The amendments adopted in May and July 1999 severely eroded the newly established rights of those under investigation to submit a complaint to the courts of general jurisdiction during criminal investigations. The repeal of reforms intended to protect those under criminal investigation is alarming given persistent reports of rampant physical abuse of detainees to secure confessions and other serious procedural irregularities during criminal investigations in Georgia.
Physical abuse is frequently followed by other types of violations of individual's rights that appear specifically intended, after the fact, to cover up that abuse, and so to preclude perpetrators from being brought to justice, as well as to prevent detainees from proving that confessions used against them at trial were coerced. Violations of procedural rights that appear intended to prevent complaints of abuse from becoming known to the public at large through the media, or from being substantiated before a court, include restricting or denying access to lawyers, or coercing detainees into accepting lawyers they have not freely chosen, who do not vigorously complain about mistreatment or otherwise vigorously represent their client's interests.
Meanwhile, delays in judicial consideration of complaints from those seeking forensic medical examinations are especially troubling. It is now extremely difficult for victims to substantiate that they were tortured in custody, and even when examination from a state authority is authorized, there is little confidence that its findings will be impartial. Delays preclude forensic medical doctors in many cases from establishing the nature and cause of injuries, and hinder detainees from substantiating their allegations that confessions later used against them in court by the procuracy were coerced.
The government currently appears unwilling to enact even simple measures-which require no additional budgetary expenditures-to curb abuses, such as insuring that a detainee's doctor may visit and treat the defendant in pre-trial detention. A presidential decree, which was reauthorized in October 1999, appears to preclude detainees from obtaining examinations by private independent doctors, even though the criminal procedure code allows the defense to obtain independent expert review and opinion of a wide range of other types of evidence.
The restrictions on access to the courts to review complaints severely hamper the individual's ability to substantiate that they have been a victim of torture. Any criminal justice system that severely impedes a victim's ability to substantiate a claim of torture in court has a built-in bias and is inherently unfair. Given this failure, it is unlikely that the judiciary can ever enjoy broad public trust. Corruption within the law enforcement bodies also undermines public confidence in the judiciary. Yet detainees and others under criminal investigation continue to be denied effectiveaccess to an impartial authority which can provide redress when the procuracy investigators or other law enforcement agencies misuse the substantial powers granted to them in the code. This leaves law enforcement agencies with wide scope to coerce bribes from individuals whom they hold for criminal investigation, while providing little or no recourse or effective legal remedy for such misconduct.