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The News in Brief

Wednesday, March 2
Public Defender offers proposal to government concerning child mortality rate

On March 1, the Public Defender held a briefing about necessary measures for the prevention and reduction of mortality amongst children under the age of 5.

On February 23 ,the Public Defender addressed the Government with a proposal with regards to the issue. During preparation of the proposal, the Public Defender’s Center for Child’s Rights analyzed policies and legislation of ten European countries, the basis of which presented a number of recommendations.

In his recommendation, the Public Defender demanded the development of a strategy and an action plan for the reduction of mortality of infants in Georgia; the improvement of access to and functioning of children's health facilities, including the equipment of facilities with appropriate infrastructure and devices, and the addition of a special helicopter for reaching remote and mountainous areas; the introduction of common regulations concerning the use of private and public medical vehicles; the elevation of qualifications of personnel and introduction of continuous education system; the promotion and implementation of the care system for pregnant women; strengthening of the availability of information about necessary mechanisms for the protection of infant health, as well as about the maternal and child health services; the introduction of a unified electronic database for processing and storing patients’ medical histories.

Although according to the data of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs, the infant mortality rate has decreased compared to the previous years, the scales of the reduction are not satisfactory with respect to European data, and remains alarmingly high. A total of 576 children under the age of five died in 2015 alone.

As per the data of the Inter-Agency Group of Child Mortality Estimation (IGME), the mortality rate in developed countries is 6 per thousand live births, while in Georgia the rate is 12. The rate of maternal mortality is also high in Georgia – 36 per one hundred thousand.

Improper health services, a lack of neonatologists, an inadequate care system for pregnant women, including low qualifications of medical personnel, and a low level of parental awareness could be considered the causes of the infants’ deaths.

Gaps in access to services, poor-quality or delayed services due to geographical location are especially worrisome. For example, the UNICEF survey, carried out in 2013 to reveal the causes of infant mortality, showed that the death probability of infants living outside Tbilisi was 1.4 times higher than of those living in Tbilisi, while death probability of infants living outside Tbilisi, the weights of which were 1,500 grams or less, was 1.9 times higher in the period before being discharged from hospitals and 1.5 times higher after leaving hospitals.

Pursuant to the international and national standards, the state is obliged to ensure high-quality functioning of the system of protection of infant’s life and execution of effective implementation, as well as proper qualifications of the system’s personnel.

The recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) stress that the Committee is concerned about the high rate of premature births in Georgia and urges the state to allocate more resources to address the problems related to pregnancy and premature birth. (IPN)

CoE’s Human Rights Body Criticizes Georgia over Hate Crimes

Despite some progress by Georgia on anti-discrimination policies and legislation, hate speech and violence against religious and sexual minority groups have increased over the past years, Council of Europe’s (CoE) human rights body, European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), said.

ECRI, composed of independent experts, released its periodic report on Georgia on March 1.

The previous report on Georgia was released by ECRI in April, 2010 and the new one covers the period before mid-June, 2015.

“Hate speech against ethnic and religious minorities, as well as against LGBT persons, continues to be a widespread problem in Georgia. Physical attacks against these groups also occur with worrying frequency,” reads the report.

In its comments to the report, the Georgian government responded that “there are no grounds to conclude that those cases take place at worrying frequency.”

According to the report there is “a general homo- and transphobic climate in Georgian society and LGBT groups were attacked repeatedly, in particular on the occasion of organising public events to mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.”

It said that the Georgian authorities’ response to those incidents “cannot be considered adequate” and the authorities “did not always sufficiently investigate and prosecute hate crime.”

According to the report, although “lately some attacks and threats against LGBT persons were investigated by the police… they had previously refused or shown reluctance to investigate in a number of cases.”

The report notes that although pursuant to ECRI’s recommendation Georgia introduced in 2012 a clause in the criminal code, which makes bias motives of an offender an aggravating circumstance, application of this provision “is rare and there has not been a single case” in which it was applied with regard to crimes motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to the report the authorities have “not taken adequate measures to deal with religious intolerance” and also failed to enforce the law to safeguard the rights of religious minorities in several cases of attacks, which were motivated by religious intolerance.

“In some instances they [the authorities] promoted local mediation mechanisms instead, calling upon the dominant Georgian Orthodox Church to negotiate with the local Muslim community in the aftermath of Islamophobic attacks,” reads the report.

In the report, which also lists recommendations, ECRI has called on the Georgian authorities to set up a specialized unit within the police to deal specifically with racist and homophobic hate crimes.

It also recommends scaling up the training activities for the judiciary and law enforcement officials on investigating incidents of hate crime.

ECRI has also called for amending the anti-discrimination law, adopted in 2014, to include a duty for public institutions to ensure that parties to whom they award contracts, loans, grants or other benefits respect and promote a policy of non-discrimination.

Citing a report from Tbilisi-based Media Development Foundation, ECRI says that several media outlets with xenophobic and homophobic attitudes were awarded advertisement contracts by the government ministries and agencies in 2013-2014.

ECRI recommends that the authorities “review their contracts with media outlets and cancel or not renew them in cases where media are known to engage in racist or homo-/transphobic hate speech. The authorities should also ensure that future contracts contain a clause stipulating that racist or homo-/transphobic hate speech will result in contract termination.” (