CSOs Decry GD ‘Assaults’ Against Public Defender

12 Georgian civil society organizations expressed today “grave concern regarding the frequent verbal assaults” against the Public Defender, “the only independent constitutional institution in the country, which, in these circumstances of the ongoing state capture, is beyond the control of the ruling party.”

The joint statement comes in response to the Georgian Dream officials’ continued critical remarks against the Public Defender for its overseeing the situation of imprisoned ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili. GD chair Irakli Kobakhidze yesterday warned with a possible liability the Public Defender and the group of doctors under its auspices which assessed Saakashvili’s treatment and health condition.

Signatory organizations called on authorities to “stop the attacks on the Public Defender and create all conditions necessary for the unhindered functioning of the constitutional body.” 

“Kobakhidze’s statement goes beyond the legal framework, constitutes gross interference in an independent constitutional body, and may even contain signs of action punishable under the law,” joint statement followed.

CSOs noted that monitoring the health conditions of the ex-President, informing the public about the identified violations is a responsibility of the Public Defender, and that the activities of the Ombudsperson, as a constitutional body, “can in no way become a basis for holding her accountable.”

Signatory organizations include Transparency International Georgia, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Georgian Democracy Initiative, Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF), The Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC), Center for Researching Journalistics and Economic Analytics, SAPARI, Society and Banks, Association Green Alternative, Georgia’s Reforms Associates, The Media Development Foundation (MDF), and World Experience for Georgia (WEG).

Public Defender Nino Lomjaria set up the group of physicians on November 16, to monitor the condition of jailed ex-President Saakashvili and the medical services provided by the state. The physicians and Public Defender visited the Gldani prison hospital and met Saakashvili on November 16. In their November 17 conclusion, doctors said Saakashvili’s health condition was critical and that he needed an immediate transfer to the multi-profile clinic ICU.

The following day, Irakli Kobakhidze accused the medical experts of being “extremely biased politically,” called their assessment “fake” and suggested both doctors and the Public Defender could be held “directly liable” over its possible consequences. In response, Public Defender slammed Kobakhidze for attempting “to attack and intimidate an independent constitutional body and its experts.”

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