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Public Defender Responds to Information Spread by Papuna Ugrekhelidze

The Public Defender of Georgia is responding to the information disseminated by Papuna Ugrekhelidze in the media regarding the recommendation of the Public Defender. First of all, we would like to note that the public discussion of this issue is caused by the disclosure and misinterpretation of the facts by the defendant.

On 3 May 2017, within the mandate under the Law on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, the Public Defender established E.M.’s sexual harassment and harassment on the ground of sex by Papuna Ugrekhelidze in his recommendation. The case had been studied by the Public Defender for 8 months, during which the parties had access to the case materials. It should be noted that the defendant had never questioned the authenticity of the evidence at any stage of the examination of the case by the Public Defender.

When making the final decision, the Public Defender relied on the positions submitted by the parties – E.M. and Papuna Ugrekhelidze - in writing, opinions orally expressed during conversations with them, communication between the parties by telephone and email and information obtained from the third parties.

As for the decision of the Tbilisi City Court relating to the dispute between Papuna Ugrekhelidze and E.M., as far as the Public Defender is aware, the dispute was of a private legal nature. The subject of the dispute was not related to the recommendation of the Public Defender, the part of it or the mandate of the Public Defender. According to our information, the reasoned decision of the court has not yet been handed over to the parties. When we are given the opportunity to see the decision, the Public Defender will, if necessary, make an appropriate explanation. However, there is no reason at this stage to suppose that the City Court challenged the Public Defender's recommendation, the part of it or the mandate of the institution.

We would also like to explain that the Public Defender of Georgia is a constitutional body that oversees the protection of human rights and freedoms in the country. In line with the EU standards, the Public Defender is defined as a legal mechanism of combating discrimination. In the event of alleged discrimination, the Georgian law provides the victim with the opportunity to apply to the court or the Public Defender for the purpose of restoring his/her right. Accordingly, these two mechanisms study the alleged cases of discrimination and make decisions independently from each other. The law does not provide for a mechanism of reviewing the Public Defender's decision by the court, except when the Public Defender applies to the court regarding the enforcement of Public Defender’s recommendations.

According to the Public Defender, accusation of the victim, especially when the competent authority has already made a decision, has a negative impact on the fight for equality in Georgia. At the same time, it creates a sense of injustice among victims and creates additional barriers to the protection of the rights and freedoms by them.

Given all the above, the Public Defender of Georgia calls on all stakeholders, including the media, to show caution when assessing such cases and to disseminate as objective and comprehensive information as possible, in the interests of persons concerned.

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