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The News in Brief

Monday, May 9
IRI to send international observers mission to Georgia

“The International Republican Institute (IRI) will send international observers to Georgia to the parliamentary elections this year,” IRI Eurasia Department Head Steven Nix has told the Voice of America.

According to him, the institute will send short-term as well as long-term observers.

A standard mission consists of up to 30-50 members. “The long-term observers will spend two months in Georgia, while their short-term colleagues will spend one week,” he has declared.

According to him, the IRI plans to conduct its next survey in September.

Supreme Court Nominees Weigh into President, GDDG MPs Row over ‘Consultations’

Echoing the position of the President’s Office, nominees for the Supreme Court’s three vacant seats criticized ruling GDDG party lawmakers’ call on the President to hold consultations over the nominations before the vote in the Parliament as an attempt to seek a “behind-the-scene deal”.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili named incumbent Deputy Defence Minister Anna Dolidze as a candidate for the Supreme Court in February, and Tamar Laliashvili and Nona Todua for two other vacant seats in the Supreme Court in March. Hearings in the parliamentary committees over the nominations were completed almost a month ago and the only procedure left is a vote at a parliamentary session.

But on May 4, MP Giorgi Volski - who chairs the largest faction in Parliament - made up of MPs from the GDDG party, said that members of his faction are undecided about whether to support the nominations and called on the President to engage in consultations; an offer which was declined by the President’s Office on the same day.

“The President never engages in horse-trading over Supreme Court nominations,” Kakha Kozhoridze, president’s adviser for human rights and justice system, told journalists on May 4.

On May 5, three Supreme Court nominees made a joint appearance before journalists to read out a statement saying that the process moved to the “wrong direction”.

“Discussions over our candidacies for the Supreme Court are ongoing in the Parliament for several months already. Statements made by parliament members [on May 4] moved the process to the wrong direction,” the nominees said in the joint statement.

“It’s wrong when discussions over the judicial appointments centre around demands for behind-the-scene deals instead of [nominees’] qualification or other universally recognized criteria. Putting the issue in this context is insulting for high status of a judge and for the idea of fair judiciary.”

“Behind-the-scene deals will not help in addressing challenges facing the judicial system,” the three Supreme Court nominees said. “We hope that Parliament will make decisions based only on each candidate’s knowledge, education, qualification and level of independence.”

On May 6, the three candidates met Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili, who said that the “only consultation” that is ongoing is within the factions, which is necessary for taking final decision.

Usupashvili also said that the vote on the issue should be held before the end of this month.

“Personally I think that all three candidates are very experienced, highly qualified and they can contribute to the judiciary, but it’s up to the Parliament to decide, which I suppose will happen before the end of May,” said Usupashvili, who is a member of the Republican Party.

Parliament’s Human Rights Committee approves constitutional ban on same-sex marriage

Amidst fierce debates, Georgian Parliament’s Human Rights Committee on Thursday almost unanimously (only one MP abstained, no one voted against) approved the bill of constitutional changes to define marriage as a voluntary union of a man and a woman.

The current constitution doesn’t define the sex of spouses.

The draft bill was submitted in parliament by 80 MPs. It is supported by the Georgian Dream and its allies except the Republican Party, as well as by opposition Free Democrats. Republican Party and United National Movement are against.

“We have to protect rights of children. In a world where there are societies protecting butterflies, lizards and ants, I deem we have to think more about future of our children, this is why this amendment is so important,” Zviad Dzidziguri, Vice Speaker of the Parliament and leader of the Conservative Party, said on a committee session.

He referred to the constitutions of Latvia and Croatia, saying these EU member states have the same definitions and spoke about the demography, stating the nation is on the edge of extinction.

The committee session was attended by LGBTI rights activists. Despite their resistance, the committee eventually approved the bill.

Beka Gabadadze, from the LGBT Georgia NGO, told the DFWatch committee meeting revealed that entire process was launched by the political parties to mobilize voters for the election, which is scheduled on October 8. He reminded that Georgian legislation already bans same-sex marriages.

“LGBT organizations and activist had never spoken about issue of [same-sex] marriage before. Then Tatishvili appeared from nowhere with his appeal and entire homophobic campaign launched about constitution amendments,” he said adding that political forces attempt to gain more votes for election with a homophobic agenda.

“I have a family which you may call non-traditional, but I think it is absolutely traditional. Considering legislative frames, lots of my rights are offended,” Koba Bitsadze from Association Temida said.

Irakli Chikovani, of the Free Democrats, said people shouldn’t perceive this decision as homophobic.

Before the draft law would reach the parliament, public meetings were held all around Georgia, which showed explicit support to the constitutional ban on the gay marriages, proponents of the bill argue.

However, Beka Gabadadze told DFWatch that meetings were held at cinema-clubs, museums, other places attended by mostly party activists and leaders.

“In such places, especially in the countryside, LGBT citizens wouldn’t be able to express opinion [about the bill]. No one had asked for our opinion,” Gabadadze said, adding that LGBT community is afraid to reveal their identity publicly as they may become target of violence.

“I guess it wouldn’t have been right to ask at those meetings if any of the guests were lesbian or gay.” Parliament Vice-Speaker Manana Kobakhidze responded after been asked whether LGBTI people attended those meetings.

“Those people do not even consider us as citizens of this country, who have right to participate in parliamentary discussions, that we have rights of honor, dignity, freedom of expression, participating in election and all the other rights guaranteed by the constitution,” Gabadadze said.

There is a possibility to bring up this issue on a referendum as Central Election Commission approved the question about same-sex marriage in the end of March.
(DF watch)

American friendship club comments on PM visit to the USA

American friendship club higherly avaluated the recent visit of the PM George Kvirikashvili to the United States. The meeting with high officials there proved once again that Georgia and USA are two friendly nations. PM Kvirikashvili met political, business leaders as well as representatives of NGOs and students.

The visit proved the US commitment to assist Georgia in different directions, political, economical, military, educational and so on.

American friendship club president Ilia Zukakishvili highlighted in the statement Georgia's determination to further confirm its Euro-Atlantic claims.
(The Messenger)