Question about the event
Ambassador Degnan: The Public Defender is one of the most challenging and most important jobs in any democracy. Under Georgia’s constitution, the Public Defender is responsible for protecting the human rights of every citizen in Georgia. Sometimes that means that the government or others are not happy with the Public Defender because that job is to speak truth to authority in defending the rights of citizens of Georgia and improving the systems and institutions that Georgia is building for its democracy. Not everyone is going to be happy with you. It is a job that takes tremendous courage, integrity, independence, and dedication. The United States is very proud to have been able to support Nino Lomjaria and her excellent professional team over the course of her term in helping the Public Defender’s Office strengthen its systems to be more responsive to the needs of Georgian citizens, to be better able and equipped to meet its constitutional obligation to protect and defend the human rights of every Georgian citizen. This is a great privilege for the United States to have been able to support an office that is so fundamentally important to each and every Georgian citizen. I am very proud to be here today. I think everyone in this room at the conference was impressed with the range of work that the Public Defender’s Office has done over the past five years, and the amount of significant improvements in many areas that the Public Defender has made. As we saw, there are also areas that need continued work. I know that the next Public Defender will take that on. We all hope that the process now underway for the selection of the next Public Defender will produce a qualified, independent, dedicated professional who has the courage to speak truth to power, and to represent the people of Georgia the way Nino Lomjaria and her team have done.
Question about former President Saakashvili
Ambassador Degnan: We are continuing to monitor his situation very closely. We are going through the recent reports just like others are. Some of the recently released reports haven’t been translated into English. The main thing is that the government takes whatever steps are necessary based on this new information. We’ve all been waiting for credible, reliable medical conclusions as to Mr. Saakashvili’s health before anybody can know what is the best course of action. As the United States has said repeatedly, it is important to ensure that Mr. Saakashvili receives the medical care that he needs, and that his human rights are respected. We will continue to advocate for the government to take appropriate steps based on this recently released medical information.