The messenger logo

The News in Brief

Monday, August 7
Reconciliation Minister on Gali Passportization

The decision of Russian-backed authorities in Abkhazia to grant the “citizenship passports” to those ethnic Georgians, who would be willing to change their ethnic identity from Georgian to Abkhaz, “is a discrimination, is totally unacceptable and goes against the civil and humane principles,” Georgia’s State Minister for Reconciliation Ketevan Tsikhelashvili told on August 4.

“Human rights have been severely violated in Gali District for years – with restrictions on freedom of movement, rights of property, education in native language and employment,” the Minister noted, adding that the calls of Sokhumi authorities on changing the family names and identity of local Georgians are taken “as an additional instrument of pressure.”

Minister Tsikhelashvili also underlined that “Gali residents live in unbearably hard conditions,” and stressed that they have a right to live safely in their own homes, while “such approach [by Sokhumi leadership] only increases confrontation and additionally worsens the situation on the ground.”

Ketevan Tsikhelashvili added that the international community had been informed about the development, “which assesses such policy in Abkhazia as discriminatory.” She also pledged that the government would continue using “all [discussion] formats” for protecting the rights of ethnic Georgians of Abkhazia.

The Minister also pointed out that “just like the Abkhaz identity is precious for the Abkhaz, so is the Georgian identity for Gali Georgians”. “The Government of Georgia values the ethnic groups and their identity; Abkhaz language, culture and identity is of special priority for the country, with the Abkhaz language protected by the Constitution along with the Georgian language,” she also noted.

Parliament Should Elect Politically Neutral Person as Auditor General-NGOs : an open letter from Tbilisi-based NGOs

The term of office of the Auditor General of the State Audit Office of Georgia ended on July 25. The new Auditor General will be elected by the nomination of the Chair of the Parliament of Georgia and through the majority vote of the Parliament. According toreports in the media, the Georgian Dream is considering to nominate members of the ruling party for this position.

We believe it is critical for the government to demonstrate political will to elect an independent Auditor General that will not be affiliated with any political power and will be accountable only to the Constitution and the Parliament. This is an important precondition to safeguard independence of the Audit Office, an institution established under the Constitution of Georgia.

Over the course of the past years, the Audit Office has become an impartial institution free from political influence. This is also supported in various reports published by NGOs. This is an important achievement considering the experience prior to 2012.

Based on past experience, as well as for ensuring high level of independence of the institution, which is required for its functions and purpose, NGOs proposed a recommendation to the government in 2013. The recommendation proposed that the legislation impose restrictions on political/partisan activities by high officials of the Audit Office, including the Auditor General and his/her deputies. The restrictions would be imposed not only during the terms of their office but also for a certain periods before and after taking the office. This is due to the fact that the independence of Audit Office is largely dependent on the independence from political influence of the Auditor General and his/her deputies.

We would like to remind the public that over two months have passed since the incident that happened between Lasha Tordia, the current Auditor General, and Otar Partskhaladze, former General Prosecutor, when, according to Tordia, the former General Prosecutor and his security staff physically assaulted him. Two months have passed and the incident has still not been fully investigated and questions remain whether this incident was related to the official functions of the chair of the constitutional body. This causes irreparable damage to the functioning of the institution. In view of this, it is important for there to be no perception of political favoritism when electing a new Auditor General.

We call on the Parliament to carry out its supervisory mandate granted by the Constitution in good faith and to elect a politically neutral candidate for the new Auditor General, who will not be affiliated with any political party but instead will be the guarantee of impartiality and independence of the State Audit Office.

The undersigned organizations are:
Transparency International – Georgia
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy
Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association
Civil Development Agency
Georgian Democracy Initiative
Institute for Development of Freedom of Information
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center
Human Rights Center
The Economic Policy Research Center
Georgia’s Reforms Associates
Liberal Academy Tbilisi