PACE Georgia monitors deeply concerned by court decision allowing change of management at Rustavi 2
The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Georgia, Boriss Cilevics (Latvia, SOC) and Kerstin Lundgren (Sweden, ALDE), have expressed their deep concern at yesterday’s Tbilisi City Court decision in the ownership dispute over the Rustavi 2 television station that allows the replacement of Rustavi 2’s current management before the appeal process has been completed.
“This decision in effect allows for a change of editorial policy at Rustavi 2, while the appeals process is on-going. This unduly impacts the pluralism of the media environment in Georgia. While we do not wish to pass judgment on the merits of the ownership dispute, we have always stressed that pluralism in Georgia’s media environment should be safeguarded,” they said.
“Moreover, this decision by the Tbilisi court seems to contradict, at least in spirit, the decision by the Constitutional Court to suspend immediate enforcement of court verdicts in civilian cases while the appeals process is going on. We are deeply concerned by the implications of this decision, and the questions that are raised about the judicial process as a result of it,” said the two co-rapporteurs, pledging to continue to follow developments in this case closely.
The co-rapporteurs intend to present an information note on their last visit to Georgia, which took place from 12 to 14 October 2015, at the next meeting of PACE’s Monitoring Committee, which will take place in Paris on 9 December 2015.
PACE Georgia monitors welcome adoption of Constitutional amendments by the Georgian Parliament
Strasbourg, 29.06.2020 - The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Georgia, Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), have welcomed the adoption today by the Georgian Parliament of the Constitutional amendments to implement the new election system for the 2020 elections that was agreed between the ruling majority and opposition in March this year, with the support of international mediators.
“The Assembly has consistently called for the introduction of a proportional election system in Georgia. That will now be the case as from the 2024 elections. In addition, as a result of the adoption of these Constitutional amendments, the system for the next elections in 2020 will now also be far more proportional than was previously the case, which potentially could allow for a more pluralist and representative parliament. We strongly welcome this,” said the co-rapporteurs.
At the same time, the co-rapporteurs regretted that the political agreement had not resulted in a less tense and polarised political environment. “We call on all sides to seek co-operation over confrontation and to constructively pursue the implementation of the remainder of the 8 March political agreement. In addition, we call on all stakeholders to refrain from any statements and actions that could increase tensions and polarisation or otherwise negatively affect the environment needed for the conduct of genuinely democratic elections.”
“As we have said, the political agreement, and the election system resulting from it, offer a window of opportunity to Georgia. We implore all stakeholders to fully take that opportunity in the best interest of Georgia,” emphasised the co-rapporteurs.
The co-rapporteurs intend to visit the country in November with a view to finalising their report on Georgia, which they will present to the Assembly during its January 2021 part-session.
Online meeting focuses on prospects of cooperation in the trade and economic sphere between Turkmenistan and France
The online meeting held with the participation of the representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan and the France-Turkmenistan Chamber of Commerce Prospects focused on the prospects for development of Turkmen-French cooperation in the trade and economic sphere.
The meeting participants exchanged views on the prospects for intensifying mutually beneficial partnership in its priority areas, including trade and investment, oil and gas industry, as well as cooperation between businessmen of the two states.
Particular attention was paid to the great potential for expanding cooperation due to the course pursued by Turkmenistan with the aim to modernize and diversify the national economy, establish a modern industrial infrastructure, and encourage private sector.
The meeting participants also touched upon the impact of the current epidemiological situation on the international and regional trade and economic relations.
In this context, it was underlined the timeliness of a number of measures taken by Turkmenistan and the possibility of taking new steps to reduce the impact of the global pandemic on the production sectors of national economies and solution of urgent social problems.
The meeting participants expressed the willingness to consider various forms of bilateral cooperation, including direct investment, establishment of joint ventures, project and structural financing, etc.
The state news agency of Turkmenistan
Stop jailing journalists: Turkey and Azerbaijan must uphold Council of Europe standards
Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), General Rapporteur on media freedom and the safety of journalists for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has today expressed concern over the detention of journalists, an appalling phenomenon which has been observed for many years especially in Turkey and in Azerbaijan.
The PACE recent report on “Threats to media freedom and journalists’ security in Europe” observes that Turkey is the country which has the highest number of imprisoned journalists, at present 95 according to the Council of Europe Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists. “Journalists are placed in arbitrary pre-trial arrest and detention, and are held for months, sometimes for years, before their cases come to court. Such detentions are the result of politicised targeting of journalists for their critical reporting; they are an obvious violation of freedom of expression and of journalists’ right to liberty and security”, said Mr Schennach.
Moreover, in the context of the current pandemic crisis, detention in penitentiaries constitutes an unjustified risk to health, and even to life. A recent bill proposes that approximately one third of 300,000 Turkish detainees be released, but it excludes those detained for terrorism-related offences, and therefore the majority of the 95 journalists in detention, as they are charged with or convicted of terrorism-related offences, although with no solid justification.
As for Azerbaijan – where there are currently 10 journalists in detention – several journalists are arrested on the ground of fabricated accusations. Elchin Mammad, editor in chief of the Yukselish Namine newspaper, was arrested on 30 March 2020 “for having stolen jewellery”. Since 2015, he has repeatedly been under judicial or police investigations, interrogations, house and office searches. Today, if convicted he faces up to seven years in prison.
Another Azerbaijani journalist and blogger with Kanal24 Internet TV, Ibrahim Vazirov, was arrested on 13 April 2020, days after police had demanded he delete online reports about the social and economic impact of Covid-19. In previous weeks, the journalist had been producing video reports critical of the government’s quarantine measures. A similar case happened to Mirsahib Rahiloglu, a journalist with the Reportyor.info, who had published interviews with citizens expressing frustration at the lack of financial support during the lockdown. He was arrested for “violating lockdown rules” and detained for 30 days. Natig Izbatov, a journalist with online news outlet 7gun.az, was arrested as he was filming interviews with people about the economic effects of the lockdown. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail for violating lockdown rules, despite having official documents which gave him permission to work as a journalist. Moreover, he was allegedly assaulted at the police station, his telephone had been searched and footage and recordings deleted.
“The current situation in Turkey and Azerbaijan is unacceptable. In both these member States, freedom of expression, including freedom of the media, has been violated for several years. Therefore, I call on both Turkey and Azerbaijan to urgently stop these attacks on journalists, in order to uphold the standards established by the Council of Europe and stick to the values promoted by our Organisation,” the General Rapporteur concluded.
PACE urges Georgian ruling majority to ensure introduction of election system that can have support and trust of all stakeholders
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe addresses the Georgian Dream regarding the electoral system.
In a resolution adopted by the Assembly, the organization calls on the ruling party to provide the kind of electoral system before the 2020 elections that that can have the support and trust of all stakeholders.
“The Assembly urges the Georgian ruling majority to ensure the introduction of an election system that can have the support and trust of all stakeholders in time before the 2020 elections; to fully implement all the recommendations of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) formulated in the opinion on the selection and appointment of Supreme Court judges; to promptly implement the fourth wave of reform of the judiciary and for all political forces in the country to work to overcome the continuing polarisation in the political environment”, reads the resolution.
The resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe summarizes the results of monitoring in 10 countries: Georgia, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine.
PACE decides to open monitoring of Poland over rule of law
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has voted to open a monitoring procedure for Poland over the functioning of its democratic institutions and the rule of law, declaring in a resolution that recent reforms “severely damage the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law”.
Poland joins ten other Council of Europe member States currently under full monitoring,* which involves regular visits by a pair of PACE rapporteurs, ongoing dialogue with the authorities, and periodic assessments of how far a member State is honouring its Council of Europe obligations and commitments.
In a resolution based on a report by Azadeh Rojhan Gustafsson (Sweden, SOC) and Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD) - adopted by 140 votes to 37, with 1 abstention – the Assembly said reforms of the judiciary and justice system in Poland “cumulatively undermine and severely damage the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law” and should be revisited to bring them into line with Council of Europe recommendations.
The parliamentarians said the judicial system was now “vulnerable to political interference and attempts to bring it under the political control of the executive, which challenges the very principles of a democratic state governed by the rule of law”.
They urged President Duda not to sign the amendments adopted by the Sejm on 23 January 2020, which they said “further deteriorate the independence of the judiciary and respect for the rule of law in Poland”, and were at odds with Articles 6 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. They called on the authorities to “fully respect the judgment of the Polish Supreme Court of 23 January 2020”.
Referring to the crisis over the composition of the Constitutional Court, the Assembly said: “No democratic government that respects the rule of law can selectively ignore court decisions it does not like, especially those of the Constitutional Court. The full and unconditional implementation of all Constitutional Court decisions by the authorities, including with regard to the composition of the Constitutional Court itself, should be the cornerstone of the resolution of the crisis.”
PACE called on the authorities to “revisit the total reform package for the judiciary and amend the relevant legislation and practice in line with Council of Europe recommendations”. In particular it called on the Polish authorities to:
• urgently separate the functions of Justice Minister and Prosecutor General and introduce into the law “sufficient safeguards against abuse and politicisation of the prosecution service”;
• reinstate the direct election, by their peers, of the judge members of the National Council of the Judiciary;
• reduce the “excessive and discretionary” new powers of the Justice Minister over the justice system and judiciary;
• address the issue of a possible so-called “extraordinary appeal”, which is of serious concern, and the composition and appointment of the members of the disciplinary and extraordinary appeals chambers of the Supreme Court;
• set up an independent public inquiry into reports of politically-motivated “smear campaigns” against judges and prosecutors opposed to the reforms.
The Assembly said it “recognises the challenges” faced by the Polish justice system and judiciary, and welcomed the stated priority given by the authorities to address shortcomings – but reiterated that any reforms should be “fully in line with European norms and standards and effectively strengthen judicial independence and the rule of law, and not weaken or undermine them”.
In addition, the Assembly called on all Council of Europe member States to ensure that the courts under their jurisdiction ascertain in all relevant criminal and civil cases - including with regard to European Arrest Warrants - whether fair legal proceedings in Poland, as defined under Article 6 of the European Convention for Human Rights, can be guaranteed for the defendants.
* Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine