The messenger logo

US Department of State report involves Georgia

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, April 15
The United States (US) State Department published its new report on April 13 entitled ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015’, which also concerns human rights in Georgia.

According to the report, although the 2012 parliamentary elections in Georgia were democratic, there still are many problems in the country even in 2015, such as arbitrary detentions by Russian and de facto authorities of Georgian citizens along the administrative boundary line with the country’s occupied territories; significant shortcomings in the administration of justice, including pressure on the judiciary in selected cases, questionable judicial appointments, inconsistent government responses to violence or abuse, incomplete investigations, premature charging of suspects, and inappropriate use of pretrial detention; and insufficient government efforts to combat societal discrimination against women, members of ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities, and persons with disabilities.

Other problems included substandard prison conditions; ineffective mechanisms to address alleged abuses by law enforcement officials; allegations of improper electronic surveillance; political pressure on independent television broadcasters; restrictions on freedoms of assembly and association ; substandard living conditions for internally displaced persons (IDPs); violence against the political opposition and lack of accountability; and government corruption. Domestic violence against women, gender-based sex selection, early marriage, HIV and AIDS social stigma, and trafficking in persons were also reported.

The document also mentions the prosecution of former officials from the United National Movement Party (UNM).

According to the report, in March the Prosecutor General’s Office charged former President Saakashvili, along with former Prime ,Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs Ivane Merabishvili, former Minister of Justice Zurab Adeishvili, former Minister of Defence Davit Kezerashvili, and former Tbilisi mayor Giorgi Ugulava with exceeding official authority for involvement in the 2007 violent dispersal of antigovernment protests and a raid and seizure against Imedi TV and other assets owned at the time by Badri Patarkatsishvili. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, Saakashvili allegedly ordered the dispersal and instructed senior government officials to deprive Patarkatsishvili of ownership of Mtatsminda Park and Imedi TV due to its critical coverage of the government.

The report also includes information about Russian-assisted de facto authorities in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which remained outside central government control and were supported by several thousand Russian troops and border guards occupying the areas since the 2008 armed conflict between Russia and Georgia.

“The de facto authorities restricted the rights, primarily of ethnic Georgians, to vote or otherwise participate in the political process, own property, register businesses, and travel. South Ossetian authorities refused to permit most ethnic Georgians driven out during and after the 2008 war to return to South Ossetia. With the exception of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the authorities did not allow international organizations regular access to South Ossetia to provide humanitarian assistance. Russian ‘borderization’ of the administrative boundary lines of the occupied territories continued during the year, separating residents from their communities and undermining their livelihoods,” the document reads.

Moreover, the report reviews the situation in prisons and pretrial detention facilities, saying conditions remain poor. Newly constructed and renovated facilities generally met international standards, while some old facilities were inhumane and deteriorating, lacking sufficient ventilation, natural light, and adequate health care. Some facilities did not fully meet standards for minimum living space per prisoner in multi-occupancy cells.

According to the US State department document, independent media were very active and expressed a wide variety of views but at the same time, media remained politically polarized and provided the public only limited access to objective, neutral news. Television was the most influential medium and the primary source of information on current events for approximately 85 percent of the population. Major television stations expressed a political bias, albeit to a lesser degree than in previous years. Government officials periodically criticized certain media outlets, alleging a pro-opposition bias.

This part refers to Rustavi 2 TV case and closure of political talk shows on Imedi TV.

“Although the government contended the Rustavi 2 case was a legal dispute between private parties, the lower court’s actions were widely seen as an attempt to change the editorial policy of Rustavi 2, which often espoused views sympathetic to the opposition UNM party,” says the report.

Another problems enlisted in the report refer to women rights, the stigmatization of persons with disabilities, discrimination against minority communities, other abuse based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity , work conditions, religious minorities etc.