The United Nations Country Team in Georgia has expressed its concern over the government's abolition of the State Inspector’s Service, following the signing of the controversial bill by president Salome Zurabishvili on Thursday.
The UN office in the country released its reaction to the news on Friday, following weeks of critical responses to the highly debated bill from some NGOs, as well as heads of diplomatic missions in Georgia, including US and French ambassadors.
In its reaction, the UN Georgia office said it was "particularly concerned" with the expedited manner of the parliament's review of the bill, raising the concern of a "lack of inclusive and transparent discussions" around the proposal.
The abolition of "one of the most credible, independent and authoritative institutions in Georgia" sent a "chilling" message to human rights-focused institutions in the country, the local UN organisation said.
A broadened list of crimes falling under the umbrella of the new Special Investigation Service - designed, along with the Personal Data Protection Service, to replace the now-abolished agency - was also a source of concern, by risking an "overburdening" of the new body.
????????The United Nations Country Team in Georgia issues a statement regarding the decision of Georgian authorities to abolish the State Inspector’s Service. https://t.co/uHJt00FZAK— UN in Georgia (@ungeorgia) January 14, 2022
In its statement, UN Georgia has called on the government to "request the opinion of relevant international institutions on the compliance of these decisions with the international standards".
The ruling Georgian Dream party introduced the bill on replacing the SIS - tasked with investigating offences by law enforcement, as well as personal data protection cases - with the two new bodies on December 25.
The party's MP Mamuka Mdinaradze announced the investigative and personal data protection functions, unified under the former agency, were "not compatible". Head of Georgian Dream Irakli Kobakhidze said there was "practically a universal recommendation" to separate the two functions of the State Inspector’s Service, in his comments on the initiative.
In reactions to the bill, US ambassador Kelly Degnan said it "undermined government accountability", while French ambassador Diego Colas and his Swedish counterpart Ulrik Tidestrom, along with other diplomats, noted their concern with the move.
A number of NGOs called on president Zurabishvili to veto the bill, while Kobakhidze responded to statements from the US embassy by saying the reactions undermined "confidence of the Georgian public in western partners".
On Thursday, State Inspector Londa Toloraia said she would appeal the bill at both the Constitutional Court of Georgia and the European Court of Human Rights.