Georgia

Georgia: Public Defender Delivers Human Rights Report

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New public defender Giorgi Tugushi delivered his first biannual human rights report to the Parliament on December 18 with the ruling majority reacting with mild criticism of the document in contrast to reports delivered by ex-ombudsman Sozar Subari.

"If Public Defender is not politically motivated then we have to listen to his criticism and that's natural from the Public Defender to criticize the authorities," MP Giorgi Gabashvili of the ruling party said during the debates in the Parliament.

"It, however, of course does not mean that we are happy with everything that is written in this report," he added.

Subari, who now is with the opposition Alliance for Georgia and is a running mate of Irakli Alasania eyeing for the Tbilisi City Council's chairmanship (Alasania is running for mayoral office) was a frequent target of the ruling party's criticism. Subari and his biannual human rights reports to the Parliament were slammed by the ruling majority as "being politicized".

MP Gabashvili said that he hoped the new Public Defender would not be guided in his activities with the goal to gain popularity - something, which he said was the case with the previous Public Defender.

"Just see where Sozar Subari is now [referring to his membership into Alliance for Georgia] and it will become clear why he was so politically motivated while being the Public Defender," MP Petre Tsiskarishvili, the leader of parliamentary majority, said during the debates.

MP Davit Darchiashvili of the ruling party said that there was a clear difference between the recent report and the reports presented by Subari. He said in the recent document complaints filed by citizens to Public Defender's Office (PDO) were not presented as "as facts" and "unlike the previous reports, in this recent one separate cases of human rights violations are not generalized for claiming that there are undemocratic trends in the country."

But the ruling party will likely continue the previous practice of reacting on the ombudsman's report, involving passing resolutions saying that the Parliament "takes a note" of the report. The parliamentary minority was calling on the ruling party to instead pass a resolution calling on the government ministries and other state agencies to follow the recommendations laid out in the report.

"Otherwise passing a resolution only saying that we 'take a note' of the report amounts to ignoring the report," MP Giorgi Akhvlediani of the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), the leading party in parliamentary minority, said.

The Parliament failed to pass any resolution following more than three-hour long hearings late on December 18 as there were not enough lawmakers in the chamber required for taking decision.

Before moving to questions and answers, Giorgi Tugushi delivered a brief summary of the 340-page report, which covers the first half of 2009. Drafting of the report started before expiration of ex-public defender Sozar Subari's term in office in mid-September and it was finalized under the supervision of his successor.

Tugushi spoke of cases of excessive use of force by the police, including against participants of protest rallies in spring. Adhering to the line of his predecessor, Tugushi also said that the use of rubber bullets and other type of projectiles by the police against the protesters outside the Tbilisi police headquarters on May 6 was at the time illegal.

He told the lawmakers that although as usually the prosecutor's office was formally launching investigation into reported cases of wrongdoings by the police, such cases were "unreasonably dragged out" and it was "a trend."

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