TBILISI, DFWatch – The Public Defender in Georgia is to get a more active role in the courts and will also do more monitoring of conditions in social institutions.

The slightly increased powers comes following a decision by the government, after a bill was introduced to amend the Law about the Public Defender, prepared by Lasha Tordia, chairman of the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee.

One of the things it does is that it will allow the ombudsman to perform as what’s called Amicus Curiae (‘friend of the court’) also in the Constitutional Court. Until now, he has had this role in the two lower tiers of the court system: the city or district courts and the appeals court.

A “friend of the court” means that a person having this right can help people to prepare and present an appeal; consult them and represent him or her in court.

Another result of the bill is that the ombudsman will be granted access to monitor certain types of social institutions and shelters. He can enter orphanages, shelters for the elderly and psychiatric facilities.

Lasha Tordia who put forth the bill explains that there were certain problem with these types of shelters, and there was a need to have the law define the fact that the Public Defender has a legal right to monitor such places.

The law also specifies the public defender’s salary as the same amount paid to the chairman of the Constitutional Court – currently 5 650 GEL. Until today, it was up to the public defender himself to set his own salary level.

Lasha Tordia thinks that this amendment will significantly help the Public Defender to fulfill his or her obligations and the opposition shares this position.

“I think, all these proposals, reflected in the bill, further strengthens the Public Defender institute, so that it can fully carry out the monitoring and help people in the courts,” Tordia says.