PACE President commends Georgia’s true European aspirations

Published in World
Sunday, 03 July 2016 19:13

Ending his official visit to Georgia, Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, commended Georgia’s European aspirations and commitment to Council of Europe values.

“During my official meetings with the Georgian authorities, I felt a genuine and heartfelt desire to further European integration and commit to the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” President Agramunt said. “Georgia has been a member of our organisation for 17 years; during this time it has made considerable progress in terms of democratic reforms and strengthening state institutions. I am sure that with the recently launched Action Plan 2016-2019, Georgia will continue on this positive path and reach its reform objectives”.

In his discussions, President Agramunt focused, in particular, on the forthcoming parliamentary election. “With all my interlocutors I raised the recent reports of violent attacks against political activists. All acts of violence should be firmly condemned and fully investigated. All parties should refrain from provocative acts which could lead to further tension. I was reassured by the authorities that they would devote even greater energy to adopt and implement measures aimed at preventing further violence in order to deliver to Georgian citizens the fair, democratic and peaceful environment they deserve”, he said.

In discussing the forthcoming elections, President Agramunt also raised the issue of electoral reform. While welcoming that some progress has been achieved in particular with regard to redrawing election districts, PACE President noted that the majority and the opposition had not been able to agree on a new electoral system in time for the October elections. “The new Parliament will have an important mission to find a common agreement on the new system before the 2020 elections,” he concluded.

Trials against former officials, as well as the recent judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Merabishvili vs. Georgia were also discussed. “I made it clear to my interlocutors that there should be no impunity for corruption offences and human rights violations. However, investigations and trials should be conducted in a transparent, efficient and independent manner, from the outset to the completion. The recent judgement of the ECtHR highlighted some issues of concern and I encouraged the authorities to address them effectively and to carry out appropriate investigations”.

Turning to the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, and South Ossetia, Georgia, PACE President reiterated that the Assembly fully supported Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He praised the Georgian authorities' current policy, which was based on increasing confidence building measures and reducing political tensions. “Rebuilding trust between the sides is of utmost importance and I welcomed some positive steps taken, including opening the doors of educational institutions and medical centres to all. I am, nonetheless, concerned by some recent developments which do not help this process, notably the murder of a Georgian citizen on 19 May near the administrative boundary line in the village of Kurcha”.

Finally, President Agramunt welcomed the commitment made by the Georgia Prime Minister to put in place the necessary conditions for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention in the near future.

During his official visit, PACE President met with the President of the Republic, Giorgi Margvelashvili, the Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mikheil Janelidze, the Speaker of Parliament, David Usupashvili, as well as members of the delegation of Georgia to the PACE.

In Tbilisi, President Agramunt also participated in the 25th Annual Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, during which he met with the OSCE PA President, Mr Ilkka Kanerva, and addressed the Assembly at its opening plenary session. In his speech, PACE President praised the excellent cooperation existing between the two Assemblies and highlighted some topics on which this collaboration should be strengthened, including the fight against terrorism and the search for a common response to the migration and refugee crisis.

Witness hearing in the Inter-State case of Georgia v. Russia (II)

Published in Justice
Saturday, 18 June 2016 14:55

A delegation of seven Judges of the European Court of Human Rights composed of Mirjana Lazarova-Trajkovska (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”), Nona Tsotsoria (Georgia), Vincent. A. De Gaetano (Malta), Helen Keller (Switzerland), Dmitry Dedov (Russian Federation), Jon Fridrik Kjølbro (Denmark) and Yonko Grozev (Bulgaria) took evidence from witnesses in Strasbourg from Monday 6 June to Friday 17 June 2016 in the case of Georgia v. Russia (II) (application no. 38263/08). The Court heard 33 witnesses in total: 16 summonsed through the Georgian Government, 11 summonsed through the Government of the Russian Federation and six summonsed directly by the Court. The application was lodged on 11 August 2008 under Article 33 (Inter-State cases) of the European Convention on Human Rights and concerns the armed conflict between Georgia and the Russian Federation in August 2008 and its aftermath. It raises issues under Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment), 5 (right to liberty and security), 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention, under Articles 1 and 2 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property and right to education), as well as under Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 (freedom of movement). Following a hearing on 22 September 2011, the application was declared admissible, without prejudging the merits of the case, by a Chamber on 13 December 2011 and relinquished to the Grand Chamber on 3 April 2012. The European Court of Human Rights will now continue its examination of the case.

The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.

we can compete with the developed countries of Europe- ex Prime Minister

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 07 June 2016 15:35


“Regard to Human rights, I have to pretend that we can compete with the developed countries of Europe one of the exception,”-this statement was made by the ex-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili at the meeting with the journalists today. According to him this exception is employment opportunities in our country.
One of the main human rights is the opportunity of employment and ability to maintain his family. This depends on economics and a lot of things should be made. I don’t have an illusion of democratic institutions that everything have been completed. All of the good things were made in the short time but a lot of thing we have to do,”-Bidzina Ivanishvili said.

Human Rights and Civil Integration and the Regional Policy and Self-Government Committee Sitting

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 31 May 2016 16:50

The Committees did not support so-called “German Model” of mandate distribution according to the Proportional system. the draft organic law on Election Code by the Republicans was introduced by the Chair of Legal Issues Committee, Vakhtang Khmaladze.
The draft changes mandate distribution rule and envisages calculation of percent indices of the votes obtained in proportional system not from 77 mandates, which is currently stipulated under the Constitution but from the number of full composition of the Parliament, constituting 150. Thus, the political party obtains the number of mandates according to the index obtained in proportional elections. In the event if the party obtains higher percentage index than the number of single mandates it nominated, the vacant seats shall be filled from the party list.
One more novelty is abolishment of nomination of the candidate by the initiative groups. MPs expressed their remarks and asked the questions. Finally, the Committees did not support the draft. After the joint sitting, the Human Rights Committee resumed the sitting.
The Chair, Eka Beselia introduced the draft conclusion of the working group on inhuman treatment and torture facts in 2004-2012. The report provides 83 pages of legal estimation with the details of the torture and inhuman treatment facts, statistics data and systematization of the applications to the Committee. “All these recommendations are important for creation of state guarantees of protection of human rights. The task is not the investigation but development of legal and political estimation to put the Constitutional obligations on state policy level”.
She also introduced the draft on Criminal Codeabolishing the age of limitation on torture and inhuman treatment offense. The Change concerns torture and violence Articles to be unified in one. She also introduced the draft on Rules of Procedure, aiming at enhancement of Parliamentary oversight mechanisms. 

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 24 May 2016 15:03

Shared responsibility of state and non-state actors to implement the European Convention on Human Rights in Georgia will be in focus of the International conference on 24 and 25 May organised in the framework of the European Union – Council of Europe joint project “Application of the European Convention on Human Rights and harmonisation of national legislation and judicial practice in Georgia in line with European standards”, being part of the EU-CoE Programmatic Cooperation Framework.
Philippe Boillat, Director General of Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe, Carlo Natale, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to Georgia; Giorgi Papuashvili, President of the Constitutional Court; Mzia Todua, Deputy Chief Justice; Irakli Shotadze, Chief Prosecutor and Eka Beselia, Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament will address the audience at the opening session.
The conference will bring together the high-level representatives of the Government and Parliament of Georgia, Georgian Courts, Public Defender’s Office, practicing lawyers and leading Georgian non-governmental organizations working in the area of human rights.
The conference will highlight the impact of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on the life of ordinary citizens in Georgia, stress the importance of the execution of the ECtHR judgments and underline the significance of the direct application of the ECHR at the national level.

PACE co-rapporteurs welcome Georgian authorities’ willingness to seek Venice Commission’s opinion on Constitutional Court amendments

Published in World
Tuesday, 10 May 2016 15:13

Strasbourg, 10.05.2016 -  At the end of their visit to Georgia, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) co-rapporteurs for the country, Boriss Cilevics (Latvia, SOC) and Kerstin Lundgren (Sweden, ALDE), have welcomed the intention of the Chairperson of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee of the Georgian Parliament to send the proposed amendments to the laws governing the Constitutional Court to the Venice Commission for opinion, before they are discussed in second reading in the parliament.
“This should allay any fears that, when adopted, these amendments would inadvertently hinder the efficient functioning of the Constitutional Court. The important role of the Constitutional Court as an independent and impartial arbiter should be ensured. By being asked for an opinion in the next couple of days, the Venice Commission would be able to adopt its opinion at its June plenary session, which in turn would allow the parliament to take the recommendations of the Venice Commission into account when adopting the amendments in final reading before the end of this parliamentary session,” said the two co-rapporteurs.
Referring to the two separate proposals for Constitutional Amendments to change the current mixed proportional-majoritarian election system, the rapporteurs regretted that the different political forces had not been able to reach a consensus on the date these changes would be implemented. “As we have said previously, since 2007 the ruling majority and opposition, irrespective of their members, have been unable to reach a consensus on the electoral system, which has been a permanent source of tension in the political environment. We therefore urge all political forces to compromise now, in order to avoid that the same exact question will return during the run-up to the 2020 elections.”
The two co-rapporteurs also noted the many proposals for changes to the electoral code that are currently circulating. While welcoming any proposals that would increase public trust in the conduct of the elections, they also stressed the importance of the stability of the electoral framework in the months before the elections. They called on all political forces and other stakeholders to refrain from any actions or discourse that could negatively affect the democratic conduct and public trust in the forthcoming elections. “With the 2012 elections, Georgia set an example for the region. That trend should be continued in 2016,” said the co-rapporteurs.
During their visit the co-rapporteurs met with several representatives of minorities and organisations working on minority issues. They urged the authorities to continue unabated their efforts to fight discrimination and prejudice, and to strengthen tolerance for minorities in Georgian society. “This is especially important in the context of the forthcoming elections, with the risk of instrumentalisation of minority issues for ulterior motives, including by interests outside of the country,” they concluded.
The rapporteurs will visit Georgia again during the pre-electoral period in the framework of the observation of the forthcoming parliamentary elections, in order to assess the pre-electoral environment.

 

Thorbjørn Jagland: Europe’s human rights and security at risk through populist nationalism

Published in World
Wednesday, 27 April 2016 18:22

Strasbourg, 27.04.2016 – Human rights, democracy and security are threatened across the continent, according to the latest annual report from the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland.
“Europe is currently struggling with many serious challenges, including terrorism, migration and conflict. This is being successfully exploited by nationalists and populists in many places, and trust in national and European institutions is dwindling,” said the Secretary General.
“At the same time, we still see many important gaps in the laws and practices that our member states have in place, and basic human rights including free speech, freedom of assembly and the right to privacy are increasingly being restricted.
“This is not only wrong – it is also dangerous. If we don’t stand by our democratic principles and tackle our problems while fully respecting human rights then the situation will only get worse.”
The independence and impartiality of justice systems in Europe is a significant focus of the report, which highlights political interference, corruption and the non-enforcement of judicial decisions among the areas of concern. Moreover, the Secretary Jagland observes a “dangerous trend towards legislative nationalism” as states initiate laws which risk contravening international standards, notably in relation to the treatment of migrants and refugees.
The report also underlines that almost half of the 47 Council of Europe member states do not satisfactorily guarantee the safety of journalists, pointing out that the situation has deteriorated in the last year with an increase in physical attacks and the destruction of property.
Media diversity is considered to be unsatisfactory in 26 member states and concerns were highlighted over interference in media content. Freedom of expression on the internet is another key area of concern.
The report contains examples from the member states and a series of proposed Council of Europe initiatives including a new action plan on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, a set of common standards for member states on the blocking and filtering of internet sites and plans to 'codify' existing international standards, good practices and guidance relating to mass surveillance.
It also makes recommendations concerning integration and the protection of vulnerable groups and human rights defenders.

UN human rights expert urges Georgia to address the root causes of the institutionalisation of children

Published in Society
Tuesday, 19 April 2016 14:54

GENEVA/TBILISI (19 April 2016) – UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, has ended an eight-day visit to Georgia* by calling on the Government to address the root causes and risk factors that lead to the placement of children under care.

“While I welcome the substantial efforts deployed by the authorities over the past ten years to reduce the placement of children in institutions, several concerns remain,” the expert said. Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio stressed the need to ensure that non-State run residential child care institutions also comply with this process of deinstitutionalisation and insisted on the importance of monitoring and regulating such establishments.

“I am also concerned by the lack of long-term planning for the children in care, who, when they reach 18 are forced to leave the institutions. These children face numerous challenges when leaving State care and require long-term support, including psychological counselling, access to housing and social assistance, to be able to reintegrate into the community,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur noted the measures put in place to identify children living and/or working on the street and refer them to support services, such as temporary shelters. “Unfortunately, insufficient attention is given to prevention and long-term solutions for street children,” she pointed out. The expert insisted on the importance of addressing the root causes, by providing support to families in vulnerable situations as well as raising awareness on the rights of these children.

The Independent Expert welcomed the Government’s increased efforts to combat the trafficking in children. She also praised the adoption of the Juvenile Justice Code which incorporates measures to ensure child-sensitive justice. However, the Special Rapporteur urged the authorities to quickly pass the new draft Law on Adoption and Foster Care. “Once adopted, this law will be key in ensuring better protection for children, especially those living and/or working on the street and who are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, including forced begging and sexual exploitation,” said Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio.

Georgia is one of the few countries that provides international commercial surrogacy arrangements to foreign parents without regulation to protect the rights and best interests of children born through surrogacy and the rights of women acting as surrogates. “It is of the upmost importance to establish clear regulations to avoid protection gaps and abuses, which can lead to the sale of children,” stated the Special Rapporteur.

“The numerous interlocutors that I met during my visit acknowledged the existence of gaps and challenges in relation to the protection of children, but most importantly, they have expressed the willingness to address them,” Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio said.

“Solutions to these problems must be found in consultation with children and young people,” she added. “Despite the difficulties they encounter, the children I met during my visit are full of hope for their future and want to get involved in decisions affecting their lives. As a youth representative told me, ̔We are the force that can change things, otherwise there will be a lost generation’.̛̔”

During her visit to Georgia, from 11 to 18 April, the human rights expert met with high-level representatives of numerous ministries, members of Parliament, representatives of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, of the Public Defender’s Office, local authorities, child rights and protection NGOs, diplomats, the UN Country Team as well as children and young people. She also visited small group homes and shelters as well as an institution for children run by the Church and the IDP settlement of Tserovani.

A final report on the visit will be presented by the Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council in 2017.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=19836&LangID=E

ENDS


Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in May 2014. As a Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organisation and serves in her individual capacity. To learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Children/Pages/ChildrenIndex.aspx

The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

PACE President on situation of Human Rights in Europe

Published in World
Tuesday, 29 September 2015 14:15

After almost two years at the head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the President, Anne Brasseur, has given a mixed assessment of progress in human rights throughout Europe in her opening address at the autumn session in Strasbourg.

Among the positive developments, she mentioned the great mobilisation against violent extremism and terrorism following the Charlie Hebdo attack, in particular, including the launch of the No Hate Parliamentary Alliance, for which she was particularly honoured to have obtained the Pope’s support, the declaration of a European Day for Victims of Hate Crime and the entry into force of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

However, she stressed that “the challenges that our values are facing are enormous,” and made an urgent call for the Assembly to stay united in responding to them.
In this context, she regretted the fact that “in some member states, human rights defenders and civil society activists face a whole range of problems. Restrictive laws, complex and inappropriate administrative procedures, pressure, intimidation and reprisals… all too often, human rights defenders and NGOs are forced to operate in extremely difficult conditions, or even illegally and in secret. This is unacceptable in a democratic society and in Council of Europe member states.”

Pointing out that last-year’s winner of the Vaclav Havel Prize, Mr Anar Mammadli, is still in detention in Azerbaijan, the PACE President said that “over the past two years, the human rights situation in Azerbaijan has deteriorated significantly. The people targeted, the type of charges, the length of the sentences and the blatant irregularities in the conduct of the trials all cast doubt on the authorities’ willingness to respect the fundamental values of the Council of Europe.

“The recent convictions of Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunus and Khadija Ismailova are deeply troubling. It is high time Azerbaijan changed its attitude to human rights and engaged in a root-and-branch effort to tackle systemic problems in terms of the functioning of the justice system and respect for media freedom and freedom of association and assembly,” she added.

“With Azerbaijan due to hold parliamentary elections in just over one month’s time, this is all the more important”, she said and confirmed the decision of the PACE Bureau to send an election observation delegation to Baku on 1 November 2015. Speaking purely for herself, she nevertheless said that unless the long- and short-term ODIHR observers were present, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for the ad hoc committee to make a thorough and comprehensive assessment as to whether the election was consistent with Council of Europe standards and with Azerbaijan’s commitments to the organisation.

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