The Tbilisi City Court on January 17 overturned the State Inspector’s decision that found the Special Penitentiary Service had violated Georgia’s data privacy law by releasing information and several controversial footages of jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili surrounding his hunger strike and forced transfer to the prison clinic.
The Court argued that the Penitentiary Service had released the materials containing Saakashvili’s personal data with a legitimate purpose, to ensure the protection of state and public safety.
In a similar ruling, the Court on January 11 also overturned the State Inspector’s decision against the Justice Ministry, for airing some of the same footages.
The Court rulings come after the Georgian Dream lawmakers on December 30 hastily pushed through legislation to dissolve the State Inspector’s Service starting March and establish separate bodies for probing abuse of power by law enforcement and protection of personal data.
The State Inspector’s Service had found the Justice Ministry and the Special Penitentiary Service of having released the footage in violation of the law earlier in December. It had fined the Ministry GEL 500 (USD 162) and the Penitentiary GEL 2,000 (USD 650).
The said footages included videos showing desperate Saakashvili refusing to be transferred from the Rustavi prison to Gldani prison clinic, and penitentiary employees dragging the ex-President into the hospital by force.
The State Inspector had also ordered the Ministry and the Penitentiary to remove the said footages and information from their webpages and social media accounts, a demand they ignored.
The Ministry and its Penitentiary Service lodged the appeals against the State Inspector’s ruling at the Tbilisi City Court on December 17.
State Inspector’s Service responds
The State Inspector’s Service stated the Court’s ruling to overturn the decisions creates a “dangerous precedent and a standard with regard to protecting rights of the individuals placed in penitentiary establishments as well as in terms of protecting data in public sector.”
It also stressed that the State Inspector’s decision had been substantiated and in accordance with “best international practice and standards” as well as domestic regulations.
The Service expressed hope it will receive reasoned decisions from the Court in both cases in an expedited timeframe so that it is able to appeal the decision before the dissolution of the agency.
- New Footage Shows Desperate Saakashvili Refusing Prison Clinic Transfer
- Public Defender Slams Penitentiary Publishing Inmate Saakashvili’s Footage