasonable measure.”

In accordance to the survey of the HRC, the judgments of the judges are not equal. 
“One and the same judges, considering the plea agreement, imposed grave punishment over the person accused in the realization of less narcotic and imposed less grave punishment on the other accused for the realization of larger amount of narcotics. This problem shall be explained mostly with inconsecutiveness of prosecutors, as the grave punishments shall not be aim of the prosecutor and neither plea-agreement shall be subject of bargain. Just the opposite, it should be delivered in accordance to the law. Consequently, it would be logical if the state had equal approach to almost similar crimes. The problem is farther complicated with the absence of minimum amount of number of narcotic substances, that significantly widens discretion of the judge when delivering the judgment. It finally impacts the judgments and imposed judgments, which are often inadequate and inhuman,’ the survey of the HRC reads.

The studied cases show that investigation into drug-related crimes commence based on two main motives: based on passport control at the border and operative information.
In the laws of EU member states, treatment-rehabilitation is actively used against the people accused in the use, purchase-possession and realization of narcotic substances instead punishment measures, that may really impact the statistics of drug-related crimes as punishment is not pre-condition for recovery; number of drug-users is not reduced among former prisoners and the goals of the punishments are not achieved. UN also supports the approach of the EU member states, whose 1988 Convention on Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and the 1998 UN Declaration on the Guiding Principles of Drug Demand Reduction adopted at the special session of the UN General Assembly encourage to use the measures against offenders like treatment, informing, educational activities, rehabilitation and re-integration into society. 

“The drug-policy in Georgia is unfairly strict and inhuman. The Georgian judiciary practice echoes this policy, which is characterized with strict judgments considering the criminal policy against drug-related crimes,” the survey author told humanrights.ge.

In accordance to the survey, the analysis of the studied judgments revealed that alternative punishment measures are actively used with regard to female convicts, which is positively evaluated by the HRC representatives. They say imprisonment was used only in 12.5 % of the studied judgments but imprisonment and parallel alternative punishments together are observed in 55% of judgments. 

“Correction community labor, together with conditional early release from prison, was used only in one judgment. Mainly, in connection with the accused women, imprisonment, conditional sentences and bails are used as preventive measures,” the report reads.

The analysis of the verdicts passed against the women accused of drug-related crimes in the period from August 1, 2017 to February 1, 2018 showed that in relation with women, plea-agreements are the most frequently used punishment measures where court has the least role. 

The organization prepared recommendations based on the studied court judgments over the criminal cases where women are convicted for drug-related crimes. In accordance to the recommendations, the investigation process – search shall be carried out in accordance to the standards estimated by the European Convention on Human Rights and guideless; in respect to the right to fair trial, in order to defend rights of accused persons and to ensure transparency of law enforcement bodies, it is recommended to establish prosecution or judiciary supervision mechanism to check validity of the sources of operative information and the accuracy of the fact itself; it is necessary to liberalize drug-policy in general, which shall impact punishment measures in terms of proportionality and fairness; in due respect to equality principle it is necessary that the court established equal practice in relation with to similar drug-related crimes, and more. 

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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