U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan raised today concerns about the recent initiative of the Georgian Dream party to dissolve the State Inspector’s Service, an independent state body to monitor personal data protection and probe abuse of power. Similarly, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also criticized the move by the ruling party.
In her media remarks after the meeting at State Inspector’s Service today afternoon, Ambassador Degnan called on the Parliament to pause and slow down “a strange process rushing through legislation when there’s no need to rush it through.”
Noting there were “very troubling provisions” in the bill, the U.S. Ambassador called on the Parliament to have “a proper, inclusive, transparent consultation with stakeholders and develop an approach that is really, truly improving the State Inspector’s service.”
“It was done in a rushed manner without consultation, even with the State Inspector, let alone other stakeholders, and with no accountability or transparency,” she underscored.
According to the diplomat, the “most troubling and most difficult to explain” is the provision that would require all the current employees of the agency to be dismissed by March.
“These are experts who’ve been doing these jobs for several years without any complaint or questions by parliament,” she said, noting that the Parliament has the oversight responsibility of the Service.
“A real loss of talent and experience, and capability in one of the most important independent agencies that the country has,” she added.
The U.S. diplomat also said the agency provides “an extremely important job, and sometimes people aren’t happy with the results of your investigations.”
The GD’s unexpected controversial proposal aims to abolish the agency, and to form instead two new separate bodies tasked with probing abuse of power by law enforcement and monitoring data privacy. The Parliament is expected to pass the bill in an expedited procedure during extraordinary sessions of December 29-30.
Earlier today, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also expressed “deep concerns” about the proposal to abolish “an independent institution with a key role in torture prevention and privacy protection.”
The UN body called in a tweet for the initiative “to be withdrawn and to ensure independence of national human rights mechanisms.”
The proposal, heavily criticized by the opposition, civil society, Public Defender, and State Inspector Londa Toloraia herself, comes amid the ongoing probe by the agency over possible inhuman treatment of jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili during his forced transfer in November from the Rustavi prison to the Gldani penitentiary clinic.
The State Inspector’s Service had also found that the Justice Ministry and the Special Penitentiary Service violated Georgia’s data protection legislation by airing several controversial footages of Saakashvili.
Toloraia argued the initiative is intended to punish the agency for its independence and decisions against state bodies, while CSOs said the development is “extremely problematic and represents legislative arbitrariness.”
NB: The article was updated for clarity on 21:40.