History of Development of Public Defender's Institution in Georgia
Protection of human rights is linked to the legal framework and recognized regime in the state. Existence of ombudsman’s institution or human rights bodies, which guarantee realization of the recognized rights, is an essential element in a democratic state.
Protection of human rights has some history in Georgia. Elementary mechanisms of human rights protection were reflected even in the Constitution of February 21, 1921. This was the first legislative act with a wide range of political rights and freedoms. A separate chapter of the Constitution was dedicated to the socio-economic rights, including the right to mandatory and free education; assistance to the poorest families with food, clothes and a variety of items. Another chapter was devoted to the rights of national minorities. The 1921 Constitution fully responded to the demands of that time, but it turned out to be short-lived. After Bolshevik Russia occupied Georgia, the first Soviet Constitution only formally recognized some human rights and freedoms. In soviet Georgia, of course, there was no human rights institution.
Many years later, in 1992, the Presidium of the State Council of the Republic of Georgia adopted a resolution on "Setting up a state committee for the protection of the inter-ethnic relations and human rights". However, due to giving advantage to the protection of human rights, the Committee was soon renamed as the Committee of Human Rights and Inter-Ethnic Relations of the Republic of Georgia.
In compliance with the Republic’s legislation, the Committee was taking decisions within its competence; developed regulations, instructions, methodical instructions and other acts, which were binding for ministries, committees, departments, agencies, as well as enterprises and institutions, notwithstanding their property or organizational-legal forms. The Committee had its own regulations. It could create territorial bodies and establish funds.
In 1992, the State Committee of Human Rights and Inter-Ethnic Relations of the Republic of Georgia was temporarily housed in the building of Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia (the former parliament building in Tbilisi).
The Committee of Human Rights and Inter-Ethnic Relations:
- Coordinated activities of the state and governmental bodies as well as of organizations in the protection of political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights;
- Discussed claims and applications regarding violations of human rights;
- Was authorized to check the rights situation of inmates in pre-trial detention places, prisons, correctional facilities, at the presence of law enforcement officials. Chairman of the Committee, as well as his authorized representative, had the right to enter the pre-trial detention places, prisons, correctional facilities and talk to detainees and prisoners; had the right to make sure if their rights were protected during their detention or arrest, as well as during their presence in relevant institutions;
Chairman or Acting Chairman of the Committee of Human Rights and Inter-Ethnic Relations was authorized to demand from an official to prevent violations of human rights after making a written request. Review of the request was required within a month; results of the review were to be reported to the Chairman or Acting Chairman of the Committee. State and governmental agencies of the Republic, as well as organizations, were obliged to provide information upon request of relevant services of autonomous entities within their competences.
Together with the law enforcement agencies, the Committee had the right to permanently care for and supervise observance of the requirements of the law on " Freedom of the press and mass media" in order to prevent administrative interference with receiving, processing and dissemination of information by mass media sources.
The public defender's institution was later set up on the basis of this Committee and the office was originally staffed by old, experienced employees. However, the powers of the ombudsman are wider today compared to the competences of the Committee.
The first Public Defender of Georgia was Davit Salaridze (1997-2000). He was replaced before expiration of the term of office by Nana Devdariani (2000-2003). The full term of office was not served either by Nana Devdariani because of being appointed to another post. After her, Sozar Subari became the Public Defender of Georgia (2004-2009). He was replaced after expiration of a 5-year term by Giorgi Tugushi (2009-2012), which resigned three years later. Until 2017 the position of Public Defender was held by Ucha Nanuashvili.
In 2017 Nino Lomjaria was elected as a 6th Public Defender of Georgia.