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Freedom House asks Clinton focus on human rights on Caucasus

Monday, June 4
Freedom House, the US-based rights organization, has urged US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton “to make human rights and democracy shortfalls in the Caucasus region the cornerstone topic in private meetings and in public statements” during her June 4-6 visit to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

“Encouraging and supporting democratically accountable systems in the Caucasus region is essential,” David J. Kramer, Freedom House President, said. “While we realize there are a range of policy interests to be discussed during the trip, Freedom House calls for a particular emphasis on the ongoing concerns about human rights and democracy throughout the region, especially in Azerbaijan and Armenia”.

In reference to Georgia, Freedom House’s address to Clinton reads, “Georgia affords some but not all of the institutional safeguards and holds promise for more meaningful reform, if the right steps are taken. The upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Georgia present a test for civil society in Georgia to develop more effective and mature political platforms”.

Georgia’s indicators, according to the Freedom House report, Freedom in the World 2012, remain unchanged over last year, with the country still deemed “partly free”. However, in a recent Freedom House survey on global press freedom, Georgia has improved for third consecutive year, while still remaining in the category of “partly free".

In addition to the Freedom House appeal, Georgian election watchdogs, legal advocacy, and media organizations have also addressed Secretary Clinton ahead of her visit to Georgia, calling on her to raise the need for further legislative amendments to improve the election environment ahead of the forthcoming October parliamentary elections.

Analyst Nika Chitadze hailed the Freedom House recommendations to Clinton, saying it will contribute to the improvement of the campaign environment. He noted that Clinton will meet with both government and opposition representatives, and will make recommendations for all sides.

“International non-governmental organizations cannot miss such an opportunity to ask high level officials to raise such sensitive issues as human rights. Freedom House's address to Clinton ahead of her visit was very apt, as human rights continue to be violated in Georgia. Some pressure from the US can be very effective in the creation of free and fair pre-election environment," he said.

Secretary Clinton will hold talks with Georgian leadership, civil society and opposition representatives in the Black Sea resort town of Batumi. She will arrive in Georgia from Armenia on June 5, and will then travel to Azerbaijan on June 6.