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Human rights issues still need to be addressed in Georgia

By Ana Robakidze
Tuesday, February 5
Human Rights Watch published The World Report 2013, the 23rd annual review of human rights practiced around the globe. It summarizes key human rights issues in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide, drawing on events from the end of 2011 through November 2012.

In the report it is said that Georgia’s new government has inherited troubling human rights problems which need to be rectified.

The new government is advised to address past abuses, but also make sure politically motivated prosecutions are avoided, as well as public scrutiny of its actions are ensured.

Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, said that pre-the election environment in Georgia was extremely polarized. However, “the country managed to avoid civil unrest and the outgoing government ensured a peaceful transition of power.” Williamson also said that now the Georgian government has a new task: “This is commendable, but the new Georgian government still has to prove that it can protect rights while rectifying past abuses.”

While the elections largely met international standards, harassment and intimidation of opposition party activists was common during the campaign, also “the State Audit Office, which monitors parties’ compliance with campaign financing rules, overwhelmingly targeted the opposition."

Based on the ombudsman’s 2012 report, Human Rights Watch says that Georgian prisons are overcrowded, leading to very poor prison conditions. The reasons for the problem should be the policy of zero tolerance towards crime formed by the previous government.

According to the report, Georgian judicial system is in need of serious reforms, as the system lacks independence. In 2012, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) reported that the Tbilisi City Court judges granted all motions filed by the prosecution regarding the admissibility of evidence, while denying all defence motions that the prosecution did not support. Human Rights Watch says “many defendants accept plea bargains because they do not trust the judiciary, which convicts in more than 98% of cases.”

Assessing the level of media freedom in the country, the report says that “nationwide television broadcasting was limited to the state-funded public broadcaster and two pro-government stations, which were often biased in favor of the government,” while print media presents diverse political views.