Commissioner Mijatović highlights main human rights challenges in Europe
Today the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, presented her first annual activity report in a debate before the Parliamentary Assembly of the organisation.
While the report covers a variety of the most pressing human rights issues in the Council of Europe member states, the Commissioner highlights migration, women’s rights, human rights of persons with disability, the protection of human rights defenders and the safety of journalists as the most recurrent topics of her work.
“Migration is among the most pressing human rights issues on my agenda”, she says. “National authorities should improve the treatment of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and put human rights and the principle of responsibility sharing at the centre of their migration and asylum policies”.
As regards women’s rights, the Commissioner underscores the need to tackle gender stereotypes and prejudices and to put an end to violence against women. She also calls on national authorities to reduce the gender pay gap, which remains a “major obstacle to effective equality between men and women, and a widespread problem all over Council of Europe member states, both in the public and private sectors.”
The protection of human rights defenders and of journalists also requires more attention by the authorities of member states. “Violent physical attacks, as well as laws and practices significantly reduce the ability of human rights defenders and journalists to provide their contribution to the democratic fabric of our society.
Another problem that the report highlights is the difficulty that many member states still face in tackling discrimination or deep rooted prejudices against persons with disabilities, children, older persons, Roma and LGBTI people. The Commissioner notes that long-standing cultural, social and economic problems continue to breed inequalities and segregation.
“There is still much work to be done in order to protect human rights throughout Europe. I am determined to commit my energy to this task, and I fully intend to develop constructive co-operation with governments and civil society for the common goal of upholding human rights.”
MONEYVAL report on Georgia: improvements in the Financial Monitoring Service powers to disseminate information to law enforcement authorities, but other deficiencies remain
Georgia has improved its measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing; it has demonstrated good progress and has been upgraded from “partially compliant” to “largely compliant” with the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) Recommendation 29, related to Financial Intelligence Units, concludes the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering body MONEYVAL in a follow-up report released today.
By enhancing the powers of the Financial Monitoring Service (Financial Intelligence Unit of Georgia) to disseminate information and results of analyses upon request and without a court order to all law enforcement authorities, Georgia has addressed a significant shortcoming earlier identified. Only minor shortcomings remain regarding a lack of explicit reference to require the Financial Monitoring Service to conduct operational and strategic analysis and the scope of the money laundering definition.
The report also examines a range of legislative, regulatory, and institutional measures, such as introducing a central electronic reporting for online casinos, requiring a clean criminal record for beneficial owners of casinos, making sanctions for AML/CFT (Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism) breaches applicable to casinos, as well introducing a broad regulatory framework for the investment fund sector. However, these measures were not sufficient to upgrade the ratings of Recommendations 22, 28 or 35, as moderate deficiencies in relation to the scope of covered designated non-financial businesses and professions and the sanctioning regimes remain.
Overall, Georgia has achieved full compliance with six of the 40 FATF recommendations constituting the international AML/CFT standard and retains minor deficiencies in the implementation of 22 recommendations where it has been found “largely compliant”. Eleven recommendations remain “partially compliant” and one of them has a “non-compliant” rating (the recommendation requiring that countries review their laws and regulations to ensure that non-profit organisations cannot be abused for the financing of terrorism).
Consequently, Georgia is expected to report back to MONEYVAL on further progress to strengthen its implementation of AML/CFT measures in one year’s time.
First report on implementation of Istanbul Convention by Georgia welcomes steps on legislation, calls for more services for victims and dissuasive sanctions for perpetrators
Strasbourg, 22.11.2022 – The Council of Europe’s monitoring body GREVIO in its first report on Georgia released today welcomed the many steps taken by the Georgian authorities to align its laws, policies and institutional framework with the standards of the Istanbul Convention. However, further legal amendments are needed, more domestic violence shelters and sexual violence crisis referral centres should be established across the country, bureaucratic obstacles related to obtaining victim status should be addressed, and steps must be urgently taken to increase women’s equal status in the Georgian society where patriarchal attitudes still prevail. The comments of the Georgian government were equally published.
The adoption of the National Action Plan on Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence and Protection of Victims 2018-2020, accompanied by policies, constituted a very important step in aligning Georgia’s obligations with its commitments under the convention. Besides, the Law on Domestic Violence has been amended to address all forms of violence and contains such welcome elements as the provision of special leave for victims of violence for the duration of their stay at a shelter/crisis centre, as well as the formal assignment of victim status to those witnessing domestic violence, notably children. The offence of domestic violence as well as new crimes such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation, stalking and forced sterilisation have been introduced into the Criminal Code. Significant changes were made to legislation in 2019 in terms of prohibiting sexual harassment, and much effort has been made to raise awareness of the different forms of violence against women. However, the definition of rape and the other offences of sexual violence in the Georgian Criminal Code still needs to be amended, in order to fully incorporate the notion of the lack of freely given consent, as required by the Istanbul Convention.
Victims have no access to fully established rape crisis and/or sexual violence referral centres that would be adequately geographically distributed all over Georgia. Besides, there are still very few services for women and girls at risk of or subjected to forced marriage, and administrative requirements such as obtaining formal victim status place barriers on women’s access to domestic violence shelters. GREVIO also urges the authorities to improve the access to support services and protection mechanisms to women exposed to the risk of intersectional discrimination, such as those from national and/or ethnic minorities, living in rural areas, women with disabilities and refugees, lesbian, bisexual or transgender women and older women. Children who witness violence often remain invisible to the system. Besides, financial resources allocated to state and NGO actors should be augmented, and the involvement of the latter in anti-violence law and policy development increased.
The criminal justice mechanisms for combating sexual violence face serious shortcomings: investigations and prosecutions lack in promptness, effectiveness, and sensitivity. The report calls for immediate measures to guarantee a quick and adequate response, in particular in cases of rape and sexual violence. The factors that contribute to the very high threshold for proving rape in court should be identified and addressed, and re-traumatisation of victims avoided all along the way. Urgent action should also be taken to ensure that criminal penalties imposed are dissuasive and commensurate with the gravity of the offence, and that courts take into account all incidents of domestic violence when deciding on custody or visitation rights.
Besides, GREVIO urges the authorities to review the process of issuance of emergency barring orders by the police, to identify and address reasons for the high proportion of orders annulled by the courts (around 60% in 2018-2021), as well as to monitor compliance with such orders. Similarly, the causes of the high number of violations of restraining and protection orders should be identified, and adequate sanctions applied in cases of breaches of such orders. GREVIO notes with great concern that while in 2018 the number of investigations initiated for violations of restraining orders was 60 and in 2019 the number went up to 516, no information has been provided concerning the sanctions imposed.
In its report, GREVIO also urges the Georgian authorities to ensure that women victims of violence who are in need of protection, regardless of their status or residence, shall not be returned under any circumstances to any country where their life would be at risk or where they might be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Finally, GREVIO points out that patriarchal attitudes, and stereotypes about gender roles and acceptable behaviour are still prevalent in Georgian society. Persistent gender stereotypes and their peddling by the media should be addressed, and efforts to increase women’s equal status in society, public discourse and the media must be urgently undertaken.
The First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia has met with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe
As part of his visit to Strasbourg, on 16 November, the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Lasha Darsalia, held a meeting with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić.
According to the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, it is important to keep the issues related to the occupied regions of Georgia high on the agenda of the Council of Europe and thanked the Secretary General for preparing the 26th consolidated report, which provides the international community with information regarding the situation in the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions occupied by Russia.
During the meeting, Lasha Darsalia provided the Secretary General with detailed information on the security, human rights and humanitarian situation in the occupied regions of Georgia.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe emphasized the importance of the practice of preparing a consolidated report.
The sides expressed close interest in exchanging high-level visits taking into account the existing environment in the region.
The sides once again underlined their commitment to close cooperation between Georgia and the Council of Europe.
Being a journalist in Europe today: EaP journalists to attend European Journalism Symposium
From 23-25 November, EU NEIGHBOURS east is partnering with the European Journalism Symposium to bring journalists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova to this major international event, taking place in Brussels around the theme “Being a journalist in Europe today”.
This free event will bring together around 100 speakers from at least 25 different countries, offering a unique opportunity for networking and professional exchanges between visiting journalists from the Eastern Partnership region, the Southern Mediterranean and the EU, around discussions on the role of the media in their countries.
Organised for the first time, the European Journalism Symposium aims to become a major biannual meeting where professionals will be able to discuss the challenges of their professions with the public, researchers, political and economic experts, and civil society representatives.
“Today, as the war in Ukraine is bloodying the heart of Europe and smearing the right to have access to free and fair information, we need to create this space for dialogue and reaffirm the role of a free and pluralistic information system, at the service of peace and democracy,” the organisers say.
The programme includes sessions on a wide range of topics, including propaganda and fake news, threats to journalism, media literacy, cyberattacks, and press freedom. On 24 November, there will be a special evening, organised with Reporters without Borders, on ‘Telling the war in Ukraine’, with the participation of journalists from Ukraine and Belgium.
The event is co-organised by IHECS (the Institut des hautes études des communications sociales – École de journalisme de Bruxelles) and the French association Journalisme & Citoyenneté.
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Astrea Justice (Zimbabwe) wins Council of Europe’s Democracy Innovation Award
At the closing session of the 10th World Forum for Democracy, the Council of Europe announced that the winner of its 2022 Democracy Innovation Award was the Justice Code Foundation Trust (Zimbabwe) for its human rights remedy application Astrea Justice.
The Justice Code Foundation Trust uses modern and innovative ways to ensure that citizens’ rights are protected, promoted and adequately remedied.
Astrea Justice informs and educates citizens of their legal rights to administrative justice, to vote, demonstrate and petition and to equality before the law, and also of the rights of arrested persons and personal security, including what to do in the case of violation. Their application is available in three local languages: Shona, English and Ndebele.
Three initiatives out of the 40 discussed at the Forum were shortlisted for the final vote:
- Mind the gap - National Museums of World Culture (Sweden)– presented at the workshop on history, awareness and the power of narrative ;
- “Nouveau Type de Citoyens” movement (Benin) – presented at the workshop on civic education;
- Astrea Justice - Justice Code Foundation Trust (Zimbabwe) – presented at the workshop on e-democracy.
The Forum brought together in Strasbourg 900 participants from 80 countries across the world to answer the question “Democracy: a new hope?".