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Special Rapporteur releases critical assessment of Georgian political affairs

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, June 22
Maina Kiai, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, has aired in the final report on the Georgian political situation. The report is critical, highlighting several problematic fields which create obstacles for the country’s democratic development and the prospects of holding the upcoming elections in a fair and transparent environment.

At the beginning of the report Kiai spoke about the positive achievements of the current Georgian leadership. However, the report explained that recent changes in the law might result in negative outcomes for the country.

The Rapporteur expressed especially deep concern about the Law on Political Unions of Citizens. The reppourter felt that it could be “used as an excuse to target individuals in Georgia for political reasons through the Chamber of Control,” given that Article 26, as amended in December 2011, violates the basic rights and freedoms guaranteed in international human rights instruments. Thus, according to Kiai, urgent measures are required to prevent such violations.

Kiai also provided concrete recommendation on how the issue might be regulated. “Seriously consider repealing paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 26 of the Law on Political Unions of Citizens of December 2011. Physical and legal persons should be granted the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs, as well as the right to freedom of opinion and expression without undue restrictions, ”Kiai emphasized.

It has also focused the attention on the Chamber of Control’s recent actions. Accordingly, the prerogatives of the monitoring department of the chamber should be “seriously reviewed” particularly with regard to the need to substantiate its decisions and the obligation to obtain a judicial instruction before taking any action in the event of reasonable doubt when an illicit activity is suspected, and to ensure that it is transparent, independent and accountable, and seen to be so in law and fact.

The Special Rapporteur was also very concerned about the lack of a conducive environment in Georgia, which would allow political parties to operate as equals. Stark differences with regard to resource allocation were observed in law and in practice, leading the mandate holder to conclude that the right to freedom of association for political parties is being consistently violated. “Unless remedial action is taken, citizens in Georgia will not be able to effectively elect leaders to represent their interests and to hold them accountable,” Kiai stated.

In spite of several good reforms, Kiai is concerned about the enabling environment for associations. The Special Rapporteur is concerned that the recent adoption of legislative amendments to the Law on Political Unions of Citizens, together with the application of the existing Labour Code and Election Code, “unduly restrict the free exercise of the right to association.”

With regard to freedom of association, the Special Rapporteur has identified two broad areas of concern: an uneven political playing field, and undue obstacles for trade unions and their members.

A lengthy part of the report was devoted to the May 26, 2011 police crack-down in Tbilisi. According to the Rapporteur, serious disagreements regarding the events of May 26, 2011 between protesters and the police reveal an urgent need to establish the facts. “After extensive interviews and consideration of significant documentation on the matter, the Special Rapporteur is of the view that the government may have had the intention to use force against opposition leaders and protesters,” the report reads.

The NGOs and Georgian Public Defender’s office took the report as “strict and real.”

According to Sophio Benashvili from the Ombudsman’s office, while making the report, Kiai was deeply collaborating with Georgian Public Defender’s office and such strict assessments and description of reality might have been surprising for the ruling administration.

The opposition coalition party Georgian Dream responded to the report, stating that because of the report, the international community would receive real information concerning the situation ongoing within the state. “Kiai underscored that all fundamental values and rights, whether it be civil, political, economic, social or cultural, are all at the edge of annihilation.”

The Messenger has contacted several representative of the ruling party including Nugzar Tsiklauri and Davit Darchiashvili. However they refused to comment on the report, citing the fact that they have not read the report yet and because of that, are unable to comment.