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Public Defender presented 2018 report to the parliament

By Levan Abramishvili
Tuesday, May 28
The Public Defender of Georgia, Nino Lomjaria met with the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee of The Parliament of Georgia, where she presented the 2018 report on human rights and freedoms.

The report, prepared by the Ombudsman Office, consisting of 448 pages, contains 32 chapters and covers mostly the year 2018. The report includes 353 recommendations for the parliament and other governmental bodies.

The Public Defender talked about the high number of reports that her office received last year, their contents and the response of the office. She noted that in 2018, 8,400 applications were received by the apparatus, out of which, 6 640 were admitted. After reviewing individual applications, 107 recommendations/suggestions were issued. Throughout 2018, 11 special reports were prepared by the office.

Speaking about the right to life, Lomjaria talked about the case of Machalikashvili and emphasized that her office had difficulties obtaining information from the Prosecutor’s Office.

“Throughout the year, we were trying to obtain information regarding the investigation, but with the answers received from the Prosecutor's Office, it was impossible to assess how active the investigation was or what additional actions it required.” Lomjaria advised the parliament to use their power to resolve the high-profile case, “I think that the Parliament of Georgia should use all possible supervisory tools to find out the truth surrounding the death of Temirlan Machalakashvili in a timely manner,” noted the Public Defender.

Lomjaria also spoke about the Khorava street murder case in terms of the right to live, stating that the investigation didn’t serve to uncover everyone who was involved in the case, which was the interest of the public. She also spoke about the murder of the first President of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, and stated that there were significant errors in the investigative materials.

Lomjaria named the fight with ill-treatment as one of the main challenges for the country. The report states that the Public Defender’s Office demands the change in the law, so it can get a broader mandate that grants access to the materials of criminal investigations, to assess the investigations regarding the taking of life and ill-treatment.

The Ombudsman highlighted the issue that despite adopting a law regarding the State Inspector’s Office in July of 2018, as of May 2019, there hasn’t been any funds allocated for the office to start functioning. Therefore, it remains up to the Prosecutor’s office to investigate possible cases of ill-treatment. According to the Ombudsman, in 2018, her office issued 7 statements to the Prosecutor’s office, but there hadn’t been any solved cases.

In the 2017 report, one of the recommendations of the Ombudsman’s Office was towards the Prosecutor’s Office. The office was to provide detailed information regarding any possible cases of ill-treatment to the Ombudsman. The Parliament shared this recommendation, but according to the 2018 report, despite the efforts of the Public Defender’s Office, they couldn’t receive the information, “which eliminates the possibility of effective supervision over human rights protection.”

“In 2018, we studied about 40 finished criminal cases, where the victims complained about ill-treatment. In result, it was revealed that the investigations had several problems, including incorrect qualification, deficiency of involvement of the victims and lack of timely, comprehensive and objective investigation,” said Lomjaria.

The Ombudsman also spoke about environmental issues, as well as the problems of children and persons with disabilities. She identified some other important challenges, including the protection of the right to equality.

“In many cases, discrimination is caused by stereotypes and wrong perceptions in the community about the vulnerable groups, but the state doesn’t take enough measures to overcome them,” said the Public Defender.

During the reporting period, the Public Defender’s Office studies 158 cases of possible discrimination and issued 16 recommendations and 6 general statements. According to Lomjaria, in terms of protection of the right to equality, women, disabled persons, and LGBTQ+ community members remain in the most critical position. The Public Defender’s Office was also actively addressed by various religious groups on the possible discrimination.

While speaking about the problems regarding the gender equality in the country, the Public Defender noted that, according to the 2018 Global Index of Gender Inequality, Georgia ranks 119th among 149 countries with women's political participation and women's representation in parliament.

According to Lomjaria, in terms of women's economic strengthening and labor rights, there has been no substantial improvement. The challenges in the effective implementation of reproductive health and rights, also negatively affect the overall situation of women's rights and gender equality.

According to the data of the Prosecutor's Office of Georgia, 22 cases of women's murders were observed in 2018, with 7 cases of which were domestic crimes. 18 facts of attempted murder of women have been reported, 11 of them have been committed as domestic crimes, and 10 facts related to the attempted murder of a woman by her husband.

“In 2018, the rights of the LGBTQ+ persons in the country has not changed significantly. In society, homophobia is still strong, which is why the LGBTQ+ persons still are oppressed, face discrimination, and often become victims of violence,” said Lomjaria.

The chairperson of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee of The Parliament of Georgia, Sopo Kiladze said that last year, up to 70% of the Ombudsman’s recommendations were taken into account by the Parliament and she expects better approximation of the views this time around.

The members of the opposition parties criticized the Government for the repetition of many of the Ombudsman’s recommendations, which means a number of issues weren’t solved after the last year’s report.

“I have many questions to the government, as to why there were so many recommendations repeated from the previous reports, including the 2017 report. We see that we have systematic problems that the government is unable to solve and protect the rights of the citizens. Especially in terms of the work of the Prosecutor’s Office,” said Giorgi Tughushi, member of the opposition European Georgia fraction.

Indeed, the work of the Prosecutor’s Office was criticized the most in the report and during the presentation by Lomjaria. It remains to see what steps the Parliament and the Government will take to ensure that the Ombudsman’s Office gets enough information to pursue their primary objective of monitoring the protection of human rights in Georgia.