The Investigation Department of the Ministry of Finance released a statement today, on November 7, 2016, according to which, the Public Defender’s statement about the alleged offense committed by financial police officers is biased, does not reflect the actual circumstances of the case and misleads the public.
The Public Defender, after questioning citizen Sh.K. and studying his arrest and medical documentation, called on the Prosecutor's Office to launch an investigation into the alleged case of ill-treatment. According to the medical documents, citizen Sh.K. had been suffering from concussion, broken nose and other injuries.
Results of the examination conducted by the Public Defender does not rule out the content of the statement of the Ministry of Finance, including alleged commission of a crime by
Sh.K., though the grounds and goal of the Public Defender's appeal to the Prosecutor's Office was conduct a timely, thorough and objective investigation.
The Public Defender reminds the public, including the Ministry of Finance, that the Public Defender is not authorized to carry out a criminal investigation, while the abovementioned factual circumstances provide grounds for launching an investigation by the Prosecutor's Office - if the detainee is suffering from injuries, impartial and comprehensive investigation will establish whether he had been ill-treated by law enforcement officers and whether excessive and/or disproportionate force was used. The positive obligation of the state undertaken by the national and international law is to carry out an objective investigation.
Representatives of the Armenian non-governmental organizations visited the Public Defender's Office. First Deputy Public Defender Natia Katsitadze and heads of structural units briefed the guests of the directions and the mandate of the Public Defender's Office, as well as the problems of implementation of the anti-discrimination law and investigation of hate crimes, the working principles of the National Preventive Mechanism, gender equality activities, freedom of assembly and manifestation, etc.
The meeting was organized by the South Caucasus Regional Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation and was aimed at familiarizing with the Public Defender’s experience and best practice in the field of protection of human rights.
October 27 is the Abkhazian Language Day and I want to congratulate the Abkhaz community and all Georgia on this day. According to the Constitution, Abkhazian is the second state language. More than 6 500 languages exist in the world, majority of which, according to UNESCO, are in danger of extinction. The Abkhazian Language was, unfortunately, put on that list in 2011.
As per the Georgian legislation and the international law, the Georgian state is obliged to protect, develop and promote all endangered languages on the territory of Georgia, including the Abkhazian language and cultural heritage. Despite many hindering circumstances, I think that more actions can be carried out to save and develop the Abkhazian language. Preferably, the Abkhazian language teaching must be promoted and a variety of programs must be carried out to protect and promote the Abkhazian language in the areas densely populated by Abkhazians or where the relevant demand exists.
I would like to take this opportunity and inform the public that the Abkhazian language was added to the working languages of the Public Defender's official website and hence the Public Defender's activities will be regularly reported in the Abkhazian language. We hope that with this action we will contribute to the protection and development of the Abkhazian language.
Batumi City Court accepted materials of the Public Defender's Office as factual circumstances in its judgment of 19 September 2016 regarding the case of hindrance to the opening of a Muslim boarding school in Kobuleti.
The court partially upheld the lawsuit of R.K., Chairman of the Georgian Muslims Relations, and M.B., Director of LTD M&B, and ordered the defendant natural persons to eliminate continuous discriminatory action in order to ensure free use of the property located in Kobuleti, including opening and functioning of the boarding school for Muslim children, free use of the property by plaintiffs and persons related to the boarding school, as well as free entry and movement in the vicinity of the boarding school. The defendant natural persons were also ordered to pay 1 lari as moral compensation to the plaintiffs. Batumi City Court fully relied on the local and international equality standards given in the Public Defender’s amicus curiae brief.
On 10 September 2014 the Kobuleti population, which regard themselves Orthodox Christians, slaughtered a pig in front of a boarding school and hanged its head above the school door in order to hamper opening and functioning of the boarding school for Muslims. Since then, no boarding school has been opened in the building.
The Public Defender’s Office started to study the abovementioned case in the context of protection of the freedom of religion and the right to property, as well as fulfillment of positive obligations by the law enforcement agencies.
The Public Defender released a public statement in response to the Kobuleti incident and called on the law enforcement agencies to protect the Muslims’ rights. The issue was also included in the Public Defender’s parliamentary report 20141 and a relevant recommendation was issued concerning investigation of the alleged irrelevant fulfillment of duties by the law enforcement agencies.2
It is important the Muslim community to fully enjoy the freedom of religion on the basis of the equality principle. For this purpose, it is necessary the authorities to take all measures to ensure unimpeded enjoyment of the right, which, among other things, includes elimination of hinderance by the Orthodox population.
On October 17, 2016, the Public Defender presented a survey report on the legislative reform of capacity to the judicial authorities and NGOs. The survey was developed within the framework of the monitoring of the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and was aimed at assessing the effectiveness of the legal reform of capacity following the Constitutional Court's decision.
519 summarizing decisions were studied within the survey. 341 out of the decisions concern the recognition of a person as a support recipient and 178 are judgments delivered on various grounds. The main findings of the report say that the further reality of the legislative reform largely takes into account the individual needs of persons with psycho-social needs and, except for a few cases, is in line with the requirements of the Constitutional Court and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In addition, the legislative reform could not be carried out within the time determined by the Constitutional Court and the 6-month term for its full-scale realization was delayed by 2 months.
The common courts' decisions on the recognition of a person as a support recipient are cut-and-dried and unsubstantiated after the reform; the blanket nature of the appointment of support, full deprivation of the capacity and plenary guardianship remain systemic problems. In addition, part of the common courts does not observe procedural terms.
The recommendations developed by the Public Defender note that court decisions should be based on persons’ individual needs; support should be appointed only for realization of the rights and/or its aspects that are in the person's interests; courts should necessarily observe procedural terms and focus more attention on the problem of substantiation of decisions on the recognition of persons as support recipients.
The recommendations also say that it is necessary to make relevant amendments to the legislation, which will grant a right to the support recipient to appeal against certain decisions in the court; the legislation should define the list of rights/its aspects, restriction of which is inadmissible. According to the amendments, the person's right to request revision of his/her status from the court must be made obvious, etc.
The Public Defender of Georgia is echoing the media reports, according to which, serious physical injuries were inflicted to a transgender women. An investigation is in progress under article 19-180 of the Criminal Code (attempted premeditated murder).
The investigation of alleged hate crimes is one of the priorities for the Public Defender. A number of cases are currently being studied in the Public Defender’s Office, which may include discriminatory motive on various protected grounds. Unfortunately, in most cases, alleged hate motive is not considered during the investigation and/or it is ambiguous what kind of investigative actions are carried out in order to identify such a motive.
The Public Defender considers that finding the truth, including identifying the real motive of the crime, is necessary not only for administration of justice in one particular case, but also for the prevention of hate crimes in the future. In a widely homophobic and transphobic society, there is a danger that this type of crime may be repeated, especially given that the investigative authorities do not bring the discriminatory motive into focus.
The Public Defender calls on the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia to carry out a comprehensive, complete and objective investigation into the case and to focus on the alleged hate motive.
World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Day is: "Dignity in mental health - psychiatric and psychological first aid for everyone." Activation of this issue is important to overcome the stigma existed against persons with mental health problems, as well as their isolation and discrimination, which still represents an obstacle for them and their families.
The rights situation of persons with mental problems is not adequately protected in Georgia. Although the state has adopted the Mental Health Development Strategic Document and Action Plan for 2015-2020, its implementation is delayed. As a result, the devised goals and main values are not observed.
One of the main directions of the Public Defender is to supervise the protection of the rights of people with mental health problems. Last year, within the framework of the mentioned activities, comprehensive monitoring was conducted in psychiatric institutions, which revealed a number of problems in this field, including the lack of funding for mental health, sharp lack of human resources and qualified personnel, infrastructure problems, formal character of getting informed consent from psychiatric inpatients, problems related to involuntary inpatient care, lack/absence of alternative and community-based services, lengthy treatment at the hospital due the mentioned problem, necessity for deinstitutionalization, etc.
The Public Defender elaborated recommendations for relevant agencies in order to respond to the abovementioned challenges. Implementation of the recommendations would positively change the existent situation in the field of mental health and would facilitate improvement of the rights situation of persons with mental health problems.
The Public Defender once again urges the state to take positive actions in order protect persons with mental health problems and their families from stigma, isolation and discrimination.
According to information provided by the Public Defender's election monitors, incidents occurred in some regions of Georgia during counting of votes in polling stations, as a result of which, some individuals were affected and property was damaged. Physical confrontation took place on the territory of Kutaisi’s No 90 polling station; some persons were affected. Unknown individuals broke into the 79th and 108th polling stations in the village of Jikhashkari, Zugdidi. Polling stations were vandalized, equipments were damaged, ballot boxes were broken, several people were affected, including local and international observers; a large number of supporters of the United National Movement and the Georgian Dream started to mobilize near the Marneuli district commission that includes danger that clashes may take between them. Ballots were brought to the yard of Marneuli district election commission from local polling stations that are under threat of being damaged. Supporters of the same parties are being mobilized near Batumi’s 1st polling station and there is danger of confrontation.
I appeal to the representatives of election entities and political parties to do everything to maintain peace; to urge their supporters to refrain from violence and not to forget that the state interests are more important than any political interest.
I appeal to the police: the state is responsible for the protection of safety of citizens of Georgia and all persons on the territory of Georgia; the police are obliged to ensure safety of every person, investigate each case of violence and bring offenders to justice. I call on the law enforcement agencies not to leave reports about any possible confrontation without attention, to respond immediately to any incident and take all possible preventive measures to avoid violence.
It should be noted that the Government has a primary responsibility for the conduct of peaceful elections. Ineffective response to the incidents of Zugdidi, Kortskheli and Didinedzi in the recent period may be one of the causes for the wave of violent acts that are taking place tonight. Similar information casts a shadow on the overall election process. Prevention of future, greater damage will be possible only if the law enforcement system manages to defuse tension at the very beginning and ensure adequate and fastest response to the occurring incidents.
Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili met with Pascal Meunier, Ambassador of France to Georgia. The human rights situation, pre-election environment, gender equality and elimination of all forms of discrimination, as well as reforming of judicial and law enforcement systems, were discussed at the meeting.
In addition, the sides talked about the effective investigation of the ill-treatment committed by law enforcement officers. The Public Defender once again stressed the need for creation of an independent investigative mechanism and labor inspectorate. Special attention was paid to human rights violations in the occupied territories and access to education in the Gali district.
Ucha Nanuashvili briefed the Ambassador of the activities and special reports of the Public Defender's Office, as well as the Human Rights Academy of the Public Defender and other projects. Ambassador Meunier expressed readiness for full support for and cooperation with the Public Defender’s Office on various human rights issues.
Boriss Cilevics (Latvia, SOC) and Kerstin Lundgren (Sweden, ALDE), co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of obligations and commitments by Georgia, will make a fact-finding visit to the country on 3-5 May 2016.
In Tbilisi, the co-rapporteurs are due to meet the President, the Speaker of Parliament, the Prime Minister and a number of ministers, as well as the heads of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, the Public Defender and the head of the Central Election Commission.
Talks are also scheduled with the Georgian delegation to PACE, representatives of different political parties and factions in the parliament, diplomats and NGOs.