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Georgia’s Public Defender Says He’s Not Tied to Selection of “Tolerance Defenders”

By Tea Mariamidze
Wednesday, November 22
(TBILISI) – Georgia’s Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili claims he has no links to the annual selection process for awarding “defenders of tolerance,” as named by the country’s Council of Ethnic Minorities and Religions.

Nanuashvili’s statement came after Georgian writer, Naira Gelashvili, returned the award she received in 2009, saying she refused to be a recipient of the award after TV network Rustavi-2 TV and an opposition European Georgia party member Giga Bokeria were given the same award on November 16.

“The Council selects defender of tolerance independently, without any interference by the Public Defender,” Nanuashvili’s statement said.

He later explained that the selection process is decided by a majority votes and only representatives of religious organizations that are affiliated with the Council have the right to vote.

Nanuashvili also stated that all candidates should be chosen according to their contribution to the creation and promotion of tolerance in the country, and that the public defender’s office is barred from intervening at any time.

The Council of Ethnic Minorities and Religions awarded 14 tolerance defenders on November 16, among them the Director General of Rustavi-2, Nika Gvaramia and Bokeria, a former member of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM).

Beka Mindiashvili, a representative from the Tolerance Center, confirmed that the Council acts independently and awards individuals based on specific criteria.

"The criteria promotes support for religious and ethnic minorities and the protection of freedom of religion as well as in the development of a tolerant culture,” said Mindiashvili.

International Tolerance Day was initiated by the UN General Assembly in 1996. On November 16, 1995, UNESCO adopted the Declaration on the Principles of Tolerance.