Preventing COVID-19: Council of Europe supports prison systems in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro and North Macedonia
In response to the emergency of COVID-19 pandemic and to the need of providing urgent support to inmates and prison staff, in the context of its cooperation programmes, the Council of Europe has donated protective materials to five member States: Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro and North Macedonia.
In Georgia, donations included 6,500 masks, 2,500 face shields and 500 litres of sanitizer and antiseptic liquid, 20 pulse oximeters; 5,000 disposable plastic shoe covers; and 3,000 medical disposable headcovers.
A total of 13,760 masks; 2,500 facial shields; 1,240 litters of disinfectant/sanitizer for hands and surfaces; 84,000 gloves; 99 infrared thermometers; 2 oxygen generators; 5 portable saturometers; 10 bactericide lamps; 50 medical uniforms; 100 protective glasses, 20 pulse oximeters; 3,000 head covers; 5,000 shoe covers were delivered to prison administrations in the mentioned countries. 850 pieces of disinfectants and 5,000 gloves are also under way of delivery in North Macedonia, and additional items are expected to be purchased in Montenegro and Azerbaijan until end of June 2020.
These donations aim at supporting the commitment of the Council of Europe member States and their national prison administrations to adhere to the CPT statement of principles for the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty (see the statement also in Georgian here), in accordance with the World Health Organization guidelines in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The donations were delivered following requests from the Ministries of Justice and prison administrations within the framework of the cooperation activities implemented by the Criminal Law Cooperation Unit, Action against Crime Department, Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law.
The donation to Georgia was possible in the framework of the project Enhancement of Human Rights and Health-Care Support to Penitentiary System (financed through CoE Action Plan for Georgia 2016-2019).
The meeting of Irakli Kobakhidze with the CoE Secretary General
The parties touched upon the political processes in Georgia and overviewed the scheduled legal changes.
“The Secretary General congratulated Irakli Kobakhidze with the chairmanship of the party. She is well informed about the political processes in Georgia and hoped that the next session will be attended by our Delegation in full composition, including the opposition MPs as at the PACE session so in the Parliament of Georgia. We discussed all the issues we intend to undertake and she expressed her strong support. Mme. Burić is informed about our plans, including our intention to submit the application for the EU membership in 2024. She is as well aware of the legal changes adopted in summer, which were widely hailed. She also approved the scheduled legal changes aiming at further improvement of the electoral system and achievement of the agreement in this regard”, - the Head of the Delegation, Kakha Kutchava noted.
The Parliamentary Delegation attending the consideration of the Report by the PACE Monitoring Committee
The Parliamentary Delegation participates in the PACE winter sessions with the agenda including the Annual Report providing the outcomes of monitoring in 2020. The report provides the assessments about the progress of the countries subject to the monitoring or participating in the post-monitoring dialogue.
The member of the Delegation, Irakli Chikovani thanked the rapporteurs and members of the Monitoring Committee for their efforts and stated that after accessing the CoE, Georgia has been through a significant transformation.
In 2020, Georgia achieved the culmination of this process and assumed the presidency of the Committee of Ministers.
“I believe that against the pandemic, we left our trace and enriched the CoE agenda. Our priority issues – human rights and environmental protection – were widely supported, including from the presidency candidate states”, - he noted and added that the democracy is not static but envisages higher aspiration to protection and engagement and thus, Georgia in cooperation with its partners, keeps the planning of its European way.
“I would like to attract your attention to the new agenda of the ruling party – “Building the European State” and which is a strategic stage for Georgia to make the application for the EU membership in 2024”.
The ruling party managed to establish the system to ensure the most inclusive and multi-party Parliament in the history of Georgia: “As the report provides, the Constitutional reform followed the acute opposition, though we managed to form the system leading to the most inclusive and multiparty Parliament in history of Georgia. Despite the gaps, the international observation missions concluded that the elections 2020 were competitive and the fundamental freedoms were adhered to, where the political parties were free to hold their campaigns. Some of the refractory opposition parties adhering to the principle “everything or nothing” refused to accept their mandates. At the same time, we understand that we need to keep our way and we are committed to undertaking more reforms and investigate each accusation through the Parliamentary Fact-Finding Commission”.
As he noted, the report underlines the situation on the occupied territories of Georgia: “A couple of days ago, not so far from this place, in European Court of Human Rights, Georgia celebrated one of the greatest victories in its modern history – as the ECHR decided, Russia is legally responsible for the gross violation of the international law and human rights in Russia-Georgia August war 2008 and after the war. We, Georgians, as Europeans believe that the strong principles of the international law will win and human rights will be protected”.
The member of the Delegation, Tamar Taliashvili stated that the report also provides the progress of Georgia in 2020 and concerns the political developments of 2019.
“We fully share the concern expressed in the report entailed with the fact that some radical opposition parties boycott the Parliament while the election returns allowed them to ensure the Parliamentary oversight. As the report provides, the term includes the period when Georgia re-proved that the Georgian democratic institutions are committed to addressing the challenges and the ruling majority is ready to hold the political dialogue, including with the radical opposition. As a result, the “Georgian Dream” has initiated the Constitutional changes leading to a more balanced political system, which facilitated the Parliament to be more diverse and pluralist. As to the Parliamentary Elections 2020, the report underlines its competitiveness and protection of fundamental freedoms, as well as the freedom of the political parties to hold their campaigns”.
According to her, the monitoring report, along with the positive assessments, also provides the recommendations for further progress: “The ruling party made a public statement about its decision to adopt the electoral reform providing the recommendations by the international observation missions. We fully share the concern expressed in the monitoring report entailed with the fact that that some radical opposition parties boycott the Parliament while the election returns allowed them to ensure the Parliamentary oversight. I also would like to take advantage and thank the EU and US Ambassadors for their positive contribution to the political dialogue. Also, let me underline the importance of your statement about the ongoing occupation of two regions of Georgia. The report reflects the condemnation of the gross human rights violations, which was enhanced by the ECHR's recent decision on August war 2008. I also would like to stress the importance of this decision for the victims of the war and our country”.
The member of the Delegation, Givi Mikanadze in his speech noted that for the first time during the last two decades, the newly elected Parliament consists of 14 political parties and such diversity of the political actors is a result of the will of Georgian citizens:
“Unfortunately, the opposition parties do not value the support expressed by their electors and rejecting the mandates, try to sabotage the Parliamentary activity. The report underlines that the Parliamentary Elections 2020 were estimated by the international observation organizations as competitive, where the fundamental freedoms were adhered to and where the parties enjoyed the freedom to hold their campaigns. It is noteworthy that more than 80 000 observers were observing the elections countrywide”.
He dwelt on the simultaneous counting by one of the NGOs, which initially revealed the deviation of 2.4% from the official results made by the CEC.
“The leaders of “Georgian Dream” officially addressed this NGO and called on to disclose information about 850 polling stations where the count was simultaneously held. Initially, NGO refused but in mid-December, they stated that the gap was detected by the internal audit in the formula of counting. After elimination of the gap, their results coincided with the CEC results. This NGO stated that their PVT detected a discrepancy in 8% of the electoral districts. “Georgian Dream” also required to disclose the list of these districts. According to the CEC data, this so-called “imbalance” related to the excessive bulletins, was described only in 19 protocols out of 3657, unlike the statement of NGO. The “Georgian Dream” has not yet received any data from the observation organization”.
He noted that along with the boycott, the radical opposition openly started to express discontent towards the international observations, international politicians and the facilitators, which led to a series of attacks on the EU and US Ambassadors especially.
“The “Georgian Dream” submitted the initiative to set up the Ad Hoc Fact-Finding Commission in the Parliament to investigate the Elections and called on the opposition parties to participate. It is no surprise that the opposition rejected this offer, which confirms their will of marginalization and will to keep their protest in streets instead of the Parliamentary activity. We are oriented to the future and consider the further enhancement of democratic processes in Georgia. “Georgian Dream” is aspired to cooperate with our international partners, including the PACE to focus on the gaps detected during the last Parliamentary Elections”.
The monitoring procedures cover 11 countries (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine) and 3 countries participating in the post-monitoring dialogue (Bulgaria, Montenegro and North Macedonia).
GD Chairman: PACE urges opposition to enter parliament
“The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has discussed election report prepared by Tini Kox today and reiterated that the elections were competitive and free in Georgia,” Irakli Kobakhidze, the Chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, stated on Monday.
According to him, PACE approved the observation mission’s report, including recommendations.
“This recommendation reflects our will. In particular, to check all violations revealed in this election. That’s why we’ve proposed the opposition to set up a parliamentary commission,” GD Chairman said.
Irakli Kobakhidze stresses that the CoE calls on the opposition to engage in parliamentary work. “We hope the opposition will take these statements into account,” he said.
He also echoed the decision on re-electing him as PACE Vice-President. “I am happy to be approved as PACE Vice-President for the second term in a row,” Kobakhidze added.
Mass COVID-19 vaccination begins in Azerbaijan
BAKU, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Azerbaijan's senior health officials on Monday took their first inoculations of a vaccine made by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech, marking the beginning of mass vaccination against COVID-19 in the country, according to state-run news agency AZERTAC.Azerbaijani Health Minister Ogtay Shiraliyev and his deputies, as well as other health officials, were among the first to be vaccinated by what Shahmar Movsumov, an assistant to the president of Azerbaijan, earlier described as "the most safe and effective vaccine" procured by Azerbaijan.Specialists decided that "the best vaccine for Azerbaijan is the vaccine of the Sinovac company" as it has passed clinical tests in many countries, said Shiraliyev, when addressing the local media after his inoculation in Baku.The first stage of mass vaccination starting on Jan. 18 will cover health and technical workers at the country's medical institutions, law enforcement staff and servicemen, while people aged over 65 will be vaccinated starting from Feb. 1, according to health authorities.Last week, Azerbaijan's Cabinet of Ministers approved the country's national COVID-19 vaccination strategy for 2021-2022, under which people who get the COVID-19 jab will receive a certificate to show they have been vaccinated.Azerbaijan purchased 4 million doses of Sinovac vaccine, the first batch of which has been recently delivered to the country.Although a strict special quarantine regime remains in effect throughout Azerbaijan until April 1, the authorities lifted major restrictions last weekend due to a drop in the number of infections in recent weeks.According to the country's operational headquarters for COVID-19 prevention and control, Azerbaijan reported on Sunday 322 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing its total to 227,273.
Inter-Agency Coordination Council Rules COVID Restrictions be Kept till February 1
Current COVID restrictions will be maintained till February 1. It was decided by the Inter-Agency Coordination Council led by Giorgi Gakharia, Prime Minister of Georgia at the Government Administration today.
As instructed by the Head of Government of Georgia, intensive meetings will be held with business owners prior to the gradual removal of restrictions to make sure that maximum preparedness and high standards of public safety exist by that time in the trade sector and public transportation.
Inter-Agency Coordination Council also discussed the
Discussions were held at the Council Meeting on the current epidemic situation in the country, along with current efforts taken for the uninterrupted flow of the vaccination process. It was noted that the community transfer rate is stabilising as a result of imposed restrictions, though it should not relax us. Compliance with all the issued recommendations, including the social distancing and uniform wearing of face masks, remains vital.
Steps made by the Specialized Task Force established with the instructions of the Prime Minister of Georgia for the uninterrupted flow of COVID vaccination process in the country have been discussed at the meeting today as well. It was noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and overseas diplomatic missions of Georgia are engaged in the negotiations held on behalf of the State with international partners and pharmaceutical companies to make sure that first dozes of the COVID vaccine reach the country as early as possible.
The Inter-Agency Coordination Council also discussed the steps made by the Designated Commission established under the instructions of the Prime Minister of Georgia. Council was also briefed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia on the actions taken by the overseas diplomatic missions of Georgia towards this end. It was noted that negotiations are actively pursued concurrently with several pharmaceutical companies to make sure that vials reach the country as soon as possible. Nevertheless, international recognition of the vaccine is the most important precondition of the procurement. It should be cleared by the World Health Organization and should have an international acknowledgement. Also, it was noted that essential infrastructure already exists in the country for keeping vials in the required conditions and work progresses to build capacity towards this end. Besides, a specialised commission is actively working on the schedule of immunization, which defines the due target groups and stages of vaccination in the country.
Since the detection of the first case of COVID-19 in Georgia, 239 780 individuals have been proven positive through lab testing, out of which 226 215 individuals recovered and 2 796 died.
Currently 506 individuals are placed in quarantine, 722 - at clinical hotels and 3 929 - at hospitals under medical supervision.
The Inter-Agency Coordination Council led by the Prime Minister of Georgia actively engages the Parliament of Georgia chaired by MP Archil Talakvadze and Administration of the President of Georgia.
Press Service of the Government Administration