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New parliament should take human rights ombudsman seriously

By M. Alkhazashvili
Translated by Davit Kipiani
Tuesday, July 8
Georgia’s human rights ombudsman, Sozar Subari, was appointed by President Saakashvili after the Rose Revolution. He has now become one of the most vocal—and reputable—critics of the government.

It is the ombudsman’s duty to expose violations of human rights in Georgia. That leaves just two ways for good relations between his office and the government: state loyalty to human rights or the ombudsman’s negligence to protect them.

Subari has routinely refused to close his eyes.

The government’s usual response is to ignore him. His 2007 annual report was shelved altogether by the previous parliament, which said it just didn’t have time to read it.

His reputation is still strong after four years—he does not seem to be working hand-in-hand with the opposition, or to be jockeying for his own future political gain—so there is little success slandering him. And the violations he exposes are usually provable and inexcusable, so nor can they deny his charges.

Those charges are increasingly serious. He says government officials routinely ignore the law, political intimidation and violence is unchecked, the authorities now control the news media, and the situation is not getting better.

Most pernicious is the creeping culture of fear, he says. Dissenters are now afraid of being watched, having their phones tapped, their businesses pressured.

Vigilance alone from Georgians is not enough to keep this in check—the cure, he says, is a change of will from the government. If that exists, the parliament can begin to show it by hearing the ombudsman’s shelved report.