Ministry of Internal Affairs enacts important policy shift in the fight against domestic violence

Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Londa Toloraia, the head of the Human Rights Protection Department at the Ministry of Internal Affairs
Londa Toloraia, the head of the Human Rights Protection Department at the Ministry of Internal Affairs; Photo: The Ministry of Internal Affairs

In 2018, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia - in cooperation with UN Women and through the financial support of the Government of Sweden and the EU - made milestone changes regarding law enforcement’s response to domestic violence cases. Londa Toloraia, the head of the Human Rights Protection Department at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, recently spoke with UN Women about their joint initiatives and ongoing projects.

The new tool assessing risks of domestic violence was approved by the decree of the Minister of Internal Affairs and will enter into force in September 2018. What changes will stem from this initiative?

Prior to the enactment of this tool, police officers were required to determine the questions to ask a victim of domestic violence at the crime scene, and usually investigators had their own, non-standardized approaches to this process. Monitoring conducted by the Human Rights Protection Department revealed domestic violence cases in which police failed to pay attention to the details that were critical for adequate assessment of the associated risks. This risk assessment checklist changes the practice completely as police officers are provided with a set of clear questions to be filled out at the scene. This procedure will help each police officer identify threats and, therefore, minimize the risk of reoffence.

A monitoring mechanism was also approved along with the risk assessment tool. The mechanism determines the rules that should be applied by an investigator after the detection of risks, as well as the arrangements and intensity of control applied by an investigator towards a victim and perpetrator during the term of a restraining order. This will also be an important measure to prevent the reoccurrence of violence.

There are cases in which a victim refuses to testify against the perpetrator in court. We think that in such circumstances, the risk assessment checklist filled out at the scene and information given by the victim will deliver very valuable evidence.

UN Women provided us with technical support in the development of the risk `assessment tool at all stages, including its piloting and finalization. The risk assessment checklist was piloted and tested in 50 cases and now will be introduced throughout the country starting 1 September 2018.

The enforcement of the risk assessment tool will be followed by the introduction of GPS electronic monitoring bracelets for perpetrators. When do you anticipate completing this step?

This is one of the most important and innovative projects we will be implementing, also in cooperation with UN Women. The use of electronic bracelets will be complementary to the risk assessment tool: police officers will use the electronic bracelets as an alternative form of punishment for control purposes in high-risk cases and when the perpetrator is not imprisoned. This is an additional step forward in the prevention and elimination of reoffending.

Currently with the support of UN Women, we are working on legislative amendments and procurement of GPS electronic monitoring bracelets, and we think that it will be possible to introduce this tool by the end of 2018.

In parallel, the specialization of investigators continues. How would you assess this process?

The specialization of investigators in domestic violence in each structural unit is the top priority for our Department. A five-day training module was created with the support of UN Women including advanced legal knowledge and sensitization to the phenomenon of violence.

Currently more than 100 investigators have been trained. Only specialized investigators will work on domestic violence cases; as a result, the investigations will be of significantly higher quality.

It is important to note the newly adopted ministerial decree that stipulates the immediate dismissal of any police officer that has a restraining order issued against him or her. This means that the fight against domestic violence is harsher also within our own system. We are hopeful that these complex steps will result in positive changes.