A group of thirteen civil society organizations, among them the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, the Georgian Young Lawyers Association and the Transparency International Georgia, released a joint statement on October 19, calling on the parliamentary majority to ensure the civil society participation in the process of selecting the new Public Defender.
The statement comes less than two months before the expiration of incumbent Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili’s tenure, whose five-year term is to expire on December 7. The Parliament has to elect the new Public Defender no earlier than 60 days before and no later than 30 days after the powers of the incumbent Public Defender expire.
According to Georgia’s legislation, a Public Defender may be nominated by a parliamentary faction or by a group of at least six lawmakers, who do not belong to any faction. Despite that, as the joint statement reads, “the civil society organizations had always participated in the discussions related to the election of the Public Defender of Georgia.”
“Therefore, we call on the Parliament of Georgia, and especially, on the parliamentary majority group, to ensure the involvement of human rights watchdogs, universities and civil society in the process of the Public Defender’s election,” the statement reads.
Representatives of the United National Movement, the European Georgia and the Georgian Dream commented on the issue.
“It would be the best solution to enable the civil society organizations to name their candidate for the Public Defender’s position,” said MP Salome Samadashvili of the United National Movement. “I think that any candidate named by the ruling team and then approved by the Parliament will fail to enjoy the same trust as it would be enjoyed by an independent candidate.”
MP Giorgi Tugushi of the European Georgia, who served as the Public Defender in 2009-2012, said: “It is very important that the person, who will be named and then elected on this position, has an in-depth knowledge about the state of human rights and generally understands the significance of the issue for Georgia and its future.”
Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze responded to the civil society appeal, saying that the consultations would take place. “We definitely welcome the involvement of civil society and we will guarantee it. As it concerns the election, as well as the nomination, it is the Parliament’s prerogative and everything will be done in compliance with the law.”
The Parliament has not yet launched official discussions on the candidates; however, according to media reports, the Georgian Dream mulls two nominees – the Prime Minister’s assistant in human rights and gender equality, Sopo Japaridze, and the Personal Data Protection Inspector Tamar Kaldani.
Civil society organizations are believed to have their picks as well. According to media reports, the civil society organizations are considering three nominees: Ana Natsvlishvili, head of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association; Vakhushti Menabde, constitutionalist; and Zviad Koridze, chairman of the Presidential Pardon Commission.
The Public Defender monitors the protection of human rights and freedoms on the territory of Georgia. The Public Defender of Georgia is elected by a majority vote for a term of five years.