The Parliamentary Delegation attending the consideration of the Report by the PACE Monitoring CommitteeWednesday, 27 January 2021 11:29
The Parliamentary Delegation participates in the PACE winter sessions with the agenda including the Annual Report providing the outcomes of monitoring in 2020. The report provides the assessments about the progress of the countries subject to the monitoring or participating in the post-monitoring dialogue.
The member of the Delegation, Irakli Chikovani thanked the rapporteurs and members of the Monitoring Committee for their efforts and stated that after accessing the CoE, Georgia has been through a significant transformation.
In 2020, Georgia achieved the culmination of this process and assumed the presidency of the Committee of Ministers.
“I believe that against the pandemic, we left our trace and enriched the CoE agenda. Our priority issues – human rights and environmental protection – were widely supported, including from the presidency candidate states”, - he noted and added that the democracy is not static but envisages higher aspiration to protection and engagement and thus, Georgia in cooperation with its partners, keeps the planning of its European way.
“I would like to attract your attention to the new agenda of the ruling party – “Building the European State” and which is a strategic stage for Georgia to make the application for the EU membership in 2024”.
The ruling party managed to establish the system to ensure the most inclusive and multi-party Parliament in the history of Georgia: “As the report provides, the Constitutional reform followed the acute opposition, though we managed to form the system leading to the most inclusive and multiparty Parliament in history of Georgia. Despite the gaps, the international observation missions concluded that the elections 2020 were competitive and the fundamental freedoms were adhered to, where the political parties were free to hold their campaigns. Some of the refractory opposition parties adhering to the principle “everything or nothing” refused to accept their mandates. At the same time, we understand that we need to keep our way and we are committed to undertaking more reforms and investigate each accusation through the Parliamentary Fact-Finding Commission”.
As he noted, the report underlines the situation on the occupied territories of Georgia: “A couple of days ago, not so far from this place, in European Court of Human Rights, Georgia celebrated one of the greatest victories in its modern history – as the ECHR decided, Russia is legally responsible for the gross violation of the international law and human rights in Russia-Georgia August war 2008 and after the war. We, Georgians, as Europeans believe that the strong principles of the international law will win and human rights will be protected”.
The member of the Delegation, Tamar Taliashvili stated that the report also provides the progress of Georgia in 2020 and concerns the political developments of 2019.
“We fully share the concern expressed in the report entailed with the fact that some radical opposition parties boycott the Parliament while the election returns allowed them to ensure the Parliamentary oversight. As the report provides, the term includes the period when Georgia re-proved that the Georgian democratic institutions are committed to addressing the challenges and the ruling majority is ready to hold the political dialogue, including with the radical opposition. As a result, the “Georgian Dream” has initiated the Constitutional changes leading to a more balanced political system, which facilitated the Parliament to be more diverse and pluralist. As to the Parliamentary Elections 2020, the report underlines its competitiveness and protection of fundamental freedoms, as well as the freedom of the political parties to hold their campaigns”.
According to her, the monitoring report, along with the positive assessments, also provides the recommendations for further progress: “The ruling party made a public statement about its decision to adopt the electoral reform providing the recommendations by the international observation missions. We fully share the concern expressed in the monitoring report entailed with the fact that that some radical opposition parties boycott the Parliament while the election returns allowed them to ensure the Parliamentary oversight. I also would like to take advantage and thank the EU and US Ambassadors for their positive contribution to the political dialogue. Also, let me underline the importance of your statement about the ongoing occupation of two regions of Georgia. The report reflects the condemnation of the gross human rights violations, which was enhanced by the ECHR's recent decision on August war 2008. I also would like to stress the importance of this decision for the victims of the war and our country”.
The member of the Delegation, Givi Mikanadze in his speech noted that for the first time during the last two decades, the newly elected Parliament consists of 14 political parties and such diversity of the political actors is a result of the will of Georgian citizens:
“Unfortunately, the opposition parties do not value the support expressed by their electors and rejecting the mandates, try to sabotage the Parliamentary activity. The report underlines that the Parliamentary Elections 2020 were estimated by the international observation organizations as competitive, where the fundamental freedoms were adhered to and where the parties enjoyed the freedom to hold their campaigns. It is noteworthy that more than 80 000 observers were observing the elections countrywide”.
He dwelt on the simultaneous counting by one of the NGOs, which initially revealed the deviation of 2.4% from the official results made by the CEC.
“The leaders of “Georgian Dream” officially addressed this NGO and called on to disclose information about 850 polling stations where the count was simultaneously held. Initially, NGO refused but in mid-December, they stated that the gap was detected by the internal audit in the formula of counting. After elimination of the gap, their results coincided with the CEC results. This NGO stated that their PVT detected a discrepancy in 8% of the electoral districts. “Georgian Dream” also required to disclose the list of these districts. According to the CEC data, this so-called “imbalance” related to the excessive bulletins, was described only in 19 protocols out of 3657, unlike the statement of NGO. The “Georgian Dream” has not yet received any data from the observation organization”.
He noted that along with the boycott, the radical opposition openly started to express discontent towards the international observations, international politicians and the facilitators, which led to a series of attacks on the EU and US Ambassadors especially.
“The “Georgian Dream” submitted the initiative to set up the Ad Hoc Fact-Finding Commission in the Parliament to investigate the Elections and called on the opposition parties to participate. It is no surprise that the opposition rejected this offer, which confirms their will of marginalization and will to keep their protest in streets instead of the Parliamentary activity. We are oriented to the future and consider the further enhancement of democratic processes in Georgia. “Georgian Dream” is aspired to cooperate with our international partners, including the PACE to focus on the gaps detected during the last Parliamentary Elections”.
The monitoring procedures cover 11 countries (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine) and 3 countries participating in the post-monitoring dialogue (Bulgaria, Montenegro and North Macedonia).
“The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has discussed election report prepared by Tini Kox today and reiterated that the elections were competitive and free in Georgia,” Irakli Kobakhidze, the Chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, stated on Monday.
According to him, PACE approved the observation mission’s report, including recommendations.
“This recommendation reflects our will. In particular, to check all violations revealed in this election. That’s why we’ve proposed the opposition to set up a parliamentary commission,” GD Chairman said.
Irakli Kobakhidze stresses that the CoE calls on the opposition to engage in parliamentary work. “We hope the opposition will take these statements into account,” he said.
He also echoed the decision on re-electing him as PACE Vice-President. “I am happy to be approved as PACE Vice-President for the second term in a row,” Kobakhidze added.
Strasbourg, 25.01.2021 – Rik Daems, re-elected today for a second one-year term as President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), thanked members for their confidence and welcomed the holding of PACE’s first hybrid plenary session.
In his re-investiture speech, he stressed that while PACE’s savoir faire had brought many positive results throughout 2020 – be it the establishment of red lines not to be crossed during the Covid-19 pandemic, new standards in the field of artificial intelligence or the “trialogue” with the Committee of Ministers – the faire savoir was impossible as members could not meet under normal conditions. “Meeting in person is essential to interconnect, to convince and be convinced and to take on board all perspectives,” he added.
Rik Daems called on members not to ask “what the Council of Europe can do for us”, but “to look at what we can do to uphold the values and therefore contribute to the activities and mission of the Council of Europe.”
“Why are we here? Because we care about fundamental rights and freedoms, democracy and the rule of law,” he stressed, inviting all members “to see PACE as a vehicle for upholding the values we share. Common values are more important than our interests.”
“We, members of this Assembly, care about the fact that people are equal. Being equal is not being the same, this is why we are united in diversity. We care about human rights to be enjoyed by all citizens in all our 47 member States.”
“We care that people are free to enjoy and able to pursue their happiness. We care about the fact that no one should be above the law. This is what the rule of law is all about. Because we think, we care, we need to help people to decide. All members should be on board, this is what democracy is about,” he concluded.
Strasbourg, 24.01.2021 - The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will hold its 2021 winter plenary session from January 25 to 28 in a hybrid manner, allowing members to participate remotely or attend in person in Strasbourg.
The Assembly will debate the ethical, legal and practical considerations of COVID-19 vaccines. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will address parliamentarians in the debate.
There have been requests for three urgent debates on:
- "The arrest and detention of Alexei Navalny in January 2021"
- "The worsening situation in Belarus"
- "Freedom of expression (Article 10 of the ECHR) under threat by 'Big Tech' Companies".
Three current affairs debate requests have also been submitted under the titles:
- "Prohibition of Russian and other national minorities languages in Ukraine"
- “Unjustifiable delay in repatriation of the Armenian prisoners of war and other captives by Azerbaijani authorities as violation of the European International Human Rights Standards”
- “The actual human rights situation in temporary occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol during Covid-19 pandemics”.
Other topics on the agenda include ethnic profiling in Europe, restrictions on NGO activities in Council of Europe member States, and discrimination against persons dealing with chronic and long-term illnesses.
During the session, the Assembly will elect the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Secretary General of the Assembly and the judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Greece and Switzerland. These elections will be held by individual electronic voting.
The European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders will address the members of the Assembly and answer their questions, as will the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, Heiko Maas (within the framework of the German presidency of the Committee of Ministers) and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić (who will present her communication).
Debates will also be held on the independence of judges in Poland and in the Republic of Moldova (with the participation of Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, former Federal Minister of Justice of Germany), and on the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. Debates on the progress of the Assembly’s monitoring procedure and on post-monitoring dialogue with Montenegro are foreseen.
A report on parliamentary elections in Georgia will also be discussed. Lastly, the Assembly will determine its position on the modification of the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure – follow-up to Resolution 2319 (2020) on the complementary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly in response to a serious violation by a member State of its statutory obligations.
Strasbourg, 23.11.2020 - The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Georgia, Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), today called on all political parties to accept the parliamentary seats they won in the recent elections and to enter into the new parliament.
“These elections have resulted in a diverse parliament where the ruling majority will face a strong opposition, that can ensure proper parliamentary oversight. The only appropriate forum for this, as well as for debating and challenging diverging political views, is the parliament. For the sake of Georgia’s democratic consolidation, we therefore call on all parties to accept the mandates they won in these elections and enter into the new parliament,” said the co-rapporteurs.
“We fully support the findings and overall assessment of these elections by the International Election Observation Mission, of which PACE was a part. At the same time we also note the significant number of irregularities reported, including persistent allegations of electoral misconduct such as abuse of administrative resources and pressure on voters and party activists. These allegations are of serious concern and need to be satisfactorily and transparently investigated by the responsible authorities,” they said.
“There can be no perception of impunity for electoral misconduct in Georgia. In addition, the shortcomings noted by the observers need to be fully addressed. The new parliament has an important role to play in this,” added the co-rapporteurs, who intend to follow these proceedings closely in the framework of the ongoing monitoring procedure for the country.
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
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, 29.06.2020 - The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Georgia, Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), have welcomed the adoption today by the Georgian Parliament of the Constitutional amendments to implement the new election system for the 2020 elections that was agreed between the ruling majority and opposition in March this year, with the support of international mediators.
“The Assembly has consistently called for the introduction of a proportional election system in Georgia. That will now be the case as from the 2024 elections. In addition, as a result of the adoption of these Constitutional amendments, the system for the next elections in 2020 will now also be far more proportional than was previously the case, which potentially could allow for a more pluralist and representative parliament. We strongly welcome this,” said the co-rapporteurs.
At the same time, the co-rapporteurs regretted that the political agreement had not resulted in a less tense and polarised political environment. “We call on all sides to seek co-operation over confrontation and to constructively pursue the implementation of the remainder of the 8 March political agreement. In addition, we call on all stakeholders to refrain from any statements and actions that could increase tensions and polarisation or otherwise negatively affect the environment needed for the conduct of genuinely democratic elections.”
“As we have said, the political agreement, and the election system resulting from it, offer a window of opportunity to Georgia. We implore all stakeholders to fully take that opportunity in the best interest of Georgia,” emphasised the co-rapporteurs.
The co-rapporteurs intend to visit the country in November with a view to finalising their report on Georgia, which they will present to the Assembly during its January 2021 part-session.
Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), General Rapporteur on media freedom and the safety of journalists for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has today expressed concern over the detention of journalists, an appalling phenomenon which has been observed for many years especially in Turkey and in Azerbaijan.
The PACE recent report on “Threats to media freedom and journalists’ security in Europe” observes that Turkey is the country which has the highest number of imprisoned journalists, at present 95 according to the Council of Europe Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists. “Journalists are placed in arbitrary pre-trial arrest and detention, and are held for months, sometimes for years, before their cases come to court. Such detentions are the result of politicised targeting of journalists for their critical reporting; they are an obvious violation of freedom of expression and of journalists’ right to liberty and security”, said Mr Schennach.
Moreover, in the context of the current pandemic crisis, detention in penitentiaries constitutes an unjustified risk to health, and even to life. A recent bill proposes that approximately one third of 300,000 Turkish detainees be released, but it excludes those detained for terrorism-related offences, and therefore the majority of the 95 journalists in detention, as they are charged with or convicted of terrorism-related offences, although with no solid justification.
As for Azerbaijan – where there are currently 10 journalists in detention – several journalists are arrested on the ground of fabricated accusations. Elchin Mammad, editor in chief of the Yukselish Namine newspaper, was arrested on 30 March 2020 “for having stolen jewellery”. Since 2015, he has repeatedly been under judicial or police investigations, interrogations, house and office searches. Today, if convicted he faces up to seven years in prison.
Another Azerbaijani journalist and blogger with Kanal24 Internet TV, Ibrahim Vazirov, was arrested on 13 April 2020, days after police had demanded he delete online reports about the social and economic impact of Covid-19. In previous weeks, the journalist had been producing video reports critical of the government’s quarantine measures. A similar case happened to Mirsahib Rahiloglu, a journalist with the Reportyor.info, who had published interviews with citizens expressing frustration at the lack of financial support during the lockdown. He was arrested for “violating lockdown rules” and detained for 30 days. Natig Izbatov, a journalist with online news outlet 7gun.az, was arrested as he was filming interviews with people about the economic effects of the lockdown. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail for violating lockdown rules, despite having official documents which gave him permission to work as a journalist. Moreover, he was allegedly assaulted at the police station, his telephone had been searched and footage and recordings deleted.
“The current situation in Turkey and Azerbaijan is unacceptable. In both these member States, freedom of expression, including freedom of the media, has been violated for several years. Therefore, I call on both Turkey and Azerbaijan to urgently stop these attacks on journalists, in order to uphold the standards established by the Council of Europe and stick to the values promoted by our Organisation,” the General Rapporteur concluded.
PACE urges Georgian ruling majority to ensure introduction of election system that can have support and trust of all stakeholdersSaturday, 01 February 2020 12:09
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe addresses the Georgian Dream regarding the electoral system.
In a resolution adopted by the Assembly, the organization calls on the ruling party to provide the kind of electoral system before the 2020 elections that that can have the support and trust of all stakeholders.
“The Assembly urges the Georgian ruling majority to ensure the introduction of an election system that can have the support and trust of all stakeholders in time before the 2020 elections; to fully implement all the recommendations of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) formulated in the opinion on the selection and appointment of Supreme Court judges; to promptly implement the fourth wave of reform of the judiciary and for all political forces in the country to work to overcome the continuing polarisation in the political environment”, reads the resolution.
The resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe summarizes the results of monitoring in 10 countries: Georgia, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has voted to open a monitoring procedure for Poland over the functioning of its democratic institutions and the rule of law, declaring in a resolution that recent reforms “severely damage the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law”.
Poland joins ten other Council of Europe member States currently under full monitoring,* which involves regular visits by a pair of PACE rapporteurs, ongoing dialogue with the authorities, and periodic assessments of how far a member State is honouring its Council of Europe obligations and commitments.
In a resolution based on a report by Azadeh Rojhan Gustafsson (Sweden, SOC) and Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD) - adopted by 140 votes to 37, with 1 abstention – the Assembly said reforms of the judiciary and justice system in Poland “cumulatively undermine and severely damage the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law” and should be revisited to bring them into line with Council of Europe recommendations.
The parliamentarians said the judicial system was now “vulnerable to political interference and attempts to bring it under the political control of the executive, which challenges the very principles of a democratic state governed by the rule of law”.
They urged President Duda not to sign the amendments adopted by the Sejm on 23 January 2020, which they said “further deteriorate the independence of the judiciary and respect for the rule of law in Poland”, and were at odds with Articles 6 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. They called on the authorities to “fully respect the judgment of the Polish Supreme Court of 23 January 2020”.
Referring to the crisis over the composition of the Constitutional Court, the Assembly said: “No democratic government that respects the rule of law can selectively ignore court decisions it does not like, especially those of the Constitutional Court. The full and unconditional implementation of all Constitutional Court decisions by the authorities, including with regard to the composition of the Constitutional Court itself, should be the cornerstone of the resolution of the crisis.”
PACE called on the authorities to “revisit the total reform package for the judiciary and amend the relevant legislation and practice in line with Council of Europe recommendations”. In particular it called on the Polish authorities to:
• urgently separate the functions of Justice Minister and Prosecutor General and introduce into the law “sufficient safeguards against abuse and politicisation of the prosecution service”;
• reinstate the direct election, by their peers, of the judge members of the National Council of the Judiciary;
• reduce the “excessive and discretionary” new powers of the Justice Minister over the justice system and judiciary;
• address the issue of a possible so-called “extraordinary appeal”, which is of serious concern, and the composition and appointment of the members of the disciplinary and extraordinary appeals chambers of the Supreme Court;
• set up an independent public inquiry into reports of politically-motivated “smear campaigns” against judges and prosecutors opposed to the reforms.
The Assembly said it “recognises the challenges” faced by the Polish justice system and judiciary, and welcomed the stated priority given by the authorities to address shortcomings – but reiterated that any reforms should be “fully in line with European norms and standards and effectively strengthen judicial independence and the rule of law, and not weaken or undermine them”.
In addition, the Assembly called on all Council of Europe member States to ensure that the courts under their jurisdiction ascertain in all relevant criminal and civil cases - including with regard to European Arrest Warrants - whether fair legal proceedings in Poland, as defined under Article 6 of the European Convention for Human Rights, can be guaranteed for the defendants.
* Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine