Statement of Beate Rudolf, Director of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI)

Beate Rudolf, Chairperson of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions and Director of the German Institute for Human Rights, has responded to the severely critical statements of Georgian officials, including the Parliament Speaker, MPs and Ministers against the Public Defender's Office, his reports and statements, as well as the Public Defender, as the head of the institution.

“This criticism includes allegations of bias, unfairness, and incompetence. I further note that your concerns with regard to constitutional amendments affecting the Public Defender’s Office andits constitutional guarantees have been inappropriately dismissed, without due and adequate consideration.

I concur with the analysis of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks, which he publicly shared on social media on 17 November 2017, that such publiccriticism and verbal attacks may put at risk the credibility of, and public confidence in, the Public Defender’s Office and the Public Defender himself, and that such attacks must cease immediately.

Such attacks against an independent state institution that is fulfilling its statutory duties to promote and protect human rights are of grave concern to GANHRI. The Public Defender’s Office is internationally recognised by the UN as the NHRI of Georgia and has continuously been accredited with A status by GANHRI since 2007. This status is granted to NHRIs following a rigorous accreditation process under the auspices of the United Nations and testifies to their full compliance with the Paris Principles. The Paris Principles set out the necessary guarantees of independence that are required in order for the NHRI to be regarded as truly independent.

The Paris Principles state that NHRIs have the mandate to submit to state authorities their opinion on “any situation of violation of human rights which it decides to take up”. NHRIs have the mandate to do so in full independence, and should be free from any political pressure, physical intimidation or harassment. It is understandable and even expected that the actions and reports from an independent NHRI will contain information that is critical to government or unpopular, as it is the mandate of the NHRI to bring attention to human rights violations or to areas in which human rights may be improved in a country.

Both the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council have repeatedly stressed the “importance of the independent voice of NHRIs in promoting and protecting human rights”(A/HRC/RES/33/15 of 2016) and their mandate “to ensure full respect for human rights at the national level” (A/RES/70/163 of 2015).

The Human Rights Council in its resolution 33/15 on National Human Rights Institutions “encourages NHRIs to continue to play an active role in preventing and combating all violations and abuses of human rights,” and “recognises that NHRIs and their respective members and staff should not face any form of reprisal or intimidation, including political pressure, physical intimidation, harassment or unjustifiable budgetary limitations, as a result of activities undertaken in

accordance with their respective mandates, including when taking up individual cases or whenreporting on serious or systematic violations in their countries”.

Georgia is co-sponsor of this resolution.

The Public Defender’s Office is highly respected among peer NHRIs and within the broader international human rights community for its exemplary work. It is also an active member of the European Network of NHRIs (ENNHRI), was elected as member to the ENNHRI European Coordinating Committee in December 2015 and is the Chair of the ENNHRI Finance Committee, and a member of the GANHRI Bureau. Under your leadership since December 2012 the Office of the Public Defender has contributed to important achievements in the promotion and protection of human rights in Georgia, including the adoption of anti-discrimination legislation, increased efforts towards the elimination of practices of torture and an increased budgetary support to the Public Defender’s Office, thus strengthening the financial independence of the NHRI.

I understand that the Georgian Parliament will have to elect a new Public Defender by the end of this year. With the adoption of the constitutional amendments by the Georgian Parliament the termof office of the Public Defender has become non-renewable, however, this regulation enters into force next year, leaving the possibility for your re-election.

When re-accrediting the Public Defender’s Office in May 2013, the GANHRI Sub-Committee onAccreditation (SCA) emphasised the requirement for a clear, transparent and participatory selection process that promotes merit based selection, ensures pluralism and promotes the independence of, and public confidence in, the Public Defender.

Furthermore, the SCA recommended that the relevant legislation for the selection process includes, among others, a broad consultation and/or participation in the application, screening,selection and appointment process; an assessment of the applicants on the basis of predetermined, objective and publicly available criteria; and a selection of members to serve in their own individual capacity rather than on behalf of the organisation they represent.

The Public Defender’s Office is scheduled for review by the SCA again in 2018.

I call upon public authorities to immediately cease attacks and other acts of intimidation thatundermine, or are intended to undermine, the institution and the Public Defender, to fully respect the independence of the office and the office-holder, and to protect it against attacks by other state institutions.

In accordance with its mandate, and in cooperation with ENNHRI and partners, GANHRI willclosely observe the selection and appointment process of the new Public Defender. GANHRIstands available to support you in advocating for a process that ensures the continuedindependence, effectiveness of, and public confidence in, the Public Defender’s Office and its continued full compliance with the Paris Principles”.

The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions , which is the United Nations (UN) recognized umbrella body of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). GANHRI represents at an international level 110 NHRIs from around the globe, including 78 of which enjoy A status accreditation at the UN, testifying to their full compliance with the UN Paris Principles of 1993.

Seethe electronic version of the statement

Woking Hours: Monday–Friday 9:00–18:00
Hot line: 1481 (24/7)