The meetings of Sofio Katsarava in Strasbourg
The Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sofio Katsarava visits Strasbourg to in capacity of the member of the Parliamentary Delegation attend PACE Spring Session.
Simultaneously, she holds the meetings with the Parliamentary Delegations of PACE member states. She has already met with the Delegations of Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium and Lithuania.
At the meetings, she spoke about democratic reforms in Georgia, transmission of the country from monitoring to post-monitoring stage and foreign political course of Georgia. The Parliamentary Delegations confirmed support to foreign policy and democratic reforms of Georgia.
“Within the spring sessions, we are very active. Other than participation in the Session and Committee sittings, which are busy, intensive and interesting, we hold bilateral meetings with other countries. We have already met with the Delegations of Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium and Lithuania, considered and introduced democratic reforming in Georgia. They confirmed support to our democratic reforms. We also spoke about foreign policy and post-visa liberalization period and our tasks. They support our foreign policy and democratic reforms”.
According to her, the meetings are scheduled with the Delegations of Great Britain, Portugal and Austria.
Georgia should ensure effective implementation of the anti-discrimination legislation and improve protection of human rights in the fields of labour and the environment
Strasbourg, 15 July 2022 - The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, published today the report following her visit to Georgia in February 2022, with recommendations on combating discrimination against LGBTI people and those belonging to religious minorities, as well as protecting human rights in the fields of labour and the environment.
To ensure that LGBTI people and persons belonging to religious minorities live free from violence and discrimination, the Commissioner calls on the authorities to address the inadequate implementation of legal standards and the persistent deficiencies in combating impunity for hate crimes and incitement to violence, and to remove the discriminatory barriers to the enjoyment of their rights.
The Commissioner notes that LGBTI people remain affected by instances of hate crime and pervasive discrimination in Georgia. She calls on the authorities to step up efforts to combat impunity for human rights violations against them and stresses that raising awareness among the public and training relevant categories of professionals on the importance of their role in promoting equality, dignity and non-discrimination should be a priority. She adds that hate speech against LGBTI people in the public sphere is an issue of concern and that an appropriate response to hate speech, including when voiced by officials, religious and community leaders and media professionals, is needed through an effective use of law enforcement channels and other mechanisms, such as prevention, monitoring, self-regulation, and counter-speech. In light of repeated occurrence of LGBTI people having been denied their right to peaceful assembly, the Commissioner stresses that authorities should adopt comprehensive measures enabling LGBTI people to freely express their views and assemble. Regarding transgender people, the authorities should facilitate legal gender recognition without invasive medical requirements and in a quick, transparent, and accessible manner.
As regards religious minorities, the Commissioner urges the authorities to ensure effective investigation, prosecution, and dissuasive and proportionate sanctioning for hate crimes committed on the grounds of religion and to remove discriminatory barriers in accessing places of worship and in regulating tax and religious property matters. “An open dialogue with all religious communities should be established”, she stated. To support this dialogue, she underlines the need for a meaningful partnership between competent authorities and religious denominations, for changes to the relevant regulations and for continuous training and awareness raising activities targeting officials and the general public. In addition, the Commissioner notes that the authorities should pursue their efforts in eliminating religious biases and stereotyping from school textbooks.
Noting that a decade of deregulation and the abolishment of the labour Inspectorate in 2006 led to a significant deterioration in the protection of labour rights in Georgia, the Commissioner welcomes the recent comprehensive legal and institutional reforms and urges the authorities to close the remaining legislative gaps by establishing a minimum wage compliant with international standards, by ensuring equal access to parental leave, and by developing clear guidelines on the duration and compensation for overtime work. “It is now important to ensure a full implementation of the labour standards, including the anti-discrimination provisions”, she stated. To this end, it is crucial to provide the Labour Inspectorate with sufficient and adequately trained human resources and an appropriate budget. While welcoming recent progress in the reduction of workplace accidents, the Commissioner calls on the authorities to further improve occupational safety at the workplace. She also recommends promoting and supporting diversity and equality at work, including with regard to the integration of persons with disabilities. The Commissioner further recommends that the authorities address the gender pay gap and gender stereotypes in employment, to continuously raise awareness about sexual harassment, ways to report it and available remedies, as well as to take resolute action to address child labour and prevent and combat child trafficking.
As regards human rights and the environment, the Commissioner calls on the authorities to strengthen the implementation of the existing national legal framework, to guarantee public access to information and meaningful and transparent public participation in environmental decision-making processes at various levels of government, as well as to improve air quality and the tracking of air pollution. They should also develop and implement preventive measures to reduce the risk of environmental disasters and to ensure protection of the rights of people displaced by such disasters or owing to climate change. The authorities should also provide a safe and enabling environment for environmental human rights defenders and activists and support their work
- Read the Commissioner's report following her visit to Georgia in February 2022
- Read the comments of the authorities of Georgia on the report
- Watch the report in a nutshell
N. SAMKHARADZE DISCUSSING THE FOREIGN POLICY PRIORITIES AND THE SECURITY MILIEU WITH HIS LITHUANIAN COUNTERPART
The Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Nikoloz Samkharadze held an online introductory meeting with his Lithuanian counterpart, newly elected Laima Andrikienė.
The parties discussed the bilateral relations and cooperation prospects in the bilateral and multilateral formats.
The parties touched upon the foreign policy priorities of both countries and overviewed the security milieu in the region, developments in Ukraine and NATO integration of Georgia.
N. Samkharadze introduced the grave situation in the occupied regions of Georgia and dwelt on the Russian policy becoming an annexation policy. He emphasized the Parliamentary reforming agenda.
The guest invited N. Samkharadze with the official visit to Vilnius.
Interim measures indicated concerning Georgia
The Court has decided to indicate interim measures in the case of Saakashvili v. Georgia and has asked the Georgian Government to provide it with information on the applicant’s state of health, to guarantee his safety in prison and to provide him with appropriate medical care.
The applicant, Mikheil Saakashvili, is the former President of Georgia. Having been convicted for a number of offences committed while in office, he is currently serving a prison sentence. The applicant claims he is a victim of ‘political persecution’ and has been on hunger strike for 41 days.
Implementing ECHR judgments: Progress despite COVID in 2020, but further efforts are needed
Strasbourg, 31.03.2021 – States across Europe are continuing to make progress on implementing judgments from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest annual report from the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.
However, further efforts are needed to tackle systemic issues highlighted by the ECHR, including ill-treatment or deaths caused by the security forces and poor conditions of detention, as well as inter-state cases and a growing number of cases concerning abusive limitations on rights and freedoms.
“Today’s report shows that our member states take their obligation to implement judgments from the European Court of Human Rights very seriously, even in difficult circumstances,” said Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić.
“It is also very positive that NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions are becoming more and more involved in the process, making it more effective and transparent.
“Nevertheless, this is no time for complacency. Many important judgments have been outstanding for several years and a small number of high-profile cases are not being resolved quickly enough. Our member states have a duty to implement ECHR judgments promptly and fully. This is not a kind request – it is a binding requirement.”
The report shows that a total of 983 cases were closed by the Committee of Ministers in 2020 as a result of steps taken by the member states concerned. Of those 983 cases, 187 (19%) were “leading” cases – notably highlighting new structural or systemic problems – and 796 (81%) were repetitive.
At the end of 2020, 5,233 cases had yet to be fully implemented by the member states involved, of which 1,258 (24%) were leading cases and 3,975 (76%) were repetitive. 634 leading cases had been pending for over 5 years, but the number of such cases has been falling since 2016.
The report states that 581 payments of “just satisfaction” to applicants, awarded by the ECHR, were made on time in 2020. However, the Committee of Ministers was awaiting confirmation of payment in 1,574 cases at the end of 2020, over two-thirds of which had been awaiting confirmation for more than six months.
Finally, the report underlines that the Committee of Ministers received a record 176 formal communications from non-governmental organisations and National Human Rights Institutions in 2020, concerning 28 different states. The Committee also received its first five communications from the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights.
Georgia: Reform for elections, political associations and parliament rules should be “reconsidered”, according to Venice Commission
Strasbourg, 24.03.2021 – In a joint opinion, requested in December 2020 by the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia and adopted at the latest plenary of the Venice Commission (19-20 March 2021), the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission call on Georgia to reconsider several amendments to the Election Code, the Law on Political Associations of Citizens and the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia.
With regard to the Election Code, proposed changes would infringe the rights of political parties to equal opportunities by denying them free airtime if they do not receive public funding. The denial of free airtime to those parties is both “disproportionate and unfounded”, as it is exactly these parties with less funds at their disposal that would need access to free airtime in order to voice their opinions and present their programmes to the electorate, according to the opinion.
Furthermore, not only is there no evident connection between allocating free airtime and receiving state funding that would justify such a step, but also such a restriction is not in the public interest, as it would reduce access to information that the public needs in order to make an informed choice in elections.
The Venice Commission also is concerned by proposed amendments to the Law on Political Associations of Citizens that would deny state funding to a political party or electoral bloc that did not take up at least half of the parliamentary mandates that it won, and would deprive the party or bloc of state funding for the next six months, if half of the members of parliament of any party or bloc did not attend without good reason more than half of the regular plenary sittings.
Sanctioning political parties – and not individual MPs – by depriving them of funding, if the respective MPs do not attend most sittings during a parliamentary session, appears “disproportionate” and at odds with the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, which already regulate such matters in a clear and balanced manner, according to the opinion.
Similar considerations apply to the proposed amendment to the Rules of Procedure of Parliament, which would result in the full deduction of the salary of an MP who does not attend without good reason all plenary sittings during a calendar month of the regular session, both for the period of the parliamentary session and for the ensuing recess period. This latter proposal also likely would not be compliant with the Constitution of Georgia, which makes salaries for Members of Parliament mandatory.
The opinion proposes considering “more proportionate and appropriate means” to achieve the goal of the amendments, which could involve imposing direct consequences on individual MPs for their actions. This would be more in line with the Georgian Constitution and international standards, the Venice Commission notes. “Such broad sanctions against parties not taking part in the Parliament’s work were not found in any other Venice Commission or OSCE/ODIHR member/participant states,” the opinion reads.
In a separate joint opinion, also requested last December by the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR call on Georgia to reconsider adopting a proposed new provision – Article 791 – to the country’s electoral code, as related to the participation by an alien acting as party leader in pre-election campaigning. Adopting this amendment could lead to an unduly restriction of political pluralism, the Venice Commission warns, listing several concerns.
The proposed amendment does not clearly define which criteria would be used to determine who is considered to be an electoral list’s or party’s political leader. Besides, while the right to vote and stand for election may be subject to some conditions, including the respective individual’s nationality, restrictions of aliens to participate in domestic political life should be limited to the establishment of political parties, but not to their membership. Furthermore, the sanction of deregistering a party list due to the foreign nationality of a person acting as its political leader seems a disproportionate measure that targets the party rather than the alien in question.
The appeals process regarding such deregistration as defined by the proposed amendment is "worrying" because deregistration of a party or electoral block can be made up to two days after elections: a decision may be taken after votes have been cast and voters might in good faith vote for a party which may then end up being deregistered.
Finally, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR believe that the amendment could be perceived, in the strict sense, as ad hominem legislation, i.e. directed against a particular individual, a legislative technique previously criticized by the Venice Commission.
The opinions were prepared under the Quick response Mechanism in the framework of the EU/CoE joint programme Partnership for Good Governance”, co-funded by the Council of Europe and the European Union and implemented by the Council of Europe.
COE MEDIA RELEASE