The messenger logo

US State Dept. report: respect ‘worsened’ for some civil liberties in Georgia

By Shorena Labadze
Friday, March 14
The government’s record on media freedom and political participation regressed in 2007, especially during the political unrest in November, according to the annual US Department of State Country Report on Human Rights published on March 11.

“Respect for freedom of speech, the press, assembly and political participation worsened, especially during the fall crisis,” the report reads.

It also says that prior to November 7—when police violently dispersed peaceful protestors outside parliament—the government had taken “some significant steps” to improve the country’s human rights situation.

These included legislation prohibiting judges communicating with parties outside the courtroom, the adoption of a code of ethics for judges, and a High School of Justice to train them.

On the penitentiary system the report notes poor prison conditions, cases of mistreatment and torture of prisoners as well as the “continued overuse of pretrial detention for less serious offenses.”

Georgia’s prison population has tripled since 2005, according to official figures, causing concern amongst international organizations. The UN has called on the government to explore alternatives to pre-trial detention and a UN Human Rights Commission report published last autumn stated “gross overcrowding should be ended at once.”

The State Department report also notes that despite government efforts to tackle human trafficking in Georgia—including increased financial assistance for victims and the setting up of a shelter for them in Tbilisi—trafficking continues to occur.

It listed other problems as “reports of government pressure on the judiciary and the media, restrictions on freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, and corruption among senior-level officials.”

Head of the Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights NGO Nana Kakabadze said the report helps highlight often underreported cases of human rights problems in Georgia.

“This report notes certain facts that haven’t been mentioned in other reports before, such as cases of corruption in the political elite,” she said.

Meanwhile president of the Human Rights Information and Documentation Center Ucha Nanuashvili expressed hope that the report would have an effect on government policy.

“The length of the report itself shows how critical the [human rights] situation is. It will surely be some kind of warning for the government as they only ever listen to the US,” he said.

A spokesman for the Justice Ministry said they have not yet read the report and will release a statement on it soon.