The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has urged Georgia to suspend the enforcement of controversial law dissolving outspoken State Inspector’s Service, and establishing Special Investigation and Personal Data Protection agencies instead.
The ODIHR’s opinion — published by the Georgian Public Defender today — stressed it was “highly problematic that, contrary to international standards” the law to abolish the Service on March 1 was rushed through the Parliament in late December.
It asserted that the expedited passage “lacked openness and transparency and failed to allow for a thorough and inclusive legislative process,” as a result of which the changes could be perceived as “politically biased, and intended to undermine the independence and effective functioning of the institution.”
The opinion stressed that the rationale for the introduction of the amendments was unclear and the arguments in favor of the rushed adoption were insufficient.
It added that the GD lawmakers’ explanatory notes did not mention any research or refer to any proven conflicts of interest or malfunctioning of the Service, which would explain the need for the dissolution.
Besides, the ODIHR noted that the early termination of State Inspector’s six-year mandate “appears to amount to dismissal outside of the procedures provided for in the law.”
“The removal of the State Inspector by means of legislative reform of the institution raises serious concerns that this amounts to arbitrary dismissal, contrary to the domestic legislation and international standards,” it added.
The ODIHR asserted that if Georgia does not suspend the enforcement of the law, then the incumbent State Inspector and her deputies should serve their full term of office, to uphold the principle of security of tenure.
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Also, according to the opinion, the dissolution of the Service could cumulatively have a negative impact on the protection from serious human rights abuses by law enforcement officials in Georgia.
“The abolition of the State Inspector’s Service is potentially detrimental to human rights protection in Georgia, in particular to the protection of the right to life and freedom from torture, and the right to privacy,” the ODIHR stressed.
It noted that the manner in which the Service was dismantled also “seriously undermines the standing of the future Special Investigation Service and the Personal Data Protection Service as independent institutions.”
Some other concerns voiced by the ODIHR included among others the exclusion of senior political officials from the forthcoming Special Investigation Service’s mandate and broadening of the agency’s investigative mandate which could reduce its effectiveness.
Thus, the suspension is necessary for the Georgian Parliament to address the said shortcomings, according to the opinion.
The development comes as Georgian Dream lawmakers have already endorsed the chiefs for the two new agencies to replace the State Inspector’s Service a month after pushing through the abolition.
Meanwhile, outgoing State Inspector Londa Toloraia and the Public Defender’s Office have both lodged lawsuits at the Constitutional Court to contest the dismantling of the Service.
NB: This article went through multiple updates, the latest at 17:18, February 21.