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New report from new Ombudsman

By Messenger Staff
Monday, December 21
On December 18 Parliament heard the report of recently appointed Ombudsman Giorgi Tugushi. He was appointed in September 2009 but the report covered the first half of 2009.

When previous Ombudsman Sozar Subari gave reports members of the ruling party always complained they were politicised. This time they remarked that the report was not politicised at all, but the 350 page document touched on many sensitive issues and the Ombudsman had to answer several very bitter questions from the opposition.

The report cited many instances of human rights abuse, stressing violations of human rights during the opposition protest rallies. It also outlined some violations in prisons as well as problems concerning IDPs and some other issues. It specially stressed the use of excess force by law enforcement bodies, in particular the police.

Parliament followed tradition and heard the Ombudsmanís report at the end of a session. Not many MPs were present. At the beginning there were around 50 out of 150, but some then left.

However during discussion and debates afterwards opposition MPs asked several questions which were not pleasant for the Ombudsman or the majority. For instance, neither he nor the Parliament administration could answer the question of when Parliament would hear the last report by previous Ombudsman Subari covering the second part of 2008. The Ombudsman was also asked a question about the rights of the Georgian Orthodox Church He expressed his disapproval of the existing concordat between Church and State and said that all religious confessions should be subject to the same tax regulations. The opposition asked the Ombudsman what he would do if his recommendations were not accepted and implemented. Tugushi explained that he can only give recommendations, he has no legal right to impose them on anybody and if his recommendations are ignored he cannot force the Government to accept them. He also said that he had observed no improvement in the direction of media freedom and promised to study this subject specially and separately.

The new Ombudsman started work just three months ago and will have to overcome many difficulties. However the most difficult part of his job will be dealing with those cases which will create a confrontation between the authorities and the opposition, because his reactions should be immediate and his evaluation precise in fair. Much depends upon his position in critical situations, and whether the incumbent is up to the tasks which will be set before him.