The Government of Georgia held a conference on December 4, 2013 to discuss the country’s strategy and the National Action Plan in the area of human rights.
Government launches human-rights strategy
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, December 5
The conference was organized with assistance from the European Union, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). EU Special Adviser on Constitutional and Legal Reform and Human Rights in Georgia, Thomas Hammarberg, Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Gharibashvili, Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia David Usupashvili, Head of United Nations in Georgia Niels Scott, high-ranking officials, members within the civil sector and media representatives took part in the conference.
Hammarberg stated, “For a foreigner, it is very difficult to see the real problems in the country. However, there are key moments that indicate [some of the] problems. If a government is not self-critical it means that something is going wrong regarding human rights.”
He emphasized that the Georgian Government should work on preventive activities, use detention only when/if there is strong evidence of criminality, support education and focus attention on children’s rights.
On The Messenger question on how the government might solve human rights related issues considering the hard economic situation, Hammarberg responded by saying that achieving the aim would be difficult. However, the government can elaborate the plan to fit its financial resources to the needs.
On the question of whether he could see the fault of the international community concerning the situation Georgia went through regarding human rights under the United National Movement (UNM) leadership, Hammarberg told us that he had always been critical and objective in his assessments. However, a serious portion of the recommendations were not taken into account.
What will be the reaction of the international community if the new government starts to do the same as its predecessor? Hammarberd said that “they will lose the elections, as people are the best judges.” Hammarberg advised the new government of Georgia not to repeat the same errors committed by the previous government.
Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Gharibashvili stated that the new government received a “bad inheritance” in terms of human rights. However, the coalition managed to do more than possible to make the court system and media free, stop involvement of the government in the court’s issues and stop torture in prisons.
“We are not going to Europe just to gain access to better trade solutions. We are going towards Europe because the main value for Europeans is humans. The new government of Georgia will do its best to defend the rights of each individual,” Gharibashvili said.
Parliamentary Chairperson Davit Usupashvili stated that all the previous governments of Georgia have not made human rights a priority, which was their downfall.
“We have the examples, and we should not do the same. Human rights should be the number one priority Usupashvili said, adding that the coalition will elaborate a mechanism for Georgian citizens not to have a feeling of injustice. He also addressed the international community not to make the same mistake as they did with the previous government by going soft on them.
Sascha Graumann, UNICEF representative in Georgia told The Messenger that children’s rights are poorly protected in the country.
“The major problems are extreme poverty, very high child mortality rate, and no access to education,” Graumann stressed. He stated that the new government of Georgia is open to collaboration and UNICEF is actively in contact with various ministries and the parliament.
“There are some problems regarding child mortality that does not require significant financial resources. There are some other problems that require steps to be taken among legislators,” Graumann said.
The UNDP is ready to assist the government in the elaboration of the strategy and take part in its monitoring. Scott told The Messenger that despite the economic problems, Georgia should work intensively on human rights.
Public Defender Ucha Nanuahsvili believes that the government should explore where the country stands regarding Human rights and only after should they launch a strategic plan to address the issue.
Head of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), Kakha Kozhoridze, stresses that an impartial court is a key element for defending human rights.
“Unfortunately, the High Council of Justice, which should be concerned about the impartiality of judges and some other vital court-related issues, fails to fulfill its functions appropriately,” Kozhoridze said. He adds that an impartial court would cause automatic removal of several human-rights problems. He also stressed that defending the rights of property is a direction that would improve the economic situation in the country. Kochoridze suggests that the monitoring group at the Public Defender’s Office, and not the government or parliament, should carry out the monitoring of the action plan on human rights that will be elaborated in the future.
Editor-in-Chief of Rezonansi newspaper, Lasha Tughushi, stated that the commercial market for newspapers is not as monopolized as it was under the previous government. “In one year it will be displayed how much the situation has improved concerning the field.” He also stated that the Interior Ministry of Georgia still undertakes the surveillance of individuals via mobile operators. This is an affront to human-rights and civil liberties. Tughushi emphasized that part of the video materials recorded for blackmailing people during the previous government still exists and they should be completely destroyed.
Advisor of the Prime Minister, Tamar Chugoshvili said that the government will elaborate the strategy through the involvement of all interested sides in the process. The strategy will be based on the recommendations elaborated by Georgia’s foreign partners. As for the monitoring mechanism, Chugoshvili stressed that the government is considering the best mechanisms to address this problem.