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Parliament to Vote for New Ombudsman in December

By Khatia Kardava
Wednesday, November 29
The Parliament of Georgia has a little more than a week to approve the candidacy of new Public Defender. Current ombudsman Ucha Nanuashvili will officially leave his post on December 7.

The parliamentary majority Georgian Dream (GD) has expressed its support to Nino Lomjaria, former deputy head of State Audit Office. At the moment, Lomjaria whose candidacy was proposed by the civil sector, does seem to have the sympathy of the opposition parties due to her previous work experience at the State Audit Office.

The GD parliamentary majority made a decision to support former deputy head of State Audit Office on November 24.

According to Irakli Kobakhidze, Speaker of Parliament, Lomjaria was nominated based on the following criteria: “experience, qualification, and impartiality.”

Lomjaria was among the four candidates nominated and suggested by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to the ruling GD on the position of Public Defender. The other three candidates in the list included: chairperson of the Pardon Commission Zviad Koridze; chairperson of the Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (GYLA) Ana Natsvlishvili and a constitutionalist Vakhushti Menabde.

Despite the civil sector’s active involvement in nominating candidates, the Georgian law does not provide for the third sector to have the right to name candidates for the post of Public Defender. However, it seems traditional as the civil sector was involved in nominating candidates for the ombudsman’s post in other cases too.

Chairman of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Mikheil Benidze, says the main criteria for selection of candidates were: independence, impartiality towards any political party and group, high reputation, sensitivity to human rights and experience in the field of human rights. According to him the candidate should have been “principled and brave enough to speak about the violations of human rights or different types of misconduct of the government.”

Although, the parliamentary minority has already expressed its dissatisfaction with Lomjaria’s candidacy, they have not nominated their preferred candidate yet.

Upon learning that her candidacy was nominated for Public Defender’s post, Lomjaria showed willingness to meet with the parliamentary opposition.

"According to the current legislation, the Public Defender has a high level of independence,” said Lomjaria. “Due to the fact that my candidacy was supported by the parliamentary majority as well as the vast majority of civil society, I feel the responsibility to justify hopes of those people who support me and I also want to meet with representatives of the parliamentary opposition and answer all the questions. It would be great if there is a high consensus,” she stated.

In addition, in an interview with the Public Broadcaster, Lomjaria opened up that her “ambition” is to have “any physical or legal” person hopeful of the Public Defender.

“If I am selected for the post of Public Defender, my ambition will be that any person - physical or legal - in case of violation of their rights, firstly, recall the Public Defender and have hope,” she said.

Prior to acting as first deputy head of State Audit Office, Lomjaria was executive director of ISFED.

Parliament of Georgia elects Public Defender for a term of five years. A candidate shall be nominated by a faction or group of six MPs. In order to win, a candidate must receive at least 76 votes.

After Georgia gained its independence in 90ies, Georgian Parliament has elected six Public Defenders on the post: David Salaridze, Nana Devdariani, Temur Lomsadze, Sozar Subari, Giorgi Tughushi and Ucha Nanuashvili. The key role of Public Defender is seen mainly to observe human rights protection in the country and prepare an annual report.