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Outgoing Inspector Appeals Law Abolishing State Inspector’s Service in Constitutional Court

Outgoing State Inspector Londa Toloraia announced today she has lodged an appeal at Georgia’s Constitutional Court to challenge the Georgian Dream party’s hastily-adopted legislation abolishing the State Inspector’s Service.

Toloraia argued the move alongside terminating the State Inspector’s authority before her six-year term was up and kicking off the selection for the chiefs of two new bodies, Special Investigation Service and Personal Data Protection Service, contravened Article 25 of Georgia’s Constitution – the right to hold public office.

The outgoing Inspector said she also demanded from the Constitutional Court to suspend the enforcement of the controversial provisions before a final ruling in the case.

According to the legislation, adopted on December 30, 2021, the State Inspector’s Service will be abolished from March 2022 and the new agencies will be formed instead.

In her statement, Toloraia maintained that the State Inspector’s Service needs to be independent of both executive and legislative branches of the government to carry out its activities appropriately.

She stressed that to guarantee this independence, the State Inspector shall be an elected official and the term of office “inviolable.” Thus, Toloraia argued the post of the State Inspector requires “constitutional protection.”

Against this backdrop, the outgoing Inspector slammed the GD lawmakers for “abusing legislative power” to unilaterally dissolve the agency responsible for probing law enforcement abuse of power and protecting personal data.

The said move also causes a “chilling effect” on the future chiefs of the Special Investigation and Personal Data Protection Services, according to the State Inspector.

She argued that the lawmakers will have to present proof of legitimate public interest in restricting Article 25 of the Constitution, going on to argue that dissolution of the agency did not on the other hand envisage strengthening the authority of the soon-to-be-established new bodies.

Meanwhile, according to Toloraia, the MPs have not also proved that there was indeed a conflict of interest in the State Inspector having assumed both investigative and data privacy protection mandates.

Besides, the State Inspector stressed that even if there had been a legitimate reason, the lawmakers should have allowed her to either opt for concluding her term of office or choosing to move on to lead either of the two new bodies.

Public Defender’s Office files constitutional appeal

The Public Defender’s Office announced later on January 25 that it had also appealed the dissolution of the State Inspector’s Service and the dismissal of the State Inspector and her deputies at the Constitutional Court.

It highlighted that the decision besides Article 25 of the Constitution contradicts Articles 9 and 15, covering inviolability of human dignity and rights to personal privacy, respectively.

The Public Defender’s Office concurred that terminating the State Inspector’s term of office can only be justified in case of “significant public interest,” as the official enjoys “special guarantees of independence.” But the Office highlighted there were no such circumstances in this regard.

The Public Defender appealed to the Constitution Court to suspend the enforcement of the dissolution before March 1, so that “effective constitutional control can be exercised.”

It also called on international organizations and CSOs to submit amicus briefs to the Constitutional Court in support of the cause.

Background

The Georgian Dream’s intention to dissolve the State Inspector’s Service was first publicized in the media on December 24. The proposal faced widespread criticism from Georgia’s foreign partners, the international community, President Salome Zurabishvili, the opposition and the civil society.

The ruling party lawmakers eventually partially backed down and allowed to retain State Inspector’s Service staff in the new bodies, a revision that did not cover either the State Inspector or her deputies.

The GD fast-tracked the changes and pushed the legislation through three hearings in extraordinary sessions of the Parliament on December 29-30. President Salome Zurabishvili on January 13 refrained from issuing a veto on the changes.

NB: This article was updated at 18:45, January 25 with a statement delivered by the Public Defender’s Office.

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