Over a dozen local civil society outfits called on Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili to veto the bill dismantling the State Inspector’s Service, voted by the ruling Georgian Dream party lawmakers in an expedited procedure on December 29-30.
A joint letter released on January 5 has been signed by some of the country’s most reputed watchdogs such as Transparency International Georgia, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Social Justice Center, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, etc.
According to the letter, the ruling party, in defiance of heavy criticism from CSOs and partner countries and “without any justification or engagement of relevant actors and the State Inspector herself,” made a decision that is “unconstitutional and overly detrimental to Georgian democracy.”
Citing President’s December 27 critical statement calling to suspend the review of the bill to allow all relevant parties to present their views first, the CSOs called on Zurabishvili to veto the bill and return it to the Parliament with justified remarks.
President Zurabishvili, elected in 2018 as a ruling party-endorsed independent candidate, has never made use of her veto power, despite her recent critical stances towards some of the GD policies. According to Georgian Constitution, the bill, once adopted by the Parliament, is sent within 10 days to the President.
Should the President choose not to sign and instead return it to the legislative body with justified remarks, the Parliament can either adopt the remarks or need at least 76 votes from over half of the Parliament’s 150 members to override the veto.
The ruling party has a record of overriding vetos of Giorgi Margvelashvili, Zurabishvili’s predecessor. Georgian Dream MP Giorgi Volski, deputy Parliamentary Chairman, spoke on December 28 in favor of overriding the presidential veto if Zurabishvili decides to return the new bill.
GD lawmakers voted in the December 30 extraordinary Parliament session to dissolve the State Inspector’s Service, an outspoken independent agency tasked with monitoring personal data protection and probing abuse of power, against local and international outcry. The changes foresee creating two new separate bodies tasked with probing abuse of power by law enforcement and monitoring data privacy.
The critics raised concerns, among others, about the process to dismantle the agency being rushed and non-transparent, as well as about the potential intentions of the ruling party to punish State Inspector Londa Toloraia for the scrutiny over possible mistreatment of hunger-striking jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili.
The ruling party has argued against criticism that the bill would increase investigative capacities of a new separate agency to probe abuse of power.
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