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Report discusses racism in Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, June 17
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published its third report on Georgia on June 15 in which it underlined that since the publication of its second report on Georgia on February 13 progress has been made in a number of fields. However, despite this, some issues continue to cause concern.

The report states that despite the fact that a number of allegations of discrimination against ethnic minorities in employment and the administration of justice have been made there seem to have been no cases in which persons have obtained compensation from a judicial authority for the infringement of their right not to suffer racial discrimination. There is still no specialised body in place to combat racial discrimination and hear and consider complaints concerning this.

Although the August 2008 armed conflict could have resulted in significant ethnic tension, the public in general still seems to be able to distinguish between the political leadership and individuals living in Georgia. At the same time, contacts between the majority population and ethnic minorities are limited. Language is certainly one of the main obstacles, and more needs to be done to ensure that ethnic minority members speak Georgian. However, the isolation of Armenians, Azerbaijanis and others in the south and south-east is also due to infrastructure problems with transport and communications. Moreover, the majority population remains to a large extent unaware of the situation of ethnic minority groups and their culture.

Harassment and violence against Jehovahís Witnesses and Muslims continues to be a problem and the police do not always take appropriate action. As a result, victims are reluctant to report racially-motivated offences and attacks on religious property. Returning Meskhetian Turks deported from Georgia in 1940 by the former Soviet Union still suffer a certain level of hostility from some segments of the Georgian population, especially from ethnic Armenians who live in the region from which the deported persons originated.

In the report ECRI gives three special recommendations to the Government, progress against which will be revisited in two years time: to reform the system of teaching Georgian to ethnic minority pupils, to devise an integration strategy for Meskhetian Turks, explaining the historical reasons for their return, and to improve the teaching of Georgian to ethnic minority students of the Zurab Zhvania Public Administration School and help ethnic minority graduates, among others, find appropriate jobs. In addition ECRI strongly encourages the Georgian authorities to enact legislation stating that racist motivation can be treated as an aggravating circumstance in all types of offences. It recommends that the Georgian authorities revise and add to the criminal law provisions against racism and intolerance and train the police, prosecutors and present and future justice system professionals in the application of the legislation on racial offences.

Given the key role played by the Public Defender in combating racism and racial discrimination, ECRI recommends that the present Government give greater support to the Public Defenderís Office. Recognising the importance of collaboration and dialogue with ethnic minorities was one of the most important recommendations. The report also stated that Georgia should sign and ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life and the European Convention on Nationality, the Convention on Cyber Crime and the International Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.