Shalva Papuashvili, the Speaker of Parliament, signed a decree on 14 September which spells out the rules for submitting candidates for the vacancy of the Public Defender of Georgia to the Parliament.
The decree entered into force upon its signing on 14 September. According to the document, it can be appealed within a month from the date of publication.
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Purpose of the Legislation (Article 1)
According to the first article of the law, the purpose of the legislation is to elect a new Public Defender before the current Public Defender’s term is up and to do so by including civil society, academic, and professional circles in the evaluation process and the varying views of the political spectrum within Parliament in the ultimate decision.
Per Article 1, the criteria for evaluation will be a candidate’s independence, impartiality, high reputation, professional knowledge, and practical experience in the field of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The new bill also emphasizes that choosing the new Public Defender must be carried out in line with international standards and the decisions of relevant bodies like the Venice Commission.
Starting the Process (Article 2)
The Speaker of Parliament will announce the start of the process no later than 20 September 2022 on the Parliament’s website and also send the same document to the Public Defender of Georgia for posting.
The announcement by the Parliament Speaker must include the requirements for a Public Defender outlined by the Georgian Constitution and other legislation, as well as the application deadline, the information that must be submitted by candidates, and other relevant information.
On their part, candidates will be expected to submit their basic personal information, their CV, and verifying documents within 10 days of the Speaker’s announcement. The article says the key emphasis will be placed on a candidate’s experience in the field of human rights.
All information on candidates will be made available on the Parliament’s website no more than two days after applications close. If there are fewer than seven candidates, the Speaker of Parliament has the right to extend the process.
Evaluating and Selecting Candidates (Articles 3 & 4)
A nine-member panel will be created for evaluating the candidates. The Parliament Speaker is personally and solely responsible for naming its members, but with the involvement of civil society, academic, and professional circles.
This panel will evaluate the applicants on a ten-point scale, judging by their application and supporting documents. The group may request additional information and seek to verify the applicants’ credentials at any point during this process.
Shall a member of the panel feel that they have insufficient information regarding a particular criterium they may refrain from grading them. This will not affect the applicant’s overall grade.
Each member of the group can choose to submit their commentary on the competencies of an individual candidate.
The panel must complete its work by October 13, 2022, and submit its recommendations to the Parliament, which will then become public. The Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee will provide technical assistance to this group throughout the process.
Finally, according to Article 4 of the legislation, any member of Parliament will be able to present one or more of the candidates evaluated by the working group to be considered for the post of Public Defender no later than 21 October. Importantly, the Parliament may only start deliberating if at least seven candidates were put forth by MPs.
Roman Gotsiridze, UNM, responded by emphasizing that “the Public Defender should be appointed by broad consensus, simply put, they should not be chosen without the consent of the opposition and this should be ensured by the law and not by some decree of the Speaker of the Parliament.” He added, that the election will depend on the political process and said the decree alone, “cannot guarantee […] the procedure for the independent election of the Public Defender.”
Salome Samadashvili, Lelo for Georgia MP, suspects, that the rules are “designed for the purpose of the government to block an independent candidate […]” but pledged to “fight in the Parliament so that during the selection process, candidates trusted by non-governmental organizations are selected.”
Ana Buchukuri, from the For Georgia Party, said, Papuashvili’s decree only “regulates the technical and procedural part. As for the content, which is much more important than what is written on paper, it’s all ahead of us, and therefore the fight is ahead of us, too.”
Paata Manjgaladze, from Strategy Aghmashenebeli, argued, “The opposition does not even have the right to agree on one common candidate – we are obliged to nominate at least seven so that Georgian Dream can push through one of its candidates, nominated by a pseudo-opposition party… This process is a pseudo-process and that is exactly why Strategy Aghmashenebli is not participating.”
Iago Khvichia, from Girchi, pointed out, “the Georgian Dream lacks just a few votes to elect a Public Defender, and I am sure that if it wants to, it will find those even among the opposition. The main thing is what they will go for, whether they will go for consensus or push their supporters from within the opposition to support them.”