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08TBILISI402 2008-03-11 14:55:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi
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DE RUEHSI #0402/01 0711455
P 111455Z MAR 08
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 000402 




E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/11/2018

Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: Ambassador used his first official meeting
with Nick Gvaramia, Minister of Justice to underscore the
importance of rectifying problems identified previously to
permit Parliamentary elections to take place in a transparent
and positive environment. Ambassador stressed the need to
improve the tabulation process, the voter's list, and the
complaint procedures, while addressing claims of voter
intimidation. Shifting from the theme of elections to other
issues under the authority of the MOJ, Ambassador
acknowledged closing Tbilisi Pre-Trial Detention Facility
Number 5 was a good step in addressing the overcrowding
issue, but said we have serious remaining concerns about the
poor conditions and leadership of the penitentiary system.
Gvaramia assured Ambassador that he understood the concerns
over the operating of the National Forensics Lab and the need
to more actively cooperate with Ministry of Internal Affairs
(MOIA) in the effective use of this resource. End Summary.

Election Themes


2. (C) Tabulation Process: Ambassador noted that some of
the problems which arose in the January 5 presidential
election were due to a lack of properly trained
representatives familiar with the tabulation process. The
solution to making the tabulation more transparent and
accurate is not to cut back on the amount of information
included in the precincts' protocol forms, but to lay out the
form in a more logical manner to enable quicker
reconciliation. Comprehensive training should also be
provided to those filling out the protocols. Ambassador
stressed that protocols be processed and posted in the order
received in a timely manner, rather than waiting 8-10 hours
before publicly revealing the results.

3. (C) Voters List: Ambassador stressed the need to
improve the voters list and Gvaramia agreed that prior to the
upcoming Parliamentary elections the voter's list should be
systematically updated to address concerns about deceased
and absent voters who are still actively carried on the
voter's rolls. He acknowledged that part of the problem is a
lack of a cohesive policy in the villages with regard to the
issuance of death certificates and burial. If, for example,
in Tbilisi the issuance of a death certificate is a
prerequisite to getting permissions for burial, this process
doesn't exist in small villages where deaths aren't properly
recorded and consequently voter's rolls are not updated.
Officials at the Civil Registry Agency (CRA) are actively
working with gamgebelis (the heads of city councils) in the
provinces to remedy this and are cross-referencing other
government sources of information, such as pension fund data,
for use in updating the voter's list.

4. (C) Gvaramia said that he himself had noticed certain
irregularities in the CRA data, such as multiple persons
assigned to one address (in one instance, over 70 persons).
He said that doing away with Election Day (or same day)
registration would remedy part of the confusion, as some of
the aforementioned cases can be traced to those who
registered on the day of the election. He alluded to the
"hands of the opposition" being involved in these instances,
such as collusion between CRA workers and opposition
representatives, but gave no further information to
substantiate this claim. Ambassador said that the U.S. had
funded the updating of CRA data because it was so important
and critical to the future of Georgia.

5. (C) Intimidation: Ambassador reiterated the need to
address reports of intimidation in the regions by gamgebelis
to pressure voters. He said the Embassy had recently heard
one report of intimidation even before the Parliamentary
elections are in full swing. Gvaramia said gamgebelis tend to
value good turnout as a measure of their success as local
leadership. He agreed, however, that there is a line which
should not be crossed to pressure people into turning out or
voting for a particular party.

6. (C) Complaint Procedure: Ambassador stressed the need
for a responsive process which would address election day
complaints. Gvaramia said that 95% of the complaints filed
in the previous election were not completed in a procedurally
correct manner, including those filed by the Georgian Young
Lawyers Association (GYLA). Gvaramia said that in order to
appeal a complaint to the courts, it should have first been
filed with the District Electoral Commission (DEC) and GYLA
did not do this. He went on to say that having opposition
representatives in the DEC during the next elections should
tamp down criticism from groups filing complaints.

Prison Conditions


7. (C) Ambassador commended the MOJ on closing Tbilisi
Pre-Trial Detention Facility Number 5 which has long drawn
criticism for overcrowded conditions. Noting that the newest
version of the Human Rights Report would be released in
coming days, Ambassador stressed that we continued to have
concerns about the poor conditions in the prisons and the
leadership of the Penitentiary system. Ambassador encouraged
the MOJ to complete the investigation of the March 2006
prison riots and to release this report publicly. Gvaramia
said that actions were underway now to resurrect and
rejuvenate the Interagency Torture Council, which has not met
since the fall of 2007, by reaching out to NGOS and civil
society representatives. Gvaramia had hopes that the Public
Defender would be appointed as the office of primary
responsibility for overseeing the council's activities.

Judicial Reform


8. (C) Ambassador urged Gvaramia to do all he could to
support passage of the new Criminal Procedure Code (drafted
with U.S. technical assistance) before the end of this
Parliament's term. While Gvaramia agreed on the importance
of the CPC, he was skeptical that there was enough time left
to finish the work before elections. He nodded in agreement
on hearing the Ambassador's comments about the need to
improve higher legal education by getting the Ministry of
Education and the Ministry of Justice to work together on a
curriculum which would strengthen education by standardizing
accreditation standards.

Forensics Lab


9. (C) Ambassador restated the need for the MOJ and the MOIA
to work together in sorting out areas of responsibility
between the ministries in regard to the operation of the
National Forensics Laboratory. He underscored the importance
of both ministries' cooperation in the efficiency of the lab,
to which the U.S. has contributed significant funding since
2001 and which must be reported annually to Congress.
Gvaramia acknowledged the situation, saying he himself was
most anxious to address this with the MOIA as soon as