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PACE rapporteurs investigate Georgia further

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, July 14
The rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Kastriot Islami and Michael Jensen, continue to hold meetings in Georgia. On the second day of their visit they met members of the Parliamentary Legal Issues and Foreign Relations Committees, the Deputy Public Defender and Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance Khatuna Kalmakhelidze, discussing human rights and the ongoing reforms in Georgia.

The PACE representatives have recommended to Georgian lawmakers that they continue to undertake intensive work on constitutional and electoral reforms. They approved of the clauses in the new draft Constitution which reduce the power of the President to appoint members of the Government. They also called upon the lawmakers to take into consideration the remarks and corrections made by the Venice Commission concerning this draft. "Active and hard work in these directions is very important for the country. Georgian lawmakers should pay attention to a lot of issues. Working on these reforms should be the common task of the authorities, the opposition and other interested members of Georgian society,” Islami said.

After the meeting with Parliamentary Committee members MP Chiora Taktakishvili said, "Their aim was to get as much information as possible on the ongoing reforms in Georgia. They expressed much interest in the constitutional reforms and the election code. They also showed satisfaction over what is being done in the direction of democratic reforms.”

Jensen and Islami then held a meeting in the Public Defender’s office. "We are interested in how Georgia’s Public Defender institution functions. I can say that we are satisfied by what we have seen and heard. This institution acts quite effectively it seems,” Jensen said. Deputy Public Defender Tata Khuntsaria stated that, "they were very interested in the reforms we are undertaking. They had questions about the Public Defender’s second half of 2009 report. Concrete questions were asked about problems with the 30 May local government elections. They were given concrete answers to each question.”

The situation in prisons, ongoing reforms in the penitentiary system and future strategy were discussed at the meeting with Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance Khatuna Kalmakhelidze. "I was very satisfied with the meeting, as it enabled me to talk about the recent and future reforms in the Ministry. I am glad that they were also satisfied with the situation in this direction,” Kalmakhelidze said. “It was a very interesting meeting. There are two issues we have discussed at all our meetings: improving the election environment and the existence or non-existence of political prisoners. The Georgian authorities deny that there are any political prisoners here, but we are continuing to study this issue so that we can draw the right conclusions about this,” Jansen stated.

To counter the Government's strong assertions that no one has been arrested for political reasons in Georgia Chair of the public movement Solidarity With Political Prisoners Eka Beselia gave a list of 60 political prisoners to the PACE representatives. "I appeal to the Council of Europe to study the issue based on concrete examples. I appeal to the CoE to demand that the Georgian authorities fulfill all the responsibilities they took on when joining the Council of Europe,” Beselia said. PACE representatives said that all information gathered during their visit will be reflected in the report they will prepare.