Lawmakers have launched discussion of draft amendments to the law on public defender, which has been described by the ruling party MPs as a step towards increasing the human rights ombudsman’s powers.
The ruling party-proposed amendments obliges the government to provide the Public Defender’s Office with enough funding to secure its “proper function” and its funding for following year should not be less than in previous year.
2010 state budget allocates GEL 1.5 million for the Public Defender’s Office; the funding stood at GEL 2 million in 2009 and at GEL 2.3 million in 2008.
In other amendments, according to the draft, Public Defender will have to present the Parliament human rights report once in a year – in every March, instead of current practice of making reports twice in a year. This proposal has been criticized by lawmakers from the parliamentary minority.
The draft, if approved, will give ombudsman the right to address law enforcement agencies with a non-binding recommendation calling on them to launch an investigation into a case or criminal proceedings against an alleged perpetrator if ombudsman deems there are grounds for such actions. The law enforcement agencies will have ten days to give a response to the Public Defender’s recommendation.
In case of rejecting Public Defender’s recommendation, the state agency or an official should provide a written justification of such a decision within 15 days.
The Public Defender and his envoys will have the right to obtain information, documentation and “explanations” from the state agencies immediately upon their verbal request and within 10 days, instead of current 15, in case of written request.
According to the amendment, Public Defender will have no right to reveal information about torture, if Public Defender has no “clear-cut consent” from the victim.
Public Defender will have capacity to act as an amicus curiae in court cases.