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EMC summarizes last year’s human rights situation in Georgia

By Khatia Bzhalava
Tuesday, January 5
A non-governmental organization, Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)| has published an assessment report of 2020 on the human rights situation in Georgia. The report reads that in 2020, the human rights situation was driven by two major political developments-pandemic-related severe social and humanitarian crises as well as electoral background.

The report highlights that the elections were held in an improved electoral system, however, the process was implemented against the background of serious shortcomings and violent incidents, which could not be effectively prevented by the police. EMC notes that due to the controversy between the ruling and opposition parties on the final election result, a severe political crisis has been created in the country. In this context, EMC stresses the destructive rhetoric and problematic approach of the government.

The report reads that in 2020, no effective steps have been taken in the direction of addressing systemic problems in the court.

As for the pandemic background, EMC believes that imposition and management of the restrictions issued by the government were problematic and in some cases exceeded the frames of democratic control and constitutional principles. The presidential decree provided the executive body with almost unlimited powers and the parliamentary control could not be exercised on the decisions made by the government.

According to the report, the social vulnerability of the citizens was one of the most significant challenges of 2020. The economic shock caused by the pandemic further aggravated social conditions in the country, characterized by poverty economic inequality, and unemployment. The report reads that as a result of economic restrictions imposed parallel to the first wave of the outbreak, thousands of citizens lost their jobs and main sources of income. Given the mentioned social condition, the report stresses the fact of dismantling residential buildings in the Africa settlement on December 15 and notes that the City Hall does not properly comprehend its responsibilities before socially vulnerable and homeless people.

EMC stresses that the closure of Marneuli and Bolnisi municipalities during the pandemic was followed by a severe social crisis and a wave of hate speech directed at the Azerbaijani community in Georgia. The difficult social and political situation in these regions once again revealed the experiences of exclusion of ethnic minorities and the management of these regions with less democratic practices.

The report mentioned the case of Levan Zurabashvili, who broke into a microfinance organization, demanding reduction of medication prices, limiting bank interest rates, and prohibition of gambling throughout the country. According to EMC, the case of Zurabishvili, who himself was a victim of gambling, once again highlights how uncontrolled and anti-social are the systems of banking, pharmaceutical, and gambling businesses, and the extent to which the real social problems of the population are ignored in the political agenda.

According to the report, the impact of the pandemic was significantly negative on the already closed and underprivileged regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. Restrictions imposed on movement due to the closure of the border created an extremely harsh humanitarian crisis in the Akhalgori region, which resulted in the deaths of tens of people.

The case of Inal Jabiev, who died as a result of inhuman treatment by the police in Tskhinvali, was followed by an ongoing severe political crisis in the region. EMC emphasizes the Georgian government’s efforts to receive and treat patients from the conflict regions during the pandemic. Nonetheless, the organization believes that the government did not respond with appropriate initiatives and strategies to the new political signals coming from the de facto government of Abkhazia.

The report also mentions rallies related to construction in Racha Lechkhumi, where the government plans to build the largest infrastructure project, Namakhvani HPP. According to EMC, despite the obvious legal irregularities concerning the construction, which has been pointed out by many public organizations and specialists in the field, the process of construction of HPP by the company is still underway.

The report reads that last year, the prosecutor’s office unexpectedly and arbitrarily terminated the investigation of the murder of Temirlan Machalikashvili. According to EMC, the case is now being considered by the European Court.

Last year, two scientists, Natalia Ilychova and Valeri Melashvili were arrested and charged (cartographers’ case). The report notes that after a detailed examination of the case, it became clear for EMC that charges were unfounded, which raised doubts about the case being politically motivated. According to the report, despite the baselessness of the allegations and numerous legal nonsense revealed in the case, the cartographers remain in custody to this day.