Is creation of the new post of Military Ombudsman justified?
On November 6, 2012, a new draft law on the Military Ombudsman was introduced to Parliament. According to this draft law, a new post of Military Ombudsman will be created which would have a similar authority and legal status as the Public Defender, but would be focused on defending the rights of military servicemen. We think that instead of creating this separate institution, which would cost the state GEL 465,760, it would be simpler and more effective to extend the mandate of the Public Defender’s Office to cover these issues. This could include the creation of a special department within the Public Defender’s Office.
The Organic Law of Georgia on the Public Defender of Georgia grants this office a mandate to defend the rights of every person, including the rights of military servicemen, and he or she therefore has unimpeded access to the premises of any state or regional government body, including military units (Article 18).
The Public Defender of Georgia also has the functions of the National Preventive Mechanism, as envisaged by the Optional Protocol of the United Nations Convention against Torture, and the Public Defender is provided with the necessary logistical, human and financial resources to perform these functions.
Additionally, The Office of Public Defender has extensive experience working with human rights issues, relevant contacts at the national and international level, and strong public recognition and trust. Therefore, it is questionable whether there is a need to create a new institution which would have to work hard to achieve this status.
The creation of the new post was put on the agenda after cases of torture and inhuman treatment in the Georgian Army emerged, which demonstrated that the human rights of servicemen were not being adequately protected. However, violations of human rights have not occurred only in the Georgian Army. In recent years, the rights of prisoners and numerous other groups were also violated. Therefore, if we accept the idea of creating a special Military Ombudsman position, then separate human rights bodies should logically also be established in every other sphere of human rights, which would include human rights bodies for religious minorities, ethnic minorities, prisoners, detainees, victims of property rights violations, and so on. This would cause serious confusion in society and complicate the whole institutional landscape of human rights protection in the country.
Therefore, we think that if the state wants to better protect the rights of military servicemen, funding for this should be given to the Office of Public Defender, and a special department should be created to work on these issues. This would ensure the benefits of the Public Defender’s extensive experience, high profile and human resources can be drawn upon to better protect the rights of servicemen.