The Public Defender of Georgia has found that Zviad Devdariani, the former head of local non-governmental organisation CiDA, sexually harassed three women.
Allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault from at least 10 women emerged in March after Devdariani was nominated for a spot on the Public Broadcaster’s board of trustees.
Five women addressed the Public Defender independently in April and May claiming that Devdariani sexually harassed them.
In a statement on 2 November, the Public Defender’s Office said they had found that Devdariani sexual harassed three women, while inquiries into claims by the two others were terminated due to a lack of evidence.
Devdariani had also called on the public defender to investigate the allegations against him.
‘The behaviour of Z. D. and the common characteristics of circumstances gave rise to an assumption of sexual harassment in relation to all three applicants, while the arguments and evidence adduced by the defendant were not enough to neutralise the assumption’, the statement said.
The Public Defender’s Office is charged with examining allegations of human rights violations in the country, however, it’s recommendations are non-binding.
Women wanted to ‘discredit’ her Devdariani
Devdariani has denied the allegations against him, claiming that the women accusing him of sexual misconduct were deliberately trying to discredit his professional reputation.
Allegations against him came after he was nominated by the Public Defender’s Office as a candidate to the Board of Trustees at the Georgian Public Broadcaster.
‘This was an unfortunate mistake’, Devdariani said in June, adding that ‘it was a dirty campaign serving a single purpose’, to discredit his reputation.
Speaking to journalists, he elaborated that he hoped the truth would be proved, which was why he was cooperating with the Interior Ministry and the Public Defender.
In their 2 November statement, the public defender said that even if allegations against Devdariani were part of an organised campaign, it would not rule out sexual harassment from Devdariani.
‘The truth of the applicants’ narrative cannot be questioned by the respondent party’s attempt to manipulate the abovementioned’.
The public defender said they had not found any grounds to suspect that the applicants deliberately misinterpreted Devdariani’s verbal sexual expressions as the applicants were not related and had different personal and professional profiles.
‘All three of them had objective expectations of establishing business relations with Z. D. All three of them told their friends about the unwanted sexual behaviour and none of them had any contact with Z. D. after meeting him once’.
OC Media failed to reach Devdariani for comment following the public defender’s statement.
His lawyer, Dimitri Gabunia, told OC Media he was unable to comment at this time as he had not yet discussed it with his client.
Suing women in court
Devdariani, who had been an outspoken advocate of women’s rights, resigned as director of CiDA after being accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault by at least 10 women.
His alleged victims claimed he misused his influence when they were seeking professional relations with him.
Devdariani initiated legal action against 11 people in June for ‘violating his honour and dignity’, including media personalities, politicians, and women’s rights activists.
Extracts from his court appeal have been posted online in which he demands those he is suing deny ‘defaming statements’ posted by them on Facebook.
In his complaint, Devdariani demanded that one of the people he is suing post to their Facebook page that ‘it is a lie that Devdariani is a huge dickhead’ and ‘it is a lie that Devdariani is a dumb and perverted man’.
After the allegations emerged, in May, the Interior Ministry launched an investigation for ‘stalking’. There is no law against sexual harassment in Georgia.
In July, Deputy Interior Minister Natia Mezvrishvili said they had identified several alleged victims.
‘Up to 10 people have told us about alleged stalking, sexual harassment, and other criminal activities. The investigation is proceeding, several people that Devdariani has named are to be questioned, after which we will make our conclusions’, said Mezvrishvili.