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.”
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.
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?".
Council of Europe Sec-Gen hosts Georgian President
Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić is hosting Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, the President’s press office has said.
Zourabichvili is visiting France to attend high-ranking meetings in Strasbourg and Paris.
She will participate in the World Forum for Democracy 2022 and the Paris Peace Forum.
As part of the visit, Zourabichvili will also meet with PACE President Tiny Kox and the Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrín Jakobsdóttir.