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The News in Brief

Monday, December 30
Parliament Fails to Compose Public TV Board

Parliament confirmed on December 27 only three new members of Georgian Public Broadcaster’s (GPB) board of trustees, leaving six seats in the board vacant.

Ketevan Mskhiladze, who was picked by UNM MPs, was endorsed unanimously with 99 votes; Natela Sakhokia, who was picked by the GD lawmakers, was endorsed with 83 votes to 3, and Marina Muskhelishvili, who was named by the Public Defender, was confirmed with 82 votes to 17.

At least seven members should have been elected by the Parliament in order to make new board of public TV operational to replace its current board; the sitting board is now actually defunct, which last month prompted the GD parliamentary majority group to amend the law and speed up the process of composition of new board under the new rules confirmed in late May, 2013.

As envisaged by the law, upon a proposal from the parliamentary speaker Davit Usupashvili, the Parliament established on December 12 a nine-member commission made up of media and civil society representatives, which was in charge of selecting candidates for GPB board membership.

Failure of the Parliament to fill all nine seats of the board means that a competition should now be announced once again for the remaining six vacant seats.

Parliament’s failure to finalize the process angered nine-member selection commission, which said in a statement on December 27: “By artificially impeding the processes, the political forces are still trying to control the public broadcaster.”

The selection commission said that all 27 candidates were selected as a result of “transparent” and “democratic” process, which was “unprecedented”. The commission called on the parliamentary speaker Davit Usupashvili to continue consultations with lawmakers to secure finalization of the process.

Georgian ombudsman reports mistreatment in prison

Georgia’s Public Defender claims his staff witnessed mistreatment of a prisoner.

Ucha Nanuashvili on Friday appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office to start investigation of Prison No 8 in Gldani.

The Ombudsman’s statement says employees visited the prison for a planned inspection tour on December 24. Members of the special preventive group of the Public Defender witnessed how employees of the prison verbally and physically abused a prisoner.

Representatives of the Public Defender spoke with the prisoner and wrote a protocol, which has been sent to the Prosecutor’s Office and the Prison Ministry. None of them have yet responded to the ombudsman’s statement.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Reduced number of inmates continue hunger strike

The number of hunger strikers in penal institutions has reduced. According to the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance, on December 28 at 12 pm, only 97 inmates continue their hunger strike.

The prisoners demand the establishment of the ‘Commission on Miscarriages of Justice’ and the individual study of their cases.

Last month, citing financial reasons, the government had decided to delay the launch of a commission to look into alleged miscarriages of justice cases which became the reason for up to 1000 prisoners’ to start a hunger strike.

Georgia, US to cooperate in defense area

U.S. President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, which provides for military cooperation and assistance to partner countries, including Georgia, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Davit Zalkaliani said on Friday at a joint meeting of the country's parliamentary committees.

"Discussions were held in recent months both at the House of Representatives and at the U.S. Senate with regard to the National Defense Authorization Act," Zalkaliani said.

He went on to add that an addition to this act was made by one of the congressmen. The addition was not favorable to Georgia and it was withdrawn, according to him.

Zalkaliani went on to add that the bilateral relations between Georgia and the U.S. are developing dynamically in all areas, including in the defense sector.

The signing of the Defense Authorization Act by the U.S. president will deepen Georgian-U.S. cooperation in the military sphere, Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze told journalists on December 27.

New Georgian Intelligence Service head appointed

The Georgian Intelligence Service will now be headed by David Sujashvili.

On December 27, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili met with the new head of the service, as well as with its former head Gela Bezhuashvili, according to the PM's office.

At the meeting the Georgian PM thanked Bezhuashvili for the work done in recent years.

The PM also wished success to the service's new head.

Garibashvili also noted the importance of the Intelligence Service and stressed that its development is a priority for the country.

Parliament sets up constitutional reform commission

Parliament approved on December 27 setting up of a 58-member state commission, chaired by parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili, tasked to table amendments to the constitution before September 1, 2014.

Decision to establish the commission was endorsed by the parliament in October and on December 27 it confirmed members of the commission, which will take decisions with two-thirds majority vote.

Georgia’s new constitutional model went into force in November, 2013; this model shifted power from president to prime minister.

Davit Usupashvili, parliament speaker and chairman of the commission, told lawmakers on December 27 that the current constitution has “serious shortcomings” which should be addressed by the commission; he, however, also said that he personally would be in favor of “improving” the existing model rather than replacing it with other.

The commission includes total of 21 lawmakers of which 13 are from GD parliamentary majority group, 6 are from UNM parliamentary minority group and two are independent MPs. The commission also includes senior officials from the judiciary and the executive government, as well as legal experts and representatives from eight non-governmental organizations.