On 27 September a select group of civil society organizations presented three candidates for the post of the Public Defender of Georgia at the Open Society Georgia Foundation’s (OSGF) office. The candidates nominated by the organizations are:
- Ana Abashidze – the Managing Director of the civil society organization the “Partnership for Human Rights”;
- Giorgi Burjanadze – the Deputy Public Defender of Georgia;
- Nazi Janezashvili – a former non-judge member of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), the body overseeing Georgia’s judiciary, and director of the CSO Georgian Court Watch.
According to media reports, more than 50 CSOs were involved in the process of selecting candidates for the Public Defender. Among them were the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Foundation (GYLA), the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Transparency International Georgia (TI – Georgia), the Georgian Democracy Initiative, OSGF, and others.
The Rationale of the Civil Society Organizations
After presenting the candidates, the chairman of the Georgian Democracy Initiative, Eduard Marikashvili, underscored that the candidates they presented were selected by a broad consensus and with the participation of a diverse group of organizations.
According to Marikashvili, if the ruling Georgian Dream party truly intends to fulfill the European Commission’s 12 recommendations for EU candidate status and change the country for the better, including in terms of human rights, they will select the new Public Defender from the candidates presented by the CSOs. “Both the opposition and the government should be focused on this,” he said.
According to Nika Simonishvili, GYLA’s chairperson, it’s important that the election of the Public Defender be based on a broad consensus and in this regard, “drawing the red lines is definitely not correct.”
“It’s essential for the parties to sit together, talk, and come to an agreement because it is possible for this to happen,” Simonishvili said and underscored that it would be “absolutely unacceptable” if someone were to sabotage this process.
Giorgi Chitidze, a representative of OSGF, stated, “We selected candidates on the basis of criteria – for instance, their experience of handling crises, which is one of the virtues of any human rights defender.”
The ruling party chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze commented by re-hashing the buzzwords currently pushed forward by the “Georgian Dream” to discredit civil society groups. He said “rich” civil society organizations once again “confirmed they are a kind of a clan.”
“We have offered an open process to the public, while the clan of several NGOs is nominating their own candidates in a completely closed manner, which for one [is] unacceptable, shows their attitude towards these processes in general,” Kobakhidze said.
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Salome Samadashvili, a For Georgia MP, criticized MP Kobakhidze for his statement and assessed it to be an “attempt to discredit” the civil society sector. “… if the Georgian Dream continues with such an attitude, this process will not bring any results, no matter how many meetings the Parliament Speaker calls in his office,” she added.
Levan Bezhashvili of the United National Movement party remarked that “it is still difficult to talk about which candidate we will support, it will depend on the assessments of the evaluation commission,” and added that, “the parliamentary opposition will probably hold consultations on what strategy is better for presenting the candidates so that [they] can gain the support of the majority as well.”
According to Strategy Aghmashenebeli leader Giorgi Vashadze, the civil society organizations have done a “solid job” and presented worthy candidates. “I don’t know what the Georgian Dream could produce as alternatives to these three candidates,” he said.
The competition for the Public Defender was announced on 15 September and is scheduled to end on the 29 of September. According to current information, at the moment, seven candidates have expressed their desire to become the new Public Defender, among them Girchi MP Iago Khvichia.
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