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Public Defender Addresses State Inspector to study lawfulness of actions of Minister of Justice

By Nika Gamtsemlidze
Thursday, January 23
On January 22, 2020, the Public Defender addressed the State Inspector with a request to examine the lawfulness of public disclosure of video footage by the Minister of Justice at the sitting of the Parliamentís Committee on Human Rights and Civil Integration on January 21, 2020.

Two of the video recordings depicted certain episodes of the meeting at the penitentiary establishments between representatives of the Public Defender and the prisoners.

The faces of representatives of the Public Defender were not blurred out in the videos available to the public, and they can be easily identified.

According to the public defenderís report, it is noteworthy that the Organic Law of Georgia on the Public Defender of Georgia prohibits any kind of video-audio surveillance of a meeting between the Public Defender's representatives and prisoners by the Ministry of Justice.

In addition, the rules for the execution of visual and/or electronic surveillance and control, as well as for the retaining, deleting and destroying of recordings in the penitentiary establishments are set out in the Minister of Corrections ' Order No 35 signed on May 19, 2015. The order elaborates on the purpose and grounds for archiving video recordings, the procedure, and persons responsible for archiving the recordings and the term for their storage.

As the video footage depicting the meeting between one of the representatives of the Public Defender and an inmate shows no unlawful action and as the purpose of archiving the video is not clear either, the Public Defender considers that an unlawful act of the Ministry is easy to see in the process of archiving videos and retaining them for a long time. In addition, the disclosure of identifiable video footage of two representatives of the Public Defender violated the requirements of the Law of Georgia on Personal Data Protection.

Accordingly, the Public Defender calls on the State Inspectorís Office to examine the action of the Minister of Justice, to assess the legality of obtaining and publicizing the aforementioned video recordings and to apply the sanction mechanism at its disposal.

In addition to the above, according to the Public Defender, the State Inspector should examine the general practice of archiving video recordings at the Ministry of Justice and take legal measures in the event of detecting other illegal actions.

The Public Defender of Georgia, an ombudsman, is an institution that oversees the observance of human rights and freedoms in Georgia. It advises the government on human rights issues.