Public Defender, Giorgi Tugushi, delivered on July 16 to the Parliament a report on human rights record in Georgia covering second half of 2009.
Although in overall the lawmakers from the ruling party hailed the Public Defender for his work, they also said that they disagreed with some aspects of the report.
The leader of the parliamentary majority, MP Petre Tsiskarishvili, said that although the “the report includes some objective criticism, there also are subjective approaches.”
MP Tsiskarishvili stopped short of saying that some parts of the report were “politicized” – allegation frequently leveled in address of previous Public Defender, Sozar Subari – and said, that in some cases the report contained “wording, which might be used for political purposes.”
The Parliament is expected to take a resolution in response to the report on July 21. The Parliament is usually reacting on ombudsman’s report by passing resolutions saying that the Parliament “takes a note” of the report. The parliamentary minority, however, as usually calls on the ruling party to pass a resolution calling on the authorities to follow the recommendations laid out in the Public Defender’s report.
Tugushi told the lawmakers that the problem remained with cases of mistreatment of inmates and lack of investigation of such cases.
“I have appealed the chief prosecutor’s office to investigate these cases, but effectiveness of investigation is questionable, as not a single investigation of such cases produced any concrete results,” Tugushi said.
He also added that this trend continued this year too “and became even graver.”
The Public Defender also indicated that there were cases when inmates, who had bodily injuries, refused to speak with ombudsman’s representatives about the reasons of sustained injuries, fearing further persecution from the prison administration.
He said that overcrowded prison cells remained a problem. Tugushi said the reason was increasing number of inmates and lack of infrastructure, as well as the government’s criminal justice policy and current practice of consecutive sentencing of convicts.
On judiciary he said that problem remained with lack of proper justification of interim rulings and final verdicts by the judges.
The report itself reads that during the analyzing number of criminal cases heard in the courts, this problem has been revealed for multiple times “indicating that insufficient justification of decisions is a systematic problem.”
The Public Defender told lawmakers that there were cases of violation of rights of journalists, mainly in the provinces, involving verbal and physical insult and hampering of journalistic work by the officials.
Lawmakers from the parliamentary minority welcomed the report, but criticized the part of the document which deals with religious rights. In particular the parliamentary minority condemned the Public Defender for indicating in the report that the concordat between the state and the Georgian Orthodox Church grants privileges to this latter over other religious groups; the report emphasizes in this respect tax breaks, which the Georgian Orthodox Church enjoys in accordance to the concordat.
Tugushi told lawmakers that the report made focus on tax breaks and “the Public Defender has nothing against of the concordat itself.”
The practice of reporting on human rights situation to the Parliament twice in a year will change and according to the draft amendments to the law, which has already been passed with the first hearing, the Public Defender will deliver report once in a year.
Tugushi welcomed this amendment saying that preparing voluminous reports twice in a year is taking too much time and resources.
He, however, said that his office was instead launching the practice of preparing special reports. Tugushi said that he was currently working on two such reports one on situation in respect of internally displaced persons and another one on healthcare system in the penitentiary.