Georgia is a sovereign nation in the Caucasus region between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. The country is divided into 9 regions, 1 city, and 2 autonomous republics (one which has been recognized as independent by the Georgian government, another which is operating under de facto independence). Georgia has a long but inconsistent history of occupation, including under the Persian and Ottoman Empires and the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, Georgia was briefly united under its first president until he was deposed in a coup later that year, igniting a civil war that lasted until 1995. The leaders of the coup maintained power until 2003 when they were ousted in turn. In 2008, Georgia and Russia engaged in armed conflict over the territory of the autonomous republics, and Georgia was defeated. The territory in question has declared its independence from Georgia, though Georgia considers it under Russian military occupation. Georgia is a member of the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, and the Community of Democratic Choice. As of 2012, it is seeking membership in NATO. Georgia accepts the jurisdiction of the ICC and the ICJ.
Type of System
Georgia is a democratic republic with a civil law foundation. The judiciary is separated into the Constitutional Court of Georgia (which determines the constitutionality of laws, international agreements, and normative acts by the President or Parliament and hears cases involving constitutional claims, disputes over elections, or disputes between state bodies) and courts of general jurisdiction (which oversee civil and criminal matters). The courts of general jurisdiction, or common courts, are broken down into three tiers: district/city courts, regional Appeals Courts, and the Supreme Court of Georgia.
Chapter Two of the Georgia Constitution proclaims the right to life, dignity, and equality. The Constitution also states that the government shall not deny the exercise of any universally recognized rights, even if they are not enumerated in the Constitution. Georgia’s Criminal Code identifies which activities are criminal and what punishments may be prescribed. The Criminal Procedure Code provides details on the rights and obligations of suspects, defendants, investigators, lawyers, judges, and other participants in the criminal justice system. Accused individuals are guaranteed the right to silence, the right to appointed counsel, the right not to plead guilty, and the right to communicate with family members.
Searches, seizures and arrests must be supported by a warrant or other legal grounds. Upon arrest, a person must be notified of the charges against them and their right to stay silent and consult a lawyer. They are also entitled to obtain a medical evaluation. The accused person must be arraigned within 48 hours of arrest. If the person has not been arraigned within 24 hours of this window, they must be released. After arraignment, the individual may be held in pretrial detention for up to 9 months. The police are obliged to ensure the safety of any person who is arrested and detained while in custody. Detained persons are entitled to unlimited access to a lawyer. Police are not permitted to carry out interrogations before a criminal case has been initiated by a judicial order. Only after an accused person has been arraigned may they be interrogated, and then only for a limited period.
All trials are based on the principles of fairness, equality, and human dignity. The Constitution states very explicitly that the defendant is entitled to have counsel appointed. The defendant is also entitled to become familiar with the evidence against them prior to trial. During the trial, the defendant has the right to participate in debates during court sessions and the right to have the last word. The defendant also has the right to summon and confront witnesses. The defendant is presumed innocent, and the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. Judges are charged with maintaining order, following procedural requirements, ensuring an unbiased examination of all relevant evidence, and safeguarding the equality of the parties. The trial takes place in Georgian, but if the defendant is not proficient, the court must provide a translator. The defendant has an automatic right to appeal a judgment from the court of first instance. Even if a conviction is affirmed on appeal, the Appeals Court is prohibited from imposing a harsher sentence than the lower court.
Conditions of confinement must conform with the standards of health and human dignity. Detainees are guaranteed living space, food, garments, a safe working environment, and access to telephone and mail communications. They are also entitled to receive vocational, educational and social training and to participate in religious and cultural activities. Detainees should receive a medical examination when they first arrive and once a year thereafter. If they should become sick, they are entitled to immediate medical care.
Torture is prohibited under the Georgia Constitution. It is a crime for police to force a suspect, witness, victim, or expert to give testimony using threats, abuse, violence or torture. Torture and ill treatment of convicted persons is also prohibited. Though punishments in prison may include manual labor, no punishment should be imposed for the purpose of humiliating a detainee or causing them suffering.
|English • español|