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Prospective Ombudsmen stake their claims

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Wednesday, July 29
As the term of office of Ombudsman Sozar Subari expires in the mid-September the political parties are nominating their candidates for this post.

Yesterday the ruling party presented its candidate, Giorgi Tugushi, a member of the Council of Europe’s Anti-Torture Committee, who has been characterised as professional and qualified by the majority members. National Movement MP Pavle Kublashvili has stated that Tugushi has great experience in the human rights field and is skilled in cooperating with international organisations on human rights-related matters and expressed his hope that the majority will support his candidacy.

“The Ombudsman should be impartial, independent and principled,” Tugushi stated yesterday in Parliament. He said that his main priority will be the treatment of prisoners as this is the main thrust of his present activity. Tugushi positively assessed Subari’s service over the last five years, saying that the Public Defender’s Office has done a lot in this period.

Tugushi has held various responsible positions. He worked as the national human rights officer for the OSCE Mission in Georgia in 2004 and as a legal expert for the UN Development Programme in Tbilisi for a few months in 2003.

Tugushi’s opponent will be opposition MP Dimitri Lortkipanidze. 41-year-old Lortkipanidze, a lawyer and qualified hydraulic engineer and father of seven children, was nominated by the Parliamentary minority. “We should not be looking for a fair judgment in Strasbourg, we should have a Georgian Strasbourg here in this country,” Lortkipanidze said, adding that the focus of his service, if appointed, would be illegal imprisonment. “I’m gathering information on illegally detained people. I don’t want to understand this as open involvement in court decisions, but on the other hand, the Public Defender is a person who has the right to ask even the Chief of the Supreme Court to review decisions the courts have made in such cases,” Lortkipanidze said.

The Christian Democrats support Lortkipanidze’s candidacy. They had initially asked Subari to present himself as a candidate for a second time but he refused. “We would like to have enough time to carry out several consultations, but time is very limited so we think we will support Dimitri Lortkipanidze’s candidacy, as he is a qualified lawyer and human rights defender who has worked in this field for many years. If he wins we will be sorry, as he will be leaving the minority in Parliament, but if he loses it will be clear that the majority is not ready to support an opposition candidate,” Leader of the Christian Democrats Giorgi Targamadze said yesterday.

The Vice Speaker and a leader of We, Ourselves, Paata Davitaia is also supporting Lortkipanidze, saying he is very professional in his work. Davitaia says that anyone appointed to this position should have the full mandate of society in order to get involved in any problematic issue a Public Defender is obliged to do.

Current Ombudsman Sozar Subari has served for five years and is quite actively involved in current political events. He has made several statements supporting the opposition which the ruling party has felt are inappropriate for a Public Defender. He has not yet decided yet in what direction he will continue his activity; however he says that he will choose either to enter politics in his own right or work for an NGO.

“We will not be ashamed when we look through the five years I have served as Ombudsman; we have been involved in every sphere and achieved concrete results in each of them,” Subari stated.

The term of the current Ombudsman expires on September 16. Under the law on The Public Defender a new Ombudsman should be elected for a five year period 60 days before the term of the previous one expires. Only the President, Parliamentary factions and groups of independent MPs have the right to present candidates for this post.