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
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
The Parliament of Georgia is considering an amnesty draft law submitted by Mikheil Sarjveladze. An alternative amnesty draft law will also be submitted to the Parliament by the Lelo Party. The Public Defender of Georgia welcomes these initiatives and hopes that the Parliament will consider and adopt the amnesty law in a short period of time, which will be in line with the basic principles of criminal justice and the positive obligations of the State towards victims and will apply to a lot of prisoners, who have been in the penitentiary system during the Covid pandemic.
As soon as the pandemic started, the Public Defender actively called on the State to use all available mechanisms to reduce the prison population. Although the rate of application of a number of mitigation measures increased in 2020 (e.g. the statistics on the mitigation of the unserved part of a sentence), the rate of releasing prisoners on parole decreased. The Public Defender hopes that the Parliament of Georgia will take into account the severity of additional restrictions of the rights of prisoners in the context of the pandemic and will compensate their situation with amnesty as much as possible.
The Public Defender of Georgia
The Public Defender of Georgia would like to respond to the statement made by Irakli Kobakhidze, Chairman of the Georgian Dream political movement of citizens, in which he speaks about the possible responsibility of the Public Defender and doctors invited by her. This rhetoric goes beyond the legal framework, represents an attempt to attack and intimidate an independent constitutional body and its experts, and contradicts national and international human rights obligations.
The Organic Law on the Public Defender of Georgia gives the Public Defender the authority to invite experts and specialists to perform expert activities. This very authority was used by the Public Defender of Georgia on November 16, 2021 and a multidisciplinary group of experts was set up to evaluate Mikheil Saakashvili's medical services. Since then, the Chairman of the Georgian Dream political movement has been referring to "possible future responsibility" of the Public Defender and the experts invited by her without any legal arguments, for some abstract reasons. The above represents an attempt to put pressure on representatives/experts of the Public Defender of Georgia due to expression of their professional views, which is contrary to both the Constitution of Georgia and international principles.
We call on the United Nations, Council of Europe, OSCE/ODIHR, diplomatic missions accredited in Georgia and ombuds/NHRI associations to study the above issue and assess it within their mandates. Contrary to the Paris Principles (https://bit.ly/3HzC8NK), the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on national human rights institutions (https://bit.ly/3DuL1G1) and the Venice Principles (https://bit.ly/30ve39L), the Public Defender of Georgia encounters obstacles in the implementation of her mandate, while experts may refuse to cooperate with the Public Defender in the future.
Once again, we would like to thank the qualified and conscientious medical professionals who managed to make an assessment in a short time. We also call on the relevant professional associations to support these persons.
Every year, on December 9, the Public Defender of Georgia traditionally joins the celebration of the International Human Rights Day.
On December 9, 2021, the Tbilisi Human Rights House held an event on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, where Public Defender Nino Lomjaria once again emphasized the special role of human rights defenders in promoting human rights and the rule of law in a democratic society.
The Public Defender spoke about the challenges facing human rights defenders, reviewed the Human Rights Manual developed by the Public Defender’s Office, which aims to refine the definition of a human rights defender and to outline the obligations of the State to protect and promote the activities of human rights defenders.
"Our monitoring has revealed a number of unfortunate trends of attacks on human rights defenders. Among them, statements made by high officials aimed at discrediting NGOs working on issues of crucial importance for democratic development still need to be emphasized. We have criticized a number of similar cases in the past, and we reiterate that, by international standards, officials are obliged to refrain from being engaged in negative campaigns against human rights defenders and their activities, to publicly acknowledge the need to protect them and to emphasize the importance of their activities even when critical towards the authorities", - said Nino Lomjaria.
The Public Defender called the physical attacks by the violent groups on human rights defenders and the offices of Tbilisi Pride and Shame Movement on July 5, the day of the March of Dignity, which could not be prevented by the law enforcers, especially alarming. She spoke about the criminal acts committed against media representatives and the need for their timely and effective investigation. The scale of the problem was made even clearer by the events of July 5, during which more than 40 representatives of the media were injured. Reports of alleged criminal acts against media representatives were also spread during both rounds of the self-government elections.
According to the Public Defender, the cynical attitude of politicians towards journalists, especially representatives of critical media, and the discrediting campaign against the background of the existing hostile environment, further exacerbate violence against them.
At the end of her speech, the Public Defender addressed the Prosecutor's Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia with a recommendation to ensure the timely investigation of crimes committed against representatives of the media, to identify those responsible and to take measures against them in accordance with law, as well as to inform the public about the ongoing investigation.
She also called on political officials to follow internationally recognized democratic standards and to refrain from being engaged in campaigns aimed at discrediting human rights defenders, including journalists, in order to facilitate their work as much as possible.
 Parliamentary Report of the Public Defender of Georgia 2019, p. 251, available at: <https://bit.ly/3CJscy1> [09.12.2021]; See also the statement of the Public Defender of Georgia of October 24, 2018 on the International obligations of the Government to support the activities of human rights defenders, available at: <https://bit.ly/3kBAySa> [09.12.2021]
 Information is available on the website: <https://bit.ly/3yajvM8>, <https://bit.ly/3EwXSHX>, <https://bit.ly/3lCyQzZ>, <https://netgazeti.ge/news / 555767 />, <https://bit.ly/3oy0qQw> [09.12.2021].
Restricting the 3rd President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, from participating in his own trial grossly violates the right to a fair trial enshrined in the Constitution of Georgia and the European Convention.
Mikheil Saakashvili has not been allowed to appear before court three times since his arrest. In all three cases, the Special Penitentiary Service refused to bring Mikheil Saakashvili to court and the court endorsed the refusal without critical deliberation.
The Penitentiary Service named (1) the refusal of a substantial part of treatment by Mikheil Saakashvili and (2) the investigation being carried out by the State Security Service as reasons for refusing to bring the defendant to court.
First of all, it is noteworthy that an abstract reference to the fact that the transfer of the prisoner due to his hunger strike would be a risk to his health cannot be considered as a substantiated argument. This will virtually deprive all prisoners that are on hunger strike of the opportunity to participate in their own judicial proceedings and exercise their right to a fair trial. Moreover, legislation reviews the protocol of action in a similar case and requires that, in case of health risks, the accused be accompanied by a medical worker during transfer.
As for the refusal to transfer Mikheil Saakashvili to court for the so-called security reasons, it is noteworthy that the procedural law does not provide for such an opportunity. The subordinate normative act explicitly and unequivocally states that an accused/convicted person shall be escorted to court at the request of the relevant authorized person of common courts, which does not require additional decision-making.
In addition, legislation does not recognize the possibility for the Penitentiary Service to refuse to transfer an accused person to court due to a pending investigation into any case. It should be noted that the maximum statute of limitations for the investigation carried out by the State Security Service is ten years. This allows the Penitentiary Service to illegally, arbitrarily and permanently refer to the investigation ongoing in the State Security Service, which would be a de facto annulment of the defendant’s right of defence.
In addition, the European Court of Human Rights considers that security issues must be clearly defined and meet the criteria of necessity. Judges should consider all possible alternatives to ensure safety and security and give preferencetoa less strict measureover a stricter one when it can achieve the same purpose. Guarantees of a fair trial and public hearing are considered violated when the domestic court fails to explain why the state security system would not be able to deal with the security risks.
Thus, the Public Defender believes that at this moment there is no proper argument on the basis of which Mikheil Saakashvili should be restricted from appearing before court in person. The position presented by the Special Penitentiary Service cannot outweigh the right to a fair trial guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia and the European Convention on Human Rights, which among other guarantees includes the right of the accused to personally and directly participate in oral, public hearings, with full observance of the principles of equality of arms, adversarial process and examination of evidence.
The Public Defender calls on the Special Penitentiary Service to properly and conscientiously perform its rights and duties and ensure that Mikheil Saakashvili is brought before court, by providing appropriate guarantees for his health and safety. The Public Defender also calls on the court to give the accused the opportunity to state his position, participate in the examination of evidence and protect his rights within the framework of all three ongoing cases.
 Order No. 149 of the Minister of Corrections of Georgia on the Approval of the Rules for Escorting/Transferring Defendants/Convicts, 19.10.2015, Annex No. 1, Article 37
 Order No. 149 of the Minister of Corrections of Georgia on the Approval of the Rules for Escorting/Transferring Defendants/Convicts, 19.10.2015, Annex No. 1, Article 4, suparagraph 4.
 Part 1 of Article 315, part 3 of Article 12, subparagraph "c" of part 1 of Article 71 of the Criminal Code of Georgia and Article 103 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Georgia.
 Riepan v. Austria, 35115/97, paragraphs 28-29; Krestovsky v. Russia, 14040/03, paragraph. 29.
 Krestovsky, 29-30; Luchaninova v. Ukraine, 16347/02, 56-57.
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.
On October 24, 2021, Public Defender’s representatives checked the readiness of Medical Facility No. 18 for the possible admission of the third President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili. The inspection revealed that the situation in the facility, in terms of medical care, does not fully comply with the report or recommendations issued by a multifunctional group of doctors on October 23, 2021, and there are also some safety risks.
Representatives of the Public Defender examined the readiness of the facility in terms of provision of the medical services indicated in the report of the multifunctional group of doctors. The report refers to specific medical interventions and the transfer of Mikheil Saakashvili to a medical facility capable of providing the above services.
Interviews with the administration and medical staff of Medical Facility No. 18, as well as inspection of infrastructure and medical equipment, revealed that the facility has the necessary resources to meet the medical needs of prisoners (including hunger strikers). However, the report issued by the multifunctional group of doctors regarding the medical needs of Mikheil Saakashvili directly refers to the need of implementation of certain medical procedures, which, unfortunately, is impossible to be provided in Facility No. 18. For example, the facility cannot provide magnetic resonance imaging, computerizedtomography or duplex scanning. In addition, the facility does not currently have a resuscitationspecialist, but according to the administration, the relevant specialists are expected to be employed in the near future.
The monitoring made it clear that Facility No. 18 will not be able to provide the medical services indicated by the multifunctional group of doctors and Mikheil Saakashvili will need to be transferred to a civil clinic periodically. Given the fact that it is virtually impossible to fully predict changes in the health condition or aggravation of health of the prisoner who has long been on hunger strike, there may be quite severe or irreparable consequences during the patient's transfer in case of a critical change in the situation.
It should be noted that the Public Defender's detailed review of the lack of medical staff and medical services in Facility No. 18 is provided in the 2020 Report of the National Preventive Mechanism.
In addition to medical services, the Public Defender's Office inspected the ward in which Mikheil Saakashvili is planned to be placed in case of his transfer to Facility No. 18. It should be noted that Penitentiary Establishment No. 12 accommodates prisoners who have conflict of interest with other prisoners (former police officers, military servicemen, officials). Consequently, any kind of contact with other prisoners poses security risks that the penitentiary establishment must avoid, otherwise there will be a violation of prisoner's rights.
All the locations, where the third President of Georgia may have to stay/move to (during admission to the facility, placement in a ward, meeting with lawyers or family members, enjoyment of the right to walk, provision of medical care, making telephone calls, daily/hygienic procedures), were checked during the monitoring on October 24, 2021 and it was found out that although the administration of the facility expresses its readiness to ensure the safety of any prisoner, there are certain risks with respect to Mikheil Saakashvili. The infrastructure and environment fail to exclude the risk of verbal aggression and noise, verbal abuse and psychological pressure by certain groups of prisoners. It will also be problematic for visitors to visit Mikheil Saakashvili, as any entrant, including lawyers, will have to walk through the yard of Facility No. 8, close to buildings where other prisoners are placed, which increases the risk of verbal confrontation and abuse. A similar incident was reported at Facility No. 8 in 2015.
Since it is necessary to go through the yard of Facility No. 8 to get to Facility No. 18 and since Facility No. 18 is located close to the residential buildings of Facility No. 8, we believe that there are risks regarding prisoners’ safety and disorganization of these two facilities. These threats may impede the peace of the prisoners and staff of these facilities, the proper functioning and order of the facilities, which will ultimately affect the situation of all prisoners.
In view of all of the above, as well as the report of the multifunctional group of doctors, we believe that the Ministry of Justice/Special Penitentiary Service should select an alternative medical facility, where it will be possible to provide full and adequate medical services and security for the third President of Georgia.
Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia
The Public Defender's Office has visited the third President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is placed in Penitentiary Establishment No. 12, several times. We have been observing in detail the state of his health and conditions in the penitentiary establishment. We have intensive communication with the administration of the penitentiary system, as well as medical personnel, regarding Saakashvili’s health condition, with the consent of the latter.
It should be noted that no breaches have been reported so far in terms of provision of living conditions for the third President; adequate attention is paid to him by the medical staff of the penitentiary facility.
At the same time, the Public Defender of Georgia would like to respond to the information spread by the Special Penitentiary Service about Mikheil Saakashvili's health condition (blood pressure, pulse, saturation, glucose) and other personal data (items purchased by him). While it is clear that there is a high public interest in the health condition of the third President of the country, the agency has an obligation to inform the public only within reasonable limits. Health-related information belongs to special category data and its disclosure in detail, without the permission of the person concerned, poses a risk of violation of the law on the one hand and may contribute to the prisoner’s distrust towards the penitentiary system on the other hand, including towards the medical personnel.
The issuance of such statements by the Penitentiary Service or high political officials poses an additional risk that the prisoner, who is on a hunger strike, may also refuse to receive medical care. Therefore, we negatively evaluate any statement that pushes the prisoner to resort to a more severe form of hunger strike and further aggravates his health condition.
The Public Defender's Office will continue to monitor the rights situation of the third President of Georgia and will periodically provide information to the public.
Public Defender Demands Criminal Prosecution of Two Persons for Organizing Group Violence and Calling for Violence on July 5
Two months have passed since the violent events of July 5, but the Georgian Prosecutor's Office has not launched criminal prosecution against any individual for organizing group violence. The Public Defender Nino Lomjaria examined the video footage released by the media and considers that the publicly available evidence reaches the standard of probable cause for launching criminal proceedings against two persons for organizing group violence as well as for publicly calling for violence.
Pursuant to Article 21 (c) of the Organic Law of Georgia on the Public Defender of Georgia, the Public Defender is entitled to request the initiation of an investigation and/or criminal prosecution if the examination of the case shows elements of crime. Accordingly, the Public Defender has already used the authority granted by the organic law and applied to the Prosecutor's Office with a request to initiate criminal proceedings against Zurab Makharadze and Spiridon Tskipurishvili.
The proposal to launch prosecution was based on publicly released videos showing that before the July 5 violence, on Alt-Info TV, Zurab Makharadze and other individuals had been continuously announcing violence against participants in the event planned by Tbilisi Pride. Violent calls were also heard against journalists. The same individuals spread information on television about the formation of groups with the direct purpose of violence on July 5.
It is substantiated in the Public Defender’s proposal that Zurab Makharadze personally led the group violence on July 5, including the removal of protest tents in front of the legislative body and the allocation of various groups to raid the offices of the Shame Movement and Tbilisi Pride.
Finally, according to the Prosecutor General’s Office of Georgia, 53 persons were identified as victims of the group violence on July 5, 2021, and criminal proceedings were launched against 27 persons. However, no one has been prosecuted for organizing group violence.
In addition, the Public Defender made another proposal to the Prosecutor General's Office and demanded the launch of criminal proceedings against Spiridon Tskipurishvili for publicly calling for violent actions. It was established according to the standard of probable cause that on July 5, at about 14:14, the Archpriest of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Spiridon Tskipurishvili, by using a microphone and sound enhancer devices, called on citizens to be violent, thus went beyond the freedom of expression and committed an action forbidden by Article 2391 of the Criminal Code of Georgia – call for violence that creates an obvious, direct and substantial threat of violence.
The Public Defender continues to gather information about the investigation ongoing into the July 5 violence and, if necessary, will again use the authority given to her by the organic law.