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Georgia has violated applicant's right to a fair trial in a drug case

By Anastasia Sokhadze
Friday, May 8
According to GYLA, applicant Megrelishvili, was not allowed to invite the witnesses during the search and the national courts did not properly consider his argument regarding the drug use by the police.

According to the organisation, according to the factual circumstances of the case, on July 3rd, 2007 he was driving, during which the employees of the Special Operations Department (SOD) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs stopped him on the basis of operative information and conducted a personal search. SOD staff also searched the applicant's car. As a result, the drugs from his pocket and the back seat of the car were removed. On the same day, SOD officers searched the applicant's apartment and garage, from which they also seized drugs. According to GYLA, all four searches were carried out without urgency by a court decision and were only layer legally recognized by the court.

As GYLA explains, the complainant and his family members demanded that they be allowed to invite attendees to the search, however, SOD staff members refused to grant their wish.

“The complainant and his family members did not sign the search records, explaining that the drugs were planted by SOD employees. National courts found the complainant guilty and sentenced him to 12 years in prison,” reads the statement.

The applicant lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights on May 18th, 2009. In the present complaint, the applicant sought to establish a violation of Article 6 of the Convention. With this decision, the Strasbourg court upheld the applicant's appeal and ruled that Georgia had violated the right to a fair trial.

GYLA explains that the court’s decision was based on several arguments. The search was carried out on the basis of operative information, which was not attached to criminal justice. Accordingly, the domestic courts had failed to properly assess the validity of the information, including whether there was probable cause for a search or not, concerning the assumption that the applicant had drugs and whether there was a necessity to carry out an urgent search. Resolutions on the urgent need to conduct searches did not contain any justification to carry out a search without court approval. The refusal of SOD staff to invite attendees to the search was not substantiated; It is true that they indicated an urgent need, however, there was no specific reason designated.

As for the trials, according to GYLA, the European Court of Human Rights found it to be another violation that the City Court denied the illegality of their search, saying that it was already legally verified.

As for the testimony of SOD employees, according to GYLA, they were interested in the outcome of the accusation. Their interest was particularly evident in the applicant's arguments, which indicated that he had been drugged by SOD staff. Despite their apparent interest, the national courts automatically considered their testimony to be objective evidence, in contrast to the testimony of the applicant and his family members, which the court found to be unreliable and subjective.

Thus, the European Court noted that the rule of obtaining basic evidence against the applicant raises questions about their credibility. However, procedural violations during the search, inadequacy of judicial control, including Improper assessment of the applicant's arguments regarding the drugs made the trial completely unfair, which is why Article 6 of the European Convention was violated against the applicant.

In accordance to GYLA, there have been a number of high-profile cases in recent years that have raised suspicions among law enforcement officers about the illegal manufacture of weapons and drugs. Like Megrelishvili's case, GYLA has three additional cases before the European Court of Human Rights, which point to identical problems.

Accordingly, GYLA believes that it is clear that the existing justice system does not contain sufficient procedural guarantees to protect individuals from possible arbitrariness. According to GYLA, in the conditions when Megrelishvili's case points to the existing structural and systemic issues, it is important for Georgia to take appropriate individual or general measures to effectively implement the decision and eliminate the existing shortcomings in a timely manner.