The Permanent Delegation of the Parliament of Georgia, led by the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Kakha Kuchava, will take part in the spring session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on April 19-22.
According to the press service of the Parliament, the main topics of discussion at the session will be the global pandemic and Covid-19 vaccination, the situation of ethnic minorities in Council of Europe member states, Council of Europe strategic priorities and current processes in the world.
Givi Mikanadze, a member of the Georgian parliamentary delegation, will address the Assembly regarding the legal status of ethnic minorities in Georgia and the steps taken by the state for their full integration.
On the occasion of the German Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth will participate in the spring session of PACE (19-22 April 2021) which will take place in a hybrid format.
The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, the President of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, and the Secretary General of the organisation, Marija Pejčinović Burić, will also address PACE.
At this session, the Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, will present her 2020 annual report and the Assembly will award its Václav Havel Human Rights Prize.
There have been requests for urgent debates on "The arrest and detention of Alexei Navalny in January 2021" and "The functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey", as well as for current affairs debates on "Covid passports or certificates: protection of fundamental rights and legal implications", "Armenian prisoners of war and other captives", "Covid-19 vaccination certificates: how to protect public health and human rights?", and "Russian threat to the pursuit of peace in Europe".
Topics on the agenda include a debate on the Assembly's vision of the Council of Europe's strategic priorities and a joint debate on human rights violations and the need for electoral reform in Belarus.
The OECD's work on taxing the digital economy with the participation of its Secretary General Ángel Gurría, discrimination against people with chronic and long-term illnesses, post-monitoring dialogue with Montenegro, the preservation of national minorities and a European policy on diasporas will also be discussed.
Council of Europe anti-corruption body GRECO says Georgia has implemented 7 out of 16 recommendations on preventing corruption among MPs, judges and prosecutors
Strasbourg, 12.04.2021 – Over the past two years, Georgia has implemented two more recommendations issued by GRECO in 2016, on the prevention of corruption in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors, said the Council of Europe anti-corruption group GRECO in a new compliance report published today. All in all, seven out of 16 recommendations have been implemented satisfactorily or dealt with in a satisfactory manner, another seven have been partly implemented and two have still not been implemented. (See French version of the report)
Today’s report is already a second one analysing the implementation of the 2016 recommendations. The first such report published in 2019 concluded that five recommendations had been implemented, and the remaining 11 were still outstanding. These outstanding recommendations are the subject of the report published today.
With respect to members of Parliament, the regulations on transparency of the legislative process on the side of the parliament have been greatly enhanced, with a more visible publication of draft legislation, amendments thereto and information on the work of committees, but rules should also be adopted to allow for meaningful consultations to take place. Furthermore, training of MPs on the Code of Conduct has taken place, but further practical measures for the implementation of the Code (such as confidential counselling and monitoring) still have to become fully operational. The implementation of these measures has to some extent been hampered by political developments following the 2020 parliamentary elections. Finally, a clear requirement or rules are still required for MPs to declare conflicts of interest when they occur (ad hoc).
As far as judges are concerned, changes to the legislation on the recruitment of judges have improved the criteria on which decisions on recruitment are to be based, as well as the reasoning and the possibility of review of such decisions. It is noted, however, as demonstrated by the appointment process to the Supreme Court, that apparent good intentions on paper are still too easily trumped by other considerations. GRECO therefore urges the authorities to take further measures to enhance public trust in the recruitment processes of judges, be it to the Supreme Court or common courts, in particular in respect of the decision-making of the High Council of Justice. That said, positive steps have been taken as regards disciplinary proceedings (even if some remaining amendments would still need to be made to fully implement the recommendation in question), in particular by more clearly defining disciplinary offences, and in developing an update of the Rules of Judicial Ethics, which is, however, still to be adopted. Finally, as regards judges, GRECO regrets that the limitation of the broad immunity of judges is still under consideration and concludes that its recommendation that the immunity of judges be limited to activities relating to their participation in judicial decision-making (”functional immunity”) remains not implemented.
Regarding prosecutors, positive measures have been taken for the practical implementation of the Code of Ethics and welcome improvements have been made to the rules on the recruitment and promotion of prosecutors. GRECO concluded that two of its recommendations in these areas have been implemented. However, in spite of improvements made to the disciplinary regime applicable to prosecutors, further amendments are clearly necessary, in particular by defining sanctionable conduct more precisely. GRECO also concluded that its recommendation on widening the scope of application of the asset declaration regime under the Law on Conflict of Interest and Corruption to cover all prosecutors, remains not implemented.
GRECO asks the Head of delegation of Georgia to submit additional information on the nine outstanding recommendations by 31 March 2022 at the latest.
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The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) is a Council of Europe body that aims to improve the capacity of its members to fight corruption by monitoring their compliance with anti-corruption standards. It helps states to identify deficiencies in national anti-corruption policies, prompting the necessary legislative, institutional and practical reforms. Currently it comprises the 47 Council of Europe member states, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the United States of America.
Strasbourg, 31.03.2021 – States across Europe are continuing to make progress on implementing judgments from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest annual report from the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.
However, further efforts are needed to tackle systemic issues highlighted by the ECHR, including ill-treatment or deaths caused by the security forces and poor conditions of detention, as well as inter-state cases and a growing number of cases concerning abusive limitations on rights and freedoms.
“Today’s report shows that our member states take their obligation to implement judgments from the European Court of Human Rights very seriously, even in difficult circumstances,” said Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić.
“It is also very positive that NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions are becoming more and more involved in the process, making it more effective and transparent.
“Nevertheless, this is no time for complacency. Many important judgments have been outstanding for several years and a small number of high-profile cases are not being resolved quickly enough. Our member states have a duty to implement ECHR judgments promptly and fully. This is not a kind request – it is a binding requirement.”
The report shows that a total of 983 cases were closed by the Committee of Ministers in 2020 as a result of steps taken by the member states concerned. Of those 983 cases, 187 (19%) were “leading” cases – notably highlighting new structural or systemic problems – and 796 (81%) were repetitive.
At the end of 2020, 5,233 cases had yet to be fully implemented by the member states involved, of which 1,258 (24%) were leading cases and 3,975 (76%) were repetitive. 634 leading cases had been pending for over 5 years, but the number of such cases has been falling since 2016.
The report states that 581 payments of “just satisfaction” to applicants, awarded by the ECHR, were made on time in 2020. However, the Committee of Ministers was awaiting confirmation of payment in 1,574 cases at the end of 2020, over two-thirds of which had been awaiting confirmation for more than six months.
Finally, the report underlines that the Committee of Ministers received a record 176 formal communications from non-governmental organisations and National Human Rights Institutions in 2020, concerning 28 different states. The Committee also received its first five communications from the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights.
Georgia: Reform for elections, political associations and parliament rules should be “reconsidered”, according to Venice CommissionWednesday, 24 March 2021 15:29
Strasbourg, 24.03.2021 – In a joint opinion, requested in December 2020 by the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia and adopted at the latest plenary of the Venice Commission (19-20 March 2021), the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission call on Georgia to reconsider several amendments to the Election Code, the Law on Political Associations of Citizens and the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia.
With regard to the Election Code, proposed changes would infringe the rights of political parties to equal opportunities by denying them free airtime if they do not receive public funding. The denial of free airtime to those parties is both “disproportionate and unfounded”, as it is exactly these parties with less funds at their disposal that would need access to free airtime in order to voice their opinions and present their programmes to the electorate, according to the opinion.
Furthermore, not only is there no evident connection between allocating free airtime and receiving state funding that would justify such a step, but also such a restriction is not in the public interest, as it would reduce access to information that the public needs in order to make an informed choice in elections.
The Venice Commission also is concerned by proposed amendments to the Law on Political Associations of Citizens that would deny state funding to a political party or electoral bloc that did not take up at least half of the parliamentary mandates that it won, and would deprive the party or bloc of state funding for the next six months, if half of the members of parliament of any party or bloc did not attend without good reason more than half of the regular plenary sittings.
Sanctioning political parties – and not individual MPs – by depriving them of funding, if the respective MPs do not attend most sittings during a parliamentary session, appears “disproportionate” and at odds with the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, which already regulate such matters in a clear and balanced manner, according to the opinion.
Similar considerations apply to the proposed amendment to the Rules of Procedure of Parliament, which would result in the full deduction of the salary of an MP who does not attend without good reason all plenary sittings during a calendar month of the regular session, both for the period of the parliamentary session and for the ensuing recess period. This latter proposal also likely would not be compliant with the Constitution of Georgia, which makes salaries for Members of Parliament mandatory.
The opinion proposes considering “more proportionate and appropriate means” to achieve the goal of the amendments, which could involve imposing direct consequences on individual MPs for their actions. This would be more in line with the Georgian Constitution and international standards, the Venice Commission notes. “Such broad sanctions against parties not taking part in the Parliament’s work were not found in any other Venice Commission or OSCE/ODIHR member/participant states,” the opinion reads.
In a separate joint opinion, also requested last December by the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR call on Georgia to reconsider adopting a proposed new provision – Article 791 – to the country’s electoral code, as related to the participation by an alien acting as party leader in pre-election campaigning. Adopting this amendment could lead to an unduly restriction of political pluralism, the Venice Commission warns, listing several concerns.
The proposed amendment does not clearly define which criteria would be used to determine who is considered to be an electoral list’s or party’s political leader. Besides, while the right to vote and stand for election may be subject to some conditions, including the respective individual’s nationality, restrictions of aliens to participate in domestic political life should be limited to the establishment of political parties, but not to their membership. Furthermore, the sanction of deregistering a party list due to the foreign nationality of a person acting as its political leader seems a disproportionate measure that targets the party rather than the alien in question.
The appeals process regarding such deregistration as defined by the proposed amendment is "worrying" because deregistration of a party or electoral block can be made up to two days after elections: a decision may be taken after votes have been cast and voters might in good faith vote for a party which may then end up being deregistered.
Finally, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR believe that the amendment could be perceived, in the strict sense, as ad hominem legislation, i.e. directed against a particular individual, a legislative technique previously criticized by the Venice Commission.
The opinions were prepared under the Quick response Mechanism in the framework of the EU/CoE joint programme Partnership for Good Governance”, co-funded by the Council of Europe and the European Union and implemented by the Council of Europe.
COE MEDIA RELEASE
Georgia: progress made in fighting human trafficking, but improved victim identification and strengthened criminal justice response requiredTuesday, 16 March 2021 13:27
Strasbourg, 16.03.2021 – In its third report on Georgia’s implementation of the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the Council of Europe’s anti-human trafficking monitoring body, GRETA, focuses on trafficking victims’ access to justice and effective remedies. The report acknowledges progress in implementing the Convention but calls on the authorities to step up their efforts to investigate cases of human trafficking and bring the perpetrators to justice, making sure that victims receive compensation and support towards their rehabilitation.
Since the previous evaluation by GRETA, the Criminal Code of Georgia has been amended to ensure proper qualification of human trafficking offences. Further, the number of special mobile groups set up to carry out the preliminary identification of victims of trafficking was increased from three to four. The number of labour inspectors was also increased, and they received training on detecting cases of human trafficking and forced labour.
Victims of trafficking are entitled to free legal aid during criminal proceedings, which is provided by specifically trained lawyers. GRETA welcomes the existence of a specific legal provision on the non-punishment of victims of trafficking for offences they were compelled to commit, as well as the expansion of the victim and witness co-ordinator services.
However, GRETA considers that additional steps should be taken to ensure that victims and witnesses of human trafficking are provided with effective and appropriate protection from potential retaliation or intimidation. The authorities should further ensure that access to legal aid is guaranteed as soon as there are reasonable grounds for believing that a person is a victim of trafficking, before the persons concerned have to decide whether or not they want to co-operate with the authorities.
Only three victims of human trafficking have received compensation from perpetrators through civil proceedings, and there has been only one judgement in human trafficking cases resulting in the confiscation of assets, the report says. GRETA urges the authorities to take vigorous measures to facilitate and guarantee access to compensation for victims of trafficking, including by introducing a procedure through which victims are entitled to obtain a decision on compensation from the offender as part of the criminal trial, and making full use of the legislation on the freezing and forfeiture of offenders’ assets to secure compensation to victims of trafficking.
In the period 2015-2018, a total of 80 investigations were conducted into human trafficking cases, and there were 15 convictions. GRETA notes with concern that there have been no convictions for trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation and urges the Georgian authorities to ensure that human trafficking cases are not re-qualified as other offences which carry lighter penalties.
GRETA is concerned by the decrease in the number of victims identified and the high threshold required to grant the status of victim of human trafficking. GRETA urges the authorities to take further steps to proactively identify victims of trafficking, including amongst foreign workers, asylum seekers and persons placed in immigration detention centres.
The Georgian authorities should also strengthen their efforts in the areas of prevention of child trafficking, paying increased attention to the link between trafficking in children and the use of information and communications technology.
Georgia is primarily a country of origin and, to a lesser extent, a country of destination and transit of victims of trafficking in human beings, according to the report. The total number of victims identified in the period 2015-2019 was 66. Until 2018, the majority of the identified victims were women trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, but in 2019 all identified victims were Georgian children, trafficked for the purpose of production of child sexual abuse images (23 girls aged from 8 to 18 years) or exploitation of begging (two boys and four girls).
The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) is an independent body which monitors the way countries implement the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. So far, forty-six of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe are bound by the Convention, as well as Belarus, a non-member state.
The PACE monitoring co-rapporteurs for Georgia, Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), have expressed their concern at developments in Tbilisi.
“While no-one should be above the law, the police raid on the UNM Headquarters and the arrest of opposition leader Nika Melia have unnecessarily escalated tensions between the opposition and the ruling majority and deepened the political crisis in the country,” they said.
“Georgia’s democratic development needs restraint, dialogue and compromise, not escalation and confrontation,” said the two co-rapporteurs.
They called on all political forces to refrain from any actions that could further escalate tension, and to return to the negotiating table in order to find a political and mutually acceptable solution to resolve the ongoing crisis.
Strasbourg, 04.02.2021 - The German Federal Government’s Special Representative for the German Presidency of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, State Minister Michael Roth, the President of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, Rik Daems, and the Secretary General of the 47-nation Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, have today made the following statement concerning the sentencing of Aleksey Navalnyy:
“We deeply regret the recent decision of a Moscow court to sentence Aleksey Navalnyy to a prison term. This decision is based on a criminal conviction which the European Court of Human Rights, in its Navalnyye v. Russia judgment of 17 October 2017, found to have been arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable and, as a consequence, in violation of Articles 6 and 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Russia is a party. We call upon the Russian authorities to abide by their international obligations under the Convention.
The massive, and partly violent, arrests of protesters and journalists at the recent demonstrations all over Russia are also alarming. We refer to the statement of the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner in this regard. Freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, the right to liberty and security and the right to a fair trial are fundamental rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. These rights must be strictly respected.
We call on the Russian authorities to fully investigate all reported abusive actions against peaceful protesters and journalists, and to bring those responsible to justice, in order to live up to Russia’s obligations as a member state of the Council of Europe.”
The Directorate of Communications of the Council of Europe
Meeting of Irakli Kobakhidze with Andreas Kiefer, Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of EuropeMonday, 01 February 2021 12:54
The Majority Leader, PACE Vice-President Irakli Kobakhidze met with Andreas Kiefer, Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe to discuss the cooperation between Georgia and the Council of Europe.
The conversation also touched upon the implemented and ongoing reforms in Georgia, as well as the importance of further strengthening self-government and regional policy.
The parties reaffirmed their commitment for further cooperation.
"Georgia was a very active presiding country of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the cooperation with various actors was excellent. Last year, the President of the Congress served a very fruitful visit to Georgia. We held high-level meetings where we were briefed on the results of the decentralization reform and the following steps. The Congress is interested in continuing the dialogue and we are pleased that the Georgian Parliamentary Assembly's delegation includes people who know what local and regional democracy means. The bridge between the Congress and the Parliament of Georgia will be the Vice President of the Congress, Tamar Taliashvili. We look forward to cooperating next year as well", - A. Kiefer stated after the meeting.
According to T. Taliashvili, the Secretary General of the Congress supports the ongoing reforms in Georgia.
"The Congress of the Council of Europe is the most important organization on the continent of Europe, researching and working on issues related to democracy and the rule of law in self-government. Therefore, the full support of the Secretary of this organization in connection with the ongoing reforms in Georgia is very important for our country. There will be local self-government elections in Georgia this year and the readiness of this very important organization to be a participant in these processes is one of the most vital and advanced steps for the development of local democracy in our country", - T. Taliashvili remarked.
According to G. Khojevanishvili, the Parliament of Georgia will cooperate even more actively with the Congress.
"The support of a high-ranking official such as the President of the Congress of the Council of Europe is extremely important. We had a very business meeting, we talked about important issues such as decentralization, further strengthening of self-government, strengthening of regional policy and support, so we are actively going to work more closely with the Congress in the future", - G. Khojevanishvili commented.
A 9-member delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), led by Tiny Kox (Netherlands, UEL), will travel to Georgia from 29 October to 1 November to observe the conduct of the parliamentary elections, alongside observers from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, NATO Parliamentary Assembly and OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
The delegation will meet, in particular, representatives of political parties, the Chairperson of the Central Election Commission, as well as representatives of civil society and the media, before observing the ballot on 31 October.
A representative of the Venice Commission – the Council of Europe's group of independent legal experts – will provide legal support during the visit.
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A joint press conference is scheduled in Tbilisi on Sunday 1 November (place and time to be confirmed).
Strasbourg, 01.10.2020 - The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, made the following statement today:
“As the armed conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh escalates with a growing number of civilian casualties, I mourn the deaths of the many people, including civilians, who are falling victim to the hostilities. No political considerations can justify the horror and suffering of these women, men and children. I implore all sides of the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and implement without delay the interim measures decided by the European Court of Human Rights. A peaceful solution must be found at the negotiating table to prevent a grave humanitarian crisis.”
The Secretary General reiterated her support to the work of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to this end.