EU Commissioner gives recommendations to Georgian Gov’t
By Tea Mariamidze
Thursday, January 14
“Georgia should continue strengthening the independence and the impartiality of its judges,” the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, stated in a report released on January 12. The report was released after the Commissioner’s latest visit to Georgia from 9 to 13 November.
The Commissioner address the progress achieved in the judicial reforms, such as the reduced influence of the prosecutorial authorities, the increased transparency in the work of the High Council of Justice and an improved juvenile justice system. However, he claims that some long-standing structural problems still require serious attention and further development.
According to Nils Muiznieks, it is vital that the government keep the Georgian judiciary system transparent and impartial. He believes that judges should be protected from any kind of internal and external pressure and notes that the selection, appointment and transfer of the nation’s judges should be transparent, merit-based and carried out in accordance with clear criteria.
“The Commissioner was informed of specific cases of alleged pressure and interference with the work of judges, including allegations of threats and intimidation targeting judges of the Constitutional Court in relation to decisions they have taken. Another problem the authorities need to address urgently is the disciplinary system against judges, which does not seem to function properly,” reads the press release published on the web-site of European Union.
The EU Commissioner highlights the progress achieved through recent amendments to legislation related to the Prosecutor’s Office, which brought improvement to the selection, appointment and dismissal procedures of the Chief Prosecutor. However, Muiznieks believes that more action should be taken to ensure the independence and impartiality of prosecutors with a view to prevent undue political interference with their work.
Nils Muiznieks expressed his concern about isolated incidents of police brutality, most notably the case of lawyer Giorgi Mdinaradze, who was beaten by several police officers on November 8. The Commissioner advised Georgian authorities to “complete effective investigations into these cases, which should lead to the adequate punishment of perpetrators”.
The Commissioner also drew attention to the case Rustavi 2 and its recent legal troubles, and condemned the efforts of those attempting to restrict media freedom and change the channel’s management.
Nils Muiznieks is also concerned about certain instances of intolerance against members of the Muslim community saying that “no artificial obstacles should be placed in the way of religious minorities regarding access to sufficient worshipping facilities.”
During his visit to Georgia, the EU Commissioner visited a semi-formal settlement in the outskirts of Batumi called “dream town”, inhabited by 900 families who left poverty and natural disasters in the high mountainous areas of Adjara. Muiznieks says that these people do not have normal living conditions and lack adequate healthcare and social assistance.
He also travelled to the so–called administrative boundary line with South Ossetia, close to the village of Odzisi. He listened to the problems of the locals and urged the Georgian Government to “take a number of positive steps to improve the situation of internally displaced persons and the socio-economic conditions of those living close to the administrative boundary line.”
Muiznieks also called upon the Georgian authorities to improve their responses to hate crimes and hate speech, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and to ease tensions between majority and minority religious groups.
The Commissioner encourages the Georgian authorities to start a dialogue with all religious denominations and to tackle identified issues following a human rights-based approach.
It should be noted that Muiznieks’s previous visit to Georgia took place from 20 to 25 January 2014, after which he released a report which said that Georgia had to improve the administration of justice and to promote European-style tolerance.