08TBILISI2072, GEORGIA: POLITICIZATION OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI2072 2008-11-06 13:47 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4621
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2072/01 3111347
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 061347Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0363
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002072 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: POLITICIZATION OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 1987 
     B. 2007 TBILISI 2777 
     C. TBILISI 1890 
     D. TBILISI 1983 
 
Classified By: CDA Kent Logsdon for reasons 1.4(b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C)  Begin Summary:  Since November 2007, Public Defender 
Sozar Subari's statements have steadily become more 
politically charged, leading both the international community 
and his own staff to question his objectivity.  As Georgia's 
Public Defender and Human Rights Ombudsman, Subari was 
appointed by the President and approved by the Parliament to 
function in a non-partisan way to address citizens' concerns. 
 Recent public opinion polls completed by IRI indicate that 
he is one of Georgia's most trusted officials (ref A), but 
many are now speculating about Subari's future political 
aspirations.  His rhetoric so far suggests his platform is 
the same as other opposition candidates:  long on criticism, 
short on constructive suggestions.  End Summary. 
 
HOW DID SUBARI GET HERE? 
 
2.  (U)  Subari was appointed Ombudsman (aka the Public 
Defender) in autumn 2004 for a five-year term.  He is the 
third public defender since the office was created in 1997. 
His office has representatives in Kutaisi, Zugdidi and 
Batumi.  A native of the Svaneti region, he surrounds himself 
in the office with fellow Svans.  Subari is well-known for 
his dedicated approach to his work and has actively taken on 
the issues of minority integration and settlement of property 
issues between the Armenian Apostolic and Georgian Orthodox 
Churches.  Subari has a strong sense of his personal honor, 
something he associates very strongly with his father, a 
small country doctor held in high esteem by fellow villagers. 
 
LOOKING FOR A LITTLE RESPECT 
 
3.  (C)  In his public image, Subari strives to inform the 
public about the activities of the Public Defender, often 
giving media interviews and contributing articles to local 
papers on human rights issues.   He is a visible figure in 
Tbilisi.  During the November 7, 2007 civil unrest, law 
enforcement officers beat up Subari as he stood before the 
Parliament checking on hunger-strikers, even after he 
identified himself to them (ref B). While it is hard to 
determine when he might first have conceived of a possible 
political career, some observers believe this incident could 
have well been the catalyst.  Nearly one year later, the 
Prosecutor's Office has not arrested anyone in connection 
with this crime.   This was an insult to Subari's Svan 
dignity and hardened his recalcitrant stance against the 
Saakashvili administration.  Fuel was added to the smoldering 
resentment when Subari perceived that Parliament did not want 
to hear his annual report, whose reading was delayed several 
times due to the electoral schedule and Parliament's 
sessions.  Subari was convinced that Saakashvili's party, the 
United National Movement (UNM), was trying to silence his 
findings, which portrayed UNM participation in November 
events in a harsh light.  During the summer months, Subari's 
public statements began to take a harder line, reminiscent of 
United Opposition rhetoric, lashing out at western 
governments for "turning a blind eye" to the many human 
rights violations committed by the Saakashvili 
administration. 
 
4.  (C)  Throughout the summer and fall, Subari appeared on 
the pro-opposition Kavkasiya Tbilisi cable television talk 
show with opposition politicians.  The Kavkasiya broadcasts 
are characterized by an aggressive questioning style and 
fiery bashing of Saakashvili's administration.  On September 
30, Subari announced the creation of the Public Movement for 
Q30, Subari announced the creation of the Public Movement for 
Freedom and Justice.  Subari characterized the movement as an 
informal, open association that is not a political party. 
Other participants in the movement are opposition candidates 
who have previously demonstrated radical opposition to the 
UNM:  Kakha Kukava and Zviad Dzidziguri (Conservative Party); 
Salome Zourabichvili (Georgia's Way); and Paata Zakareishvili 
(Republican Party).  Other participants include various media 
and NGO figures, such as Mamuka Glonti, founder of Maestro TV 
(ref C).  The establishment of the movement came after a 
tough-worded statement in which Subari spoke out against the 
"authoritarianism" in Georgia.  The press statement was made 
with the group of opposition leaders from the premises of the 
Public Defender offices. 
 
IF IT WALKS LIKE A DUCK... 
 
5.  (C)  Even though Subari denies that his movement is 
political in practice, others believe it is.  David 
Usupashvili (Republican Party) told Poloff that Subari is 
 
TBILISI 00002072  002 OF 002 
 
 
trying to warm up the public before announcing his own 
political party.  Usupashvili opined that running for office 
is fine, but that Subari should leave his job as Public 
Defender first because there is a conflict of interest in 
using his current position to climb the political ladder. 
OSCE Human Rights colleagues told Poloff that Subari has &#x
000A;"crossed the line" from impartial to subjective reporting and 
that they now read his reports and statements with a critical 
eye. 
 
INTEROFFICE POLITICS 
 
6.  (C)  Allar Joks, a seasoned Public Defender from Estonia 
under contract by UNDP to work in Subari's office through the 
end of November, told Poloff that he was concerned with the 
aggressive style of Subari's statements and the future 
direction of the office.  Joks believes that some of the 
staff's uneasiness with the situation has lead to an 
increased willingness to resign.  Giga Giorgadze, one of 
Poloff's key contacts, told Joks, "I didn't sign up for this" 
and will leave his job at the Public Defender's office by 15 
November.  Joks advised Subari to focus on building a 
strategic partnership with the government to forge resolution 
on issues, rather than making very divisive statements which 
serve only to alienate.  Joks told Poloff that when Subari 
was attending a Public Defender's conference in Europe, he 
referred to President Saakashvili as "a terrorist."  Joks 
emphasized to Subari the need to modulate and reflect on the 
impact of his comments.  If his rhetoric about the President 
is the same as the Russians', what does this say about the 
integrity of the Public Defender?  Joks encouraged Subari to 
whittle down the 1,400-page reports which his office 
publishes and to outline general trends with positive 
recommendations instead of finger-pointing. 
 
7.  (C)  So far, Subari has not implemented many of Joks' 
suggestions, most of which deal with long-term strategic 
goals and prioritization of tasks.  Joks stressed to Subari 
that he must make political trade-offs to achieve objectives, 
but so far, this has fallen on deaf ears.  Given the strong 
personal ties in Georgia which bind or strangle, some may 
have decided to wait out Subari until his time in office 
expires next year.  Joks approached Kakha Lomaia, National 
Security Council, to ask for increases in staff salaries for 
the office; although the office receives substantial donor 
support, it does not cover payroll costs.  Lomaia reportedly 
said that this will only occur once Subari has left office. 
(Embassy comment:  The Estonian Embassy here, which has made 
establishing the ombudsman's office a top bilateral 
assistance priority, has also expressed concern about 
Subari's approach to the job, worrying to us that his tilt 
toward the opposition could undo years of work.  End comment.) 
 
THE FUTURE CANDIDATE 
 
8.  (C)  Some who follow politics in Georgia suggest that 
Subari may announce the formulation of his new political 
party on November 7.  This would have maximum affect on the 
anniversary of last year's events and underpin his call for 
participation in early elections.  Although opposition 
candidates may court him now, once he becomes one of many 
opposition candidates, his support among the opposition could 
wane.  In all likelihood, his high wave of popularity with 
the public could ebb as the differentiation between his and 
other opposition parties would blur.  Some misinterpreted 
Subari's comments before the Parliament in July regarding 
settlement of Armenian and Orthodox property issues as 
anti-Orthodox.  Without the church's support, or at least 
Qanti-Orthodox.  Without the church's support, or at least 
non-objection, it is questionable how successful Subari could 
be politically (ref D). 
 
COMMENT 
 
9.  (C)  Joks' concerns about the Public Defender's office 
could be applied to other ministries in Georgia.  The office 
is associated with one personality--Subari. Commitment to a 
plan beyond the immediate situation is difficult.  To date, 
Subari has demonstrated the "zero sum mentality" of Georgian 
opposition politicians, unable to see the larger picture of 
consensus and challenged to offer concrete solutions to 
difficult problems.  For four years he has been in a position 
to positively influence policy, but he has not used it 
effectively.   This is demonstrated best by Joks questioning 
the need of the Public Defender's Office (PDO) to spend so 
many staff hours on researching court cases. The PDO does not 
have the authority to officially open cases, but can only 
recommend that the Prosecutor's Office do so.  Subari's reply 
was, "We need to show what the government is doing is wrong." 
LOGSDON

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