Monitoring rapporteurs condemn ongoing ‘borderisation’ in Georgia
PACE co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Georgia, Kerstin Lundgren (Sweden, ALDE) and Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC), have condemned the ongoing “borderisation” of the administrative boundary line with South Ossetia by the Russian Federation.
“These illegal actions by the Russian Federation undermine stability in the region and split families and people. We call upon the Russian authorities to cease these actions and to allow free movement of people across the administrative boundary lines with South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” said the co-rapporteurs following a recent visit to Tbilisi.
“We wish to reiterate our strong support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia and call upon the Russian Federation to fully respect its membership obligations and accession commitments to the Council of Europe in this regard, as outlined in several Assembly resolutions on the consequences of the war between Russia and Georgia,” added the co-rapporteurs.
Azerbaijan and Turkey were among the countries that supported Georgia in the UN
On September 3, the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution entitled “Status of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Georgia”. As Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia noted, this year the document had unprecedented support – has been supported by 84 member states, only 13 opposed. Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili expressed her gratitude to all 84 countries that have stood next to Georgia this year.
It is noteworthy that our neighboring Azerbaijan and Turkey have once again expressed support for Georgia, joining the global call to ensure the observance of the rights of the Georgian population expelled from Abkhazia and Samachablo. With Russia's position, everything is clear. But Armenia acted in a very non-trivial way – it did not take part in the voting. It is difficult to imagine that the immediate neighbor of our country, who assures of friendship in the course of bilateral contacts, is poorly informed about the state of affairs of internally displaced persons in Georgia. However, Yerevan has avoided expressing a clear position on this issue.
Twelve years have passed since Russia invaded the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia
Twelve years have passed since Russia invaded the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. August 7 is a somber reminder of the thousands who have suffered and continue to suffer in the wake of Russia’s invasion. Today, we remember residents forced out of their homes and forced to live as internally displaced persons. We remember innocent civilians who died because the de facto authorities closed the Administrative Boundary Lines (ABL) and denied them access to emergency medical care. We remember families torn apart and robbed of their livelihoods by illegal “borderization” activities. As the whole world grapples with the effects of COVID-19, Georgia also suffers from the loss of trade between communities now cut off by arbitrary lines, further hampering economic recovery.
In the past year, we also witnessed a major Russian-led incursion, attempting to control hundreds of meters of additional Georgian territory at Chorchana-Tsnelisi. Russia continues to violate the conditions of the 2008 ceasefire agreement. Russian “border” guards detain civilians and use violence along the ABL, including recently shooting a Georgian citizen. Russian-led security forces continue to encroach deeper into Georgian territory, trying to expand the occupied territories meter by meter.
Russia’s responsibilities under the 2008 ceasefire agreement are clear: Russia must withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions and allow unfettered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. We also call again on Russia to reverse its recognition of the so-called independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It is essential for hundreds of thousands of IDPs and refugees to be able to return safely and with dignity to their homes. The United States' commitment to our friends and partners in Georgia remains steadfast. We stand with the people of Georgia and join them in calling for these communities, divided by Russian aggression, to be united once again.
US Embassy Tbilisi, Georgia
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.
EU supports information campaign in Georgia for EU Sustainable Energy Week 2020
On 22 June, the EU Delegation to Georgia launched the EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) campaign. The campaign consists of tips for citizens on saving energy and money, caring about the environment and making their homes more energy efficient.
This year, the EUSEW will run from 22 to 26 June. The event will be held virtually, and the topic will be Beyond the crisis: Clean energy for green recovery and growth.
The EUSEW is the biggest event dedicated to renewables and efficient energy use in Europe. It is organised by the European Commission and brings together public authorities, private companies, non-government organisations and consumers to promote initiatives to save energy and move towards renewables for clean, secure and efficient power.
Find out more
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.