THE PARLIAMENT HEARD THE ACTIVITY REPORT FOR 2022 OF THE PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION TO PACEThursday, 23 March 2023 16:35
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 reformsWednesday, 15 March 2023 12:45
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 EuropeMonday, 21 November 2022 11:27
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 PresidentMonday, 07 November 2022 11:17
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.
ADDRESS OF THE SPEAKER, SHALVA PAPUASHVILI TO THE PACE PRESIDENT, TINY KOXMonday, 24 October 2022 11:13
The Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, Shalva Papuashvili, wrote a letter to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Martinus Tiny Kox, stating that the inclusion of Mikheil Saakashvili in the amendment to the Resolution changes the essence and spirit of the Resolution and undermines the fundamental values of PACE and the credibility of the organisation in upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law across Europe. "News Day Georgia" offers this statement in full:
To the PACE President, Tiny Kox
A long-standing partnership of the Parliament of Georgia with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe allows me to address you with regards to Resolution 2463 (2022): “Further escalation in the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, debated under the urgent procedure of the fourth part of the ordinary session. Despite our full solidarity to Ukraine in the face of the Russian aggression, approval of the following amendment has prevented the members of the Georgian Delegation from supporting the Resolution: “the Assembly calls on the Russian authority for the immediate release of Vladimir Kara-Murza. The Assembly also calls for a review of cases of other political prisoners opposed to Putin in the Russian Federation and other countries, and for their release (including Mikheil Saakashvili – a Ukrainian citizen and former President of Georgia)”.
We believe that the inclusion of Mikheil Saakashvili in this amendment (a) changes the essence and spirit of the Resolution, and (b) undermines the fundamental values of PACE and the credibility of organization in upholding human rights, democracy and rules of law across Europe. The European Court of Human Rights issued over 100 judgements during Mr. Saakashvili’s rule, including 13 cases on Article 2 (right to life), 34 cases on Article 3 (prohibition of torture), 15 cases on Article 5 (right to liberty and security), and 44 cases on Article 6 (right to a fair trial). Moreover, the Court underlined in its Alexander Girgvliani murder case (Enukidze and Girgvliani v. Georgia) that Mr. Saakashvili hindered an effective investigation and appropriate punishment.
The Report on Human Rights Development in Georgia in 2004-2012 made by Mr. Thomas Hammamberg, former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the EU Special Adviser on Constitutional and Legal Reform and Human Rights in Georgia in 2013 is a testament to systemic violations of the Convention-related rights during Saakashvili’s presidency. It identifies an alarming situation in areas of judiciary, penitentiary, law enforcement, rights of minorities, rights to take part in public affairs, freedom of expression, assembly and association, and social justice. Mr. Saakashvili has been convicted in Georgia in two criminal cases (the one on the above-mentioned Girgvliani case and the other on organizing an attack against opposition MP Valeri Gelashvili).
Three other criminal cases are pending (on the exceeding and abusing of official powers during the breaking up of anti-government protests on November 7, 2007, and the subsequence seizure of Imedi TV, an independent television broadcaster; on embezzlement of funds from the State Protection Service for personal use; and on illegal crossing of the Georgian state border). The ECHR refused to accept Mr. Saakashvili’s case regarding his treatment by Georgia’s penitentiary system. ECHR has found there were no “special circumstances” in the application relating to respect for human rights, which would have required the body to continue the examination of the case.
The decision of the European Court has once again confirmed that the rights and interests of Mikheil Saakashvili were fully protected in the penitentiary system per the standards of the ECHR. Georgia has both a clear track record of protecting human rights, democracy and rule of law since 2012 and closely cooperating with the ECHR in implementing its judgements. Georgian cases to the ECHR dropped 5,5 times in 2013-2021 compared to Mr. Saakashvili’s rule in 2004-2012, owing to the progress in credibility, independence and professionalism of the Georgian courts.
This progress has been duly reflected in the Resolution 2438 “The honoring of obligations and commitments by Georgia” adopted by the Assembly during the second part of the 2022 ordinary session. Having this in mind, we believe there is no evidence of political motivations in the charges against Mr. Saakashvili other than politically-driven speculations. Therefore, the adoption of language as in amendment 4 represents an unsubstantiated challenge for the Georgian legal system, invites unjustified suspicion against our country in international fora and undermines Georgia’s reform progress in human rights and the rule of law since 2012.
More importantly, the unfounded provisions on Mr. Saakshvili jeopardize the credibility of PACE within the wider Georgian public and erode our efforts to solidify support for the ambitious reform agenda aligned with recommendations of the relevant PACE resolutions.
We remain hopeful that PACE members will in future be guided only by the best interests of the organization and its fundamental values. We stand ready to provide detailed insight on any issue of your interest about Georgia. Please, accept, Mr. President, the assurances of my highest consideration and esteem.
The Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia
PACE co-rapporteurs on Armenia concerned by reports of alleged war crimes or inhuman treatment perpetrated by Azerbaijan’s armed forcesWednesday, 19 October 2022 13:59
STRASBOURG. "We are concerned by the numerous reports of alleged war crimes or inhuman treatment perpetrated by the armed forces of Azerbaijan”, said Kimmo Kiljunen (Finland, SOC) and Boriana Åberg (Sweden, EPP/CD), co-rapporteurs of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) for the monitoring of Armenia's obligations and commitments.
“We note that the Military Prosecutor's Office of Azerbaijan has decided to investigate the facts and hope that these investigations will be public and transparent. While both sides blame each other for the resumption of hostilities, Azerbaijani armed forces are occupying Armenian territory in violation of Armenia's territorial sovereignty and Azerbaijan’s obligation under the Statute of the Council of Europe to settle conflicts by peaceful means,” the co-rapporteurs added.
“We therefore call upon the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately withdraw from all parts of the territory of Armenia and to release the prisoners of war under their control. Only diplomatic means will bring a just and lasting response to the conflict that will benefit the populations of both states," they concluded.
PACE calls for a review of cases of political prisoners opposed to President Putin, and for their release, including M. SaakashviliMonday, 17 October 2022 16:21
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe calls for a review of cases of political prisoners opposed to President Putin, in the Russian Federation and in other countries, and for their release, including Mikheil Saakashvili, Ukrainian citizen and former President of Georgia. The above is said in the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe - "Further escalation in the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine", which was approved by the Assembly yesterday.
The resolution, among other things, talks about the repressive environment in the Russian Federation.
"The authorities have implemented a far-reaching crackdown on civil liberties based on intimidation and open persecution, with the goal to provoke a state of terror in the general public for political purposes. Democratic figures are being repressed or killed, the system of opposition parties has been destroyed, the judiciary is not independent and many media and civil society organisations, such as Memorial International, have been closed down. Despite the many draconian measures passed in recent years, anti-war demonstrations and protests have been breaking out across the country. Amongst the most prominent public figures being persecuted for voicing criticism against the war is Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has been detained since April 2022. On 10 October 2022, the Assembly was honoured to award Mr Kara-Murza with the 2022 Václav Havel Prize, affirming support for his courage and determination to create a peaceful, democratic Russia. The Assembly calls on the Russian authorities for the immediate release of Vladimir Kara-Murza. The Assembly also calls for a review of cases of other political prisoners opposed to President Putin, in the Russian Federation and in other countries, and for their release (including Mikheil Saakashvili, Ukrainian citizen and former President of Georgia)," reads the resolution.
99 out of 100 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe supported the resolution calling on European countries to declare the current Russian regime a terrorist regime, while one member, a Turkish MP from the Republican People's Party, abstained.