Remain a Problem in Georgia
(RIA Novosti, by Yevgeny Sidorov) — The 18 months that
have passed since
the "rose revolution" in Georgia have shown that
it is much easier to proclaim the goal of democracy and civil
than attain it. Experts, including UN, Council of Europe and
U.S. State Department representatives, believe the human rights
situation and the supremacy of law is far from normal in the
In late January
2005, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)
adopted a resolution on a report from the Monitoring Commission
concerning how Georgia was honoring the commitments it assumed
when it became a member in 1999. It is full of sharp criticism.
that also concerns the interests of Russia is a failure to fulfill
an obligation on the adoption by 2001 of a law on the repatriation
of Meskhetian Turks (Meskhi), under which they were to be granted
Georgian citizenship and to be repatriated in the next ten years.
Since this obligation was not fulfilled, PACE has called on the
Georgian authorities to create without further delay the legal,
administrative and political conditions for beginning the repatriation
of Meskhis, which is to be concluded by 2011.
is sabotaging these requirements under the pretext of dramatic
social and economic conditions.
PACE also criticized
the 2004 amendments to the Georgian constitution, which gave
the president too many powers over the weakened parliamentary
opposition, embryonic civil society and first tender shoots of
local self-government. The European body also noted a failure
to ensure an independent and effective judicial system, the introduction
of self-censorship in the Georgian media and unjustified limits
put on the independence of Adzharia.
experts concluded that Georgia had not honored over 30 commitments
and recommendations it had assumed upon joining the Council of
to the need to limit the powers of the president quickly, give
up the "money for freedom" deals in the judicial system
and the system of "commitment law," step up efforts
to combat corruption, and stop torture and violence in prisons
and pre-trial detention.
PACE also stipulated
a deadline (September 2005) for signing such vital intergovernmental
documents of the Council of Europe on human rights as the European
Charter for Regional Languages or Minority Languages, the Framework
Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the European
Social Charter, and the European convention for cross-border
stressed that the post-revolutionary period cannot justify unsubstantiated
decisions and a neglect of democratic and human rights standards.
The US State
Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices provides
a similar assessment. It stated the human rights situation in
Georgia remained inadequate, democratic institutions and processes
were still taking root, and the freedom of assembly was restricted.
The report expressed concern over the contents and the form of
amendments to the constitution adopted in early 2004. It is noted
that many former officials and businessmen charged with ties
with the previous regime were detained in violation of the norms
of procedure, that blackmail was used against them, and serious
pressure was put on the courts.
the State Department experts, "Government officials continued
to tolerate discrimination and harassment against some religious
minorities" and "journalists practiced increased self-censorship." Trafficking
in people remained a problem and "law enforcement officers
continued to torture, beat, and otherwise abuse detainees." Human
rights NGOs have even reported deaths.
findings regarding a February 2005 visit to Georgia by Manfred
Nowak (Austria), Special Rapporteur on Torture from the UN Office
of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, mention "torture
and inhuman, degrading treatment" and punishment (the report
is to be presented at the 61st session of the UN Commission on
that law enforcers still use torture in Georgia and detention
center conditions are mostly degrading. Courts and prosecutors
frequently use pre-trial detention disregarding the gravity of
crime, which overcrowds prisons and violates the presumption
of innocence and Point 3 of Article 9 of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights ("it shall not be the general
rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody").
The special rapporteur is especially alarmed how individuals
guilty of torture are almost never called to account, which shows "the
existence of a non-punishment culture in Georgia."
In reply, Tbilisi
refers to "current difficulties" and shifts the blame
for this situation to the previous Georgian authorities.