Congress President condemns so-called “elections” held in occupied Abkhazia
Strasbourg, 16 March2022 - Reacting to recent so-called “parliamentary elections” held on 12 March 2022 in the Abkhazia region in Georgia, the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Leendert Verbeek, made the following statement:
“By organising these “elections”, the so-called “de facto” authorities of Abkhazia, once again, undermined the principle of the territorial integrity of Georgia forcing this region further into isolation, to the detriment of the local population.
The Congress has always shown its unrelenting commitment to the territorial integrity of member States within its internationally recognised borders. This principle is all the more important in the current context of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine.
Not only since 24 February we know that the illegal recognition of territories of other member States can be only one step ahead of further aggression and war. This is the bitter lesson we have to learn, eventually.
Therefore, all sort of action undermining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a member State, is to be strongly condemned. The so-called “elections” organised in Abkhazia fall under this category and do not recognise the illegal occupation of Abkhazia by the Russian Federation. The “vote” organised in Abkhazia on 12 March, instead of strengthening, further erodes stability in this region and is, moreover, the wrong signal at the wrong time.”
THE PARLIAMENT HEARD THE ACTIVITY REPORT FOR 2022 OF THE PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION TO PACE
At the plenary session, MPs heard the Activity Report for 2022 of the Parliamentary Delegation to PACE, introduced by the Head of the Delegation, Irakli Chikovani.
“One of the acute issues for the PACE and for us was the devastation in Ukraine entailed by the Russian aggression and the decision made on the exclusion of Russia from the Coe and the preparation for a new Summit that is scheduled in May 2023 and that shall be dedicated to the planning of the further steps of the organization”, - he stated.
According to him, the Georgian Delegation was one of the main Delegations that approved the exclusion of Russia at the emergency session convened by the CoE. As noted, sundry resolutions have been adopted in 2022 related to the situation in Ukraine, where the Georgian Delegation in full composition, including the Majority and the Opposition MPs, unanimously approved the documents except one resolution providing the record about the third President of Georgia.
“This Resolution was connected neither to Georgia nor the situation in Georgia or the democratic reforms; it was an attempt, which by the way was quite successfully conducted by the EPP members and the rapporteur of the Resolution”, - he noted and added that the Resolution on Georgia initiated by the Monitoring Committee and adopted by the PACE reflects the immense progress achieved by Georgia in the democracy, rule of law and human rights protection directions.
“This progress is clearly underlined and which is unambiguously confirmed by the CoE as a whole, though it also provides the challenges in Georgia being addressed by the Government”, - the reporter ended his speech.
Georgian draft law on de-oligarchisation: Supporting the goal of limiting excessive influence of oligarchs, Venice Commission calls for systemic reforms
Strasbourg, 14.03.2023 – In its interim opinion on the draft law of Georgia on de-oligarchisation published today, the Council of Europe’s body of constitutional experts, the Venice Commission, called on the Georgian authorities to adopt systemic reforms rather than targeting specific individuals, in order to achieve “de-oligarchisation”.
“Oligarchisation” is the result of a combination of non-transparent exercise of political power without a political mandate, influence on parliaments, governments, political parties, judiciary and law enforcement bodies; ownership or influence on the media; decisive, if not monopolistic, influence on a number of areas, such as energy, mining, oil and gas, metallurgy, real estate. Eliminating such excessive influence of vested interests in economic, political and public life is a novel and very complex issue.
The Venice Commission noted that while Ukraine was the first country to adopt specific de-oligarchisation legislation, the commitment to eliminate the excessive influence of vested interests in economic, political and public life was also the object of a specific European Commission recommendation to Georgia and the Republic of Moldova. Georgia has since prepared a draft law which is very closely modelled on Ukrainian Law. Each country, however, presents specificities.
The Venice Commission supported the goal of eliminating or at least limiting the influence of oligarchs in political, economic and public life. It highlighted, however, that the choice of the means to achieve such a legitimate goal is of decisive importance if the system is to be effective while respecting democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights. Any such measures should be commensurate to the goal pursued of achieving a level playing field for all actors in society.
The Commission stressed that de-oligarchisation should be ensured through a systemic approach, which has a preventative effect and targets numerous fields, such as legislation relating to media, anti-monopoly, political parties, elections, taxation, anti-corruption and anti-money laundering, etc.
The Georgian draft law instead focuses on a so-called “personal” (punitive) approach, seeking to identify so-called “oligarchs” through specific criteria, such as wealth and media ownership, to publicly label them as “oligarchs” and to subject them to series of blanket limitations that include exclusion from the financing of political parties or activities, exclusion from privatisations of public property, etc. This approach, in the opinion of the Venice Commission, carries high risks of human rights violations and arbitrary application, potentially harming political pluralism. At the very least, the Commission recommended transferring the power to designate a person as an “oligarch” to another body than the Government, removing the broad discretion of the Government in interpreting and applying these criteria and providing strong guarantees for human rights, due process and effective remedies.
The Venice Commission has prepared the current opinion as an interim one, with a view of pursuing its analysis of possible solutions to this matter and taking into account further legislative developments when they are available.
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.
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