Public Defender Visits Mikheil Saakashvili in Medical Establishment No.18 of Penitentiary Service
On November 8, 2021, Public Defender Nino Lomjaria visited third President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, who was transferred to Medical Establishment No. 18 of the Penitentiary Service, Public Defender reports.
At the meeting, Mikheil Saakashvili told the Public Defender that he had no information about his transfer to Establishment No. 18, as he was informed at Establishment No. 12 that he would be transferred to a multifunctional civil clinic on the basis of the decision of the medical council, which he agreed to.
It should be noted that representatives of the Public Defender's Office visited Establishment No. 12 as well, where they could not find any document about provision of information to Mikheil Saakashvili or his consent relating to his transfer to Establishment No. 18.
Speaking to the Public Defender, Mikheil Saakashvili explained that despite his refusal, he was forcibly placed in Establishment No. 18. The Public Defender's Office immediately informed the State Inspector's Office about the above for the purpose of launching an investigation.
Particular attention should be paid to the environment in which Mikheil Saakashvili is placed, which grossly violates human rights. In particular, insulting and threatening shouts by prisoners of Establishment No. 18 are heard against Mikheil Saakashvili, which can be heard in Saakashvili's cell as well and clearly represents psychological pressure. Upon entering the penitentiary facility, voices of insult were heard by the Public Defender and her representatives. It is highly probable that a similar situation will continue and Mikheil Saakashvili's lawyers and other visitors will be subjected to similar verbal aggression.
The Public Defender has repeatedly stated in her statements that the transfer of the prisoner from Establishment No. 12 to Establishment No. 18 would lead to the disorganization of Establishments Nos. 8 and 18 due to the significant risk of verbal aggression, noise and harassment.
It should be noted that the Public Defender's Office checked the documents on the admission of prisoners to Establishment No. 18, as a result of which it was established that no other inmates of Establishment No. 12, except Mikheil Saakashvili, have been admitted to this facility since January 18, 2021. Information about the period before January 18, 2021 is yet unknown due to the inability to access the special archive at night hours.
Public Defender’s Letter to European Council President Charles Michel
On June 22, 2022, the Public Defender of Georgia sent an official letter to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, requesting the President and the Heads of the EU Member States to consider the aspirations of the Georgian people towards the European family, their fight and efforts in this process, and to grant Georgia a candidate status, in order to prevent that Georgia is separated from the common space it has shared with Ukraine and Moldova and misses this important opportunity.
See the letter of the Public Defender of Georgia to Charles Michel, President of the European Council
Your Excellency, I hereby extend the assurances of my highest consideration personally to you, as well as the President of the European Commission, and the Heads of State/Government of the 27 EU Member States. The EU has always been a firm supporter of Georgia in its European aspirations and the results of this support have been felt by many of us for decades. Let me express our utmost gratitude for this assistance. I remain convinced that the EU-Georgian cooperation will keep strengthening, while the progress that comes with the European integration will benefit the citizens of both the EU and Georgia who share the common values and are united in forging more humane, peaceful, and prosperous future.
I am addressing you today as the Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia, which is an independent constitutional body that supervises the protection of human rights and freedoms by public authorities in Georgia. The Ombudsman has over the decades been acting resolutely within its constitutional mandate and enjoys a wide support and trust from the members of the public as well as the international community at large.
During such critical times I feel obliged to address you ahead of the upcoming European Council meeting on 23 and 24 June 2022, which is expected to make a final decision about the membership applications from Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia. As you are aware, on 17th of June 2022, the European Commission issued Opinions on Georgia’s, the Republic of Moldova’s and Ukraine’s application for the EU membership in which the Commission recommended granting European Perspective to all three states. Furthermore, while for Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova the Commission recommended granting a candidate status, with respect to Georgia the Commission has put forward a clear set of conditions to be met before the candidate status is granted. This risks separation of Georgia from the rest of the Associated Trio, even though it has been seen for many years as a frontrunner among the three and shares with them the threats coming from the Russian Federation.
This is an existential matter and moment for the whole nation, who have already made their conscious choice of European and Euro-Atlantic integration, embodied in the Constitution of Georgia. In Georgia the European integration is not only a foreign policy option, but a moral and cultural choice shared by a wider political spectrum and supported by the absolute majority of Georgians. Unprecedented number of demonstrators marching in Tbilisi on the 20th of June is a recent confirmation of this. The civil society led rally was held for the sole purpose of expressing unwavering support for Georgia’s EU integration, regardless of the political affiliation. Europe is a historic choice and aspiration of the Georgian people, for which all generations have made sacrifices. The idea of European perspective consolidates society and reduces polarization
Consequently, in the face of the most acute domestic and foreign policy challenges, it is crucial for us now that Georgia, together with Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, is granted the EU candidate status with the precise conditions to be met within strict timelines. The European Commission has already outlined the most challenging issues to be addressed immediately by Georgia and let me confirm that the issues set out in the Opinion have been voiced by the civil society and majority of Georgians, as well as the Ombudsman for many years already.
It is for the reasons outlined above that I appeal to you today to consider granting the EU candidate status to Georgia. I firmly believe that the European integration is the only driving force for a progress in Georgia and the recommendations of the European Commission will act as a road map in this process. Let me assure you that the Public Defender will oversee this process and the Georgian people, civil society, and the media will be there to safeguard the fulfillment of these conditions.
Please accept, You Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration!
The Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia
Public Defender’s Statement on Nika Gvaramia Case
On May 11, 2022, the final hearing was held in connection with the case of Nika Gvaramia, former Director General of Rustavi 2 Broadcasting TV Company Ltd. We would like to remind the public that on November 4, 2019, the Public Defender filed an amicus curiae brief with Tbilisi City Court relating to one of the episodes of the mentioned case. The document is based on key issues identified as a result of studying the case materials and reviews correlation between corporate-legal and criminal liabilities.
In the amicus curiae brief, the Public Defender indicates that the decision made by the manager of the enterprise (changing the terms of the contract, determining the amount of income), which was agreed with the owner of the enterprise, is considered a crime in the given case. According to the indictment, the director could have brought more income to the company but he did not do so, which is a crime.
The amicus curiae brief reviews the practices of the courts of the USA, UK, continental European countries and Georgia, according to which, such an entrepreneurial decision may not lead even to corporate liability, not to mention criminal liability. The decision made by the director might be to make less profit, but it might serve the best interests of the corporation and aim to insure against short-term or long-term risks.
In this case, corporate-legal liability should be ruled out, as the decision made by the director was not: (1) an action that was not agreed with partners (use of dominant position), (2) aimed at personal enrichment through fraud, and (3) risk analysis reasonably indicates that the move was in the best interests of the corporation. Moreover, criminal liability should also be ruled out, as the director has not committed a criminal action in order to make a profit. Clearly, changing the terms of the contract for the basic needs of the corporation does not constitute a crime.
Thus, the managerial decision made during the management of the enterprise cannot be evaluated without taking into account the specifics of the legal status of the director. The Public Defender hopes that this document will help the court fairly assess the case circumstances and make the right decision, taking into account the international experience and practice regarding the elements of director's responsibilities.
Report on Impact of Covid 19 on Health and Other Rights of Prisoners and Staff of Penitentiary System
On May 11, 2022, the Public Defender of Georgia and Prevention for Progress, a non-governmental organization, presented a joint report “Impact of Covid 19 on the Health and Other Rights of Prisoners and Staff of the Penitentiary System." The study assesses the impact of special measures taken by the Special Penitentiary Service from March 2020 through 2021 on the rights situation of prisoners.
According to the study, the measures taken to stop the spread of the virus had a positive impact on the prevention of Covid 19. The above was also contributed by the allocation of quarantine spaces and isolation of suspicious patients. The importance of mass and regular PCR and rapid antigen testing of the staff and inmates played a key role in the early detection of the disease. According to the interviews with the medical personnel and prisoners, the vaccination process was proceeding at a good pace in the penitentiaries. In addition, compared to a similar study conducted in 2017, the percentage of respondents, who think that food quantity is inadequate, decreased in 2021.
The results of the study show that restrictions were overused during the pandemic period and no appropriate efforts were made to find possible alternative solutions. No appropriate steps were taken by the state institution to reduce the number of prisoners. During the evaluation process, special attention was paid to the medical issues. The study showed that the number of medical personnel decreased, which led to delays in the provision of medical care. Due to delays and reductions in outpatient services, the number of transfers of prisoners to civil sector hospitals increased, as well as the number of cases of emergency transfers to medical facilities. The reduction in the provision of outpatient psychiatric care also had a negative impact on the mental health of inmates, increasing the need for treatment in psychiatric facilities.
The pandemic and the measures taken negatively affected prisoners' contact with the outside world. The study made it clear that the free phone minutes added as compensation during the period of restrictions were not sufficient to counterbalance the restrictions. Prisoners were restricted from contacting lawyers, psychologists and social workers, and they were unable to receive the relevant services. The number of rehabilitation programmes also significantly reduced. The study also showed that the living and working conditions of the employees, who were not allowed to leave the facilities, were difficult.
Public attitudes toward LGBTQI people in Georgia are changing, yet the protection and realization of their rights remain a challenge
The United Nations and the Government of Sweden unveil research on human rights, legal protection and public attitudes toward the LGBTQI community in Georgia
TBILISI. 6 May 2022 – The LGBTQI people remain one of the least protected and most marginalized social groups in Georgia. They face discrimination and violence, while the protection and realization of their rights remain a challenge. Yet, recent research reveals that negative public attitudes toward the LGBTQI community have been decreasing in the last five years.
A series of studies were conducted by Georgia’s Public Defender’s Office and the non-governmental organization ‘Women’s Initiatives Support Group’ (WISG) with assistance from the Government of Sweden and the United Nations through its three agencies – UN Women, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The research reviews international standards in protecting LGBTQI rights and Georgia’s commitments in this area. It analyses the legal environment and widespread practices and examines public attitudes toward LGBTQI people in Georgia. The research also includes recommendations for specific state agencies.
The research findings point out positive changes in public attitudes in the last five years. Since 2016, the number of respondents who think that the LGBTQI community is interested in propaganda, and not in achieving equality, has decreased by 20.6 percent (55.9 percent in 2021 compared to almost 78 percent in 2016). The number of people with an extremely negative attitude toward the LGBTQI community and its human rights defenders dropped by around 20 percent and now hovers around 56 percent.
However, the research also captures the negative perception of the LGBTQI community in Georgia’s society. 48.2 percent of the respondents believe that LGBTQI people are fighting for privileges. 39.5 percent are convinced that the rights of the LGBTQI community are fully protected. At the same time, 38.6 percent note inadequate state response to the acts of violence and discrimination faced by the LGBTQI people.
The research was conducted under the UN Joint Programme for Gender Equality, a Sweden-funded initiative implemented by UN Women, UNDP and UNFPA. Its reports are available on the UNDP website
Public Defender Meets with Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights in Strasbourg
On 25 January 2022, during her official visit to Strasbourg, Nino Lomjaria, Public Defender of Georgia, met with Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Public Defender briefed the Human Rights Commissioner on the human rights situation in Georgia. Media environment, situation of equality and the need for monitoring human rights in the occupied territories were also topics of discussion.
Nino Lomjaria stressed the importance of the Commissioner’s support to human rights defenders and media representatives, who have been particularly pressured and attacked in recent years.
Talks also focused on the abolition of the State Inspector’s institution. The Public Defender informed the Council of Europe Commissioner of the constitutional complaint filed by her to request the declaration of the legislative changes adopted by the Parliament of Georgia on December 30, 2021 as unconstitutional.
Public Defender of Georgia