Public Defender Echoes Discrediting Campaign against Human Rights Defenders

Taking into account the special role of human rights defenders in a democratic society, the Public Defender considers the recent discrediting campaign against them and creation of obstacles for their effective involvement in the decision-making process to be disturbing.

In August 2022, in a group working on election issues created in the Parliament for the implementation of the EU recommendations, the ruling party, referring to the motive of losing political neutrality, did not involve the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), an organization which has many years of experience in this direction. Such an approach contradicts one of the conditions defined for Georgia to receive the candidate status for EU membership, which implies the involvement of civil society in the decision-making process, and damages the process of effective and thorough implementation of changes. It should also be noted that following the above, other non-governmental organizations, the expert knowledge of which is very important in the process of implementing reforms in the country, also stopped their participation in the groups created in the Parliament.

It is significant that the decision was followed by an attempt by high political officials to discredit non-governmental organizations and reduce their credibility in society.[1] A clear expression of the above was one of the last statements of the Chairman of the Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia party, Irakli Kobakhidze, who referred to the non-transparent and risky nature of the expenses of the non-governmental organizations. As information about the funding sources and implemented projects of non-governmental organizations is publicly available on their websites, the Public Defender believes that similar statements only aim to create negative attitudes in public towards the civil sector.

It is significant that the targets of attack by officials are mostly the non-governmental organizations that are critical of the government’s activities, which the Public Defender has repeatedly assessed as an unacceptable practice in the past as well.[2] In accordance with international standards, including the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly on protecting human rights defenders in Council of Europe member States and the Guidelines of the OSCE/Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Office on theProtection of Human Rights Defenders, the Public Defender emphasizes that supervising and criticizing the government policy and submitting the relevant proposals represent an integral part of the activities of human rights defenders, and creation of a favorable environment for the above should be the duty of the State.

Therefore, we once again call on the officials to refrain from engaging in the discrediting campaign against the organizations working on the most important issues for democratic development; to ensure the essential involvement of the civil society in the decision-making process in the future and to prevent the admission of organizations according to how acceptable their positions are.

[1] E.g. see the statements: < >, < >, < >, < >, < >, < >, < > [15.09.2022].

[2] 2021 parliamentary report of the Public Defender, p. 194; 2020 parliamentary report of the Public Defender, p. 257; 2019 parliamentary report of the Public Defender, p. 250; 2018 parliamentary report of the Public Defender, p. 167.

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