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Human Rights Watch’s New Report Critical to Georgian Gov’t

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, January 22
(NEW-YORK) - An international, influential non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch has released its most recent report, which highlighted the amendments in the Georgian constitution, Azerbaijani journalist Afghan Mukhtarli’s case, labour rights, media and LGBT issues.

The report summarising most important human rights issues in more than 90 countries, covering the end of 2016 and 2017, wrote that the Georgian opposition parties, the president, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) criticized the new constitution for postponing critical electoral reforms until 2024.

“The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body on legal affairs, positively assessed the reform, but saw postponing of the move to a fully proportional electoral system as highly regrettable and a major obstacle to reaching consensus,” the report reads.

The report continued that the Venice Commission welcomed the ruling party’s commitment to amend the new constitution to alleviate the negative effects of postponing implementation of a fully proportional electoral system, including allowing party blocs and a one-time reduction of the election threshold to 3 percent in the 2020 parliamentary elections.

The report emphasized that alleged crimes committed by law enforcers still remain unpunished.

“Georgia does not have an effective independent mechanism for investigating abuse by law enforcement officials. Investigations, if launched, often lead to charges that carry lesser, inappropriate sanctions,” the report reads.

Here the report mentioned the high-profile case of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli who claims that Georgian law enforcers helped Azeri colleagues “kidnap him from Tbilisi.”

The report mentioned that the Georgian drug policy still remained tough with low efforts for treatment.

The Human Rights Watch also named the rights of LGBT people as an area of concern.

The report stated about the legal dispute over the Rustavi 2 private broadcaster ownership issue and the new leadership of Georgia’s Public Broadcaster, which closed several political talk shows. The report said the issues raised concerns over “ongoing government interference with media.”

According to the report every year dozens of workers die and hundreds suffer injuries as a result of occupational accidents. The document statesthat investigations into workplace incidents rarely lead to accountability and Georgia still lacks work safety guarantees.

Sopio Kiladze from the Georgian Dream (GD) ruling party stated that the current authorities have taken “huge steps” to protect human rights, unlike the previous United National Movement (UNM) leadership. She said that the human rights issue was a “major topic” and it was impossible for any government to ensure the full protection of the rights.

Her fellow lawmaker from the same team, Levan Gogichaishvili , stated that Georgia’s constitution was a political issue.

All opposition parties welcomed the report, describing it as unbiased and professionally drafted. The opposition advised the government to address the issues mentioned in the document.