The Government of Georgia endorsed at its session today an amendments bill setting up the Service of State Inspector, an independent investigative agency for crimes committed by law enforcement officers and public officials.
The new agency will be established in 2019, and will replace the Office of Personal Data Protection Inspector. As a result, along with its investigative functions, the new agency will be entitled to carry out oversight on personal data protection, as well as on covert investigative actions of law enforcement agencies – the two functions which now fall within the competence of the Personal Data Protection Inspector.
According to the bill, the State Inspector will investigate the following crimes:
- Crimes committed by law enforcement officers or public officials using torture and threatening with torture, as well as degrading or inhumane treatment;
- Crimes committed by law enforcement officers or public officials using abuse of power or exceeding authority through violence or use of firearms, or through violation of victim’s personal dignity;
- Crimes committed by law enforcement officers or public officials that have led to death and that were committed when a victim was in temporary detention or in prison.
Investigation into cases involving forced testimonies will also lie within the State Inspector’s competence.
The State Inspector, who should exhibit “high professional and moral reputation,” will be elected by Parliament for a term of five years, and will enjoy immunity and institutional independence. Investigators of the agency will be authorized to use physical force, firearms and special investigative measures.
Speaking at today’s Government session, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said the new agency would help increase the public’s trust in law enforcement agencies.
Georgian civil society organizations, which have been actively lobbying the creation of an independent investigative body, assessed the Government’s initiative positively, but criticized the regulations concerning the agency’s mandate and its structure.
The Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary, which unites around 40 non-governmental organizations, said in its February 14 statement that it was “difficult to understand what the new service will change” without being able to carry out criminal prosecution, with the Prosecutor’s Office “maintaining the right to make final decisions on all critical issues.”
The CSOs also consider that the agency should be able to investigate other crimes as well, including planting of drugs by law enforcement officers.
They also believe that investigative and personal data protection functions “are not compatible,” and that granting these two roles to one agency only “may endanger independence of the personal data protection mechanism, create conflict of interests within the agency. and decrease the public’s trust in the agency.” Instead, the organizations deem it reasonable “to create an investigative agency as a separate unit with flexible and small staff.”