President Against Rushed Review of Bill Abolishing State Inspector

President Salome Zurabishvili late on December 27 called for suspending the fast-tracked review of the controversial bill to dissolve the State Inspector’s Office, an independent agency to monitor personal data protection and probe abuse of power.

“Initiating the decision to abolish an independent state institution, the State Inspector’s Service, without prior consultations and expediting its review is unacceptable,” the Georgian President highlighted. 

President Zurabishvili added that the proposal to dissolve the Service and establish two separate agencies instead would not only leave a woman in charge of an independent state body without a job, but also more than 100 employees of the Inspector.

She called for allowing “everyone to present their arguments” about the bill and letting State Inspector Londa Toloraia present her annual report to the Parliament about the Service’s work. “Based on all of these, a substantiated decision should be made, which will address any questions from the public.” 

The President also stressed that “everything should be done so that all 114 employees, including the State Inspector retain their jobs.”

In her statement, President Zurabishvili also criticized the treatment of Toloraia, who she said found out about the initiative to abolish the agency from the media. “In a state, where the role of women should be strengthened as per declared priorities, [they] are abolishing an agency of a woman director during her maternity leave and in the lead-up to the New Year, without any warning” she stressed.

“For me, as a female President, it is also unacceptable to treat the female head of the State Inspector’s Service, Londa Toloraia, in this way,” highlighted President Zurabishvili. 

She noted that as the country struggles with political polarization, such decisions also cause ambiguity and raise questions in the society, that is “detrimental” to the depolarization process.

Noteworthy, Georgian legislation alllows the President to veto a law adopted by the Parliament and send it back with motivated remarks. But the 84 Georgian Dream lawmakers in the Parliament can beat a presidential veto, which requires a simple majority of 76 votes only.

The proposal, heavily criticized by the opposition, civil society, Public Defender, and State Inspector Londa Toloraia herself, comes as the Service has remained critical over the GD government’s handling of jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili.

The Inspector is probing possible inhuman treatment of jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili during his forced transfer in November from the Rustavi prison to the Gldani penitentiary clinic. It 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 “extremely problematic and represents legislative arbitrariness.”

U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also raised concerns over the development. Public Defender called the bill “unconstitutional.”

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