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Public Defender Addresses State Inspector to Study Lawfulness of Actions of Minister of Justice

On January 22, 2020, the Public Defender addressed the State Inspector with a request to examine the lawfulness of public disclosure of video footage by the Minister of Justice at the sitting of the Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights and Civil Integration on January 21, 2020.

Two of the video recordings depicted certain episodes of the meeting between the Public Defender’s representatives and prisoners at the penitentiary establishments. On the same day, the videos were posted on the Facebook page of the Ministry of Justice as well. The faces of the Public Defender’s representatives were not blurred out in the publicly available videos and they can be easily identified.

It is noteworthy that the Organic Law of Georgia on the Public Defender of Georgia prohibits any kind of video-audio surveillance of a meeting between the Public Defender's representatives and prisoners by the Ministry of Justice.

In addition, the rules for carrying out visual and/or electronic surveillance and control, as well as for retaining, deleting and destroying recordings in the penitentiary establishments are set out in Order No 35 of the Minister of Corrections signed on May 19, 2015. The order elaborates on the purpose and grounds for archiving video recordings, the procedure and persons responsible for archiving the recordings and the term for their storage.

As the video footage depicting the meeting between one of the representatives of the Public Defender and an inmate shows no unlawful action and as the purpose of archiving the video is not clear either, the Public Defender considers that an unlawfull action of the Ministry is easy to see in the process of archiving videos and retaining them for a long time. In addition, the disclosure of identifiable video footage of two representatives of the Public Defender violated the requirements of the Law of Georgia on Personal Data Protection.

Accordingly, the Public Defender calls on the State Inspector’s Office to examine the action of the Minister of Justice, to assess the legality of obtaining and publicizing the aforementioned video recordings and to apply the sanction mechanism at its disposal.

In addition to the above, according to the Public Defender, the State Inspector should examine the general practice of archiving video recordings at the Ministry of Justice and take legal measures in the event of detecting other illegal actions.

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