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The News in Brief

Tuesday, March 28
UN Human Rights Council Demands “Immediate Access” to Abkhazia, South Ossetia

The United Nations Human Right Council (UN/HRC), the key human rights body, adopted a resolution “On Cooperation with Georgia” during the final day of the Council’s 34th session, held in Geneva on February 27-March 24.

Reaffirming its commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders, the Council has called for granting the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other international and regional human rights mechanisms “immediate access” to Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia.

Eighteen out of the Council’s 47 members voted in favor of the Council’s resolution. These included all of the Council’s members from Europe (Albania, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and the United Kingdom), the United States, as well as Botswana, Japan, Panama, Paraguay and Togo. Five delegations have voted against (Bolivia, Burundi, China, Cuba and Venezuela). 24 have abstained, notably including Switzerland which acts as a mediator between Georgia and Russia following the 2008 war.

Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized that “this is the first resolution adopted with respect to Georgia by the UN Human Rights Council - the UN body primarily responsible for protecting human rights.”

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has fired back in an official statement, saying the resolution “was clearly politicized and aimed against Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Russia”. The same statement accused Georgia of sabotaging the upcoming round of the Geneva International Discussions (GID) – the multilateral mediation forum co-Chaired by the EU, OSCE and UN, which was created after 2008 war to address security and humanitarian issues. GID involves representatives from Tbilisi, Moscow, but also Tskhinvali and Sokhumi in their individual capacities. The United States are an observer.

Russia lost its seat at the Human Rights Council in October 2016, as the UN General Assembly members, dismayed by its actions in Syria, supported Croatia and Hungary to represent the Eastern European region instead. Georgia was voted into the HRC in October 2015, for the term of 2016-2018. In December 2016, the Head of Georgia’s delegation at the UN organisations in Geneva was elected to fulfil the duties of the Vice President of the Council in 2017.

Georgian detained for so-called illegal border crossing

Kakhaber Kisishvili, a resident of the village of Plavismani near Gori, has been detained by so-called border guards.

Kisishvili was detained crossing the illegal border for the third time. Last time he was detained a month ago and was released after paying a fine.

According to the mother of the detainee, the family has no income and lives in extreme poverty.

The relatives of the detainee do not rule out the possibility that Kakhaber Kisishvili might move to Ossetian-controlled territory to visit his relative there, during which he was arrested.

Recommendations of IDFI on Draft Anti-Corruption Action Plan for 2017-2018

The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) welcomes the elaboration of new Anti-Corruption Action Plan for 2017-2018. Despite the comprehensive input from the responsible agencies IDFI identified several shortfalls with respect to the reflection of international commitments, derived from the GRECO and OECD-ACN evaluation reports and 2016 London Anti-Corruption Summit Country Statements.

The IDFI mentioned as a general comment that some of the paragraphs, indicators and related commitments are technically copied from the previous Action-Plan. In addition, IDFI considers that comparing to the standard that the previous Action-Plan has set, the secretariat of Anti-Corruption Council had possibility to coordinate with the responsible agencies and suggest the policy documents that would fully cover international commitments. However, IDFI hopes that till the approval of the Strategy and Action Plan they will be refined and updated according to the international commitments.

The IDFI also considers that ex-post evaluation of the Action-Plan is of crucial importance. This will give the opportunity to the Secretariat as well as responsible agencies to evaluate the gaps and shortcomings and eliminate them for the future Action Plans.

In the first draft of Anti-Corruption Action Plan for 2017-2018 IDFI evaluated existing activities according to the thematic priorities and suggested recommendationson adding various activities and directions.

IDFI recommendations:
- The secretariat of Anti-Corruption Council should present the consolidated information on the agencies that are not/any more participating in the work of the Anti-Corruption Council;
- Since the Article 2 of the Statute of the Anti-Corruption Council foresees the possibility of appointment of the deputy chair of the Council, it is desirable that this function is assigned to the representative of civil society organization, thus sharing the experience of the Open Government Georgia’s Forum;
- It is recommended to hold regional Anti-Corruption Conference, which gives an opportunity to the participants to share knowledge and experience in the field;
- Anti-Corruption division should be created in the Analytical Department of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia;
- It is important to continue awareness rising activities on the whistleblower issues;
- It is important for the country to join Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative - EITI;
- The registry of beneficial owners of the offshore companies should be set up by the Ministry of Justice of Georgia (London Anti-Corruption Summit Country Statements);
- Separate webpage for Anti-Corruption Council should be created;
- Social media campaign to raise awareness on anti-corruption issues should be launched;
- Transparency and integrity strategy and action plan should be elaborated for the security sector;
- List of exemptions from Public Procurement Law should be reduced;
- Study of business integrity risks should be included and Businessombudsman should be represented in the Action Plan;
- Commitments for the prevention of corruption in infrastructure projects should be reflected in the Action Plan (OECD-ACN);
- Include the commitments to ensure fulfillment of thepartly implemented recommendations of the GRECO third evaluation round;
- Reflect OECD-ACN and GRECO fourth round recommendations to the maximum extent possible in the Action Plan. If necessary, the Secretariat should hold ad hoc working group meeting and give the opportunity to the responsible agencies to give explanations on the international recommendations that have been left outside the Action Plan;
- Analytical document should be prepared by the Secretariat, before the Anti-Corruption Council meeting, for the approval of strategy documents, giving information on reflection of the OECD-ACN and GRECO recommendations in the Action-Plan. This document should also describe the experience shared from the analysis of the previous Action Plan;
- Improve the indicators according to the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-related) criteria;
- Review and adapt the risks of the commitments (the risks and activities should not coincide; the risks should be justified);
- General commitments should be specified for the future monitoring purposes;
- General statements, such as if necessary, if applicable, etc. should be eliminated from the activities;
- For the commitments envisaging legislative amendments final action should be adoption of the amendment, otherwise would lose its main purpose.