Interim measures indicated concerning Georgia

Published in Justice
Wednesday, 17 November 2021 10:55

The Court has decided to indicate interim measures in the case of Saakashvili v. Georgia and has asked the Georgian Government to provide it with information on the applicant’s state of health, to guarantee his safety in prison and to provide him with appropriate medical care.

The applicant, Mikheil Saakashvili, is the former President of Georgia. Having been convicted for a number of offences committed while in office, he is currently serving a prison sentence. The applicant claims he is a victim of ‘political persecution’ and has been on hunger strike for 41 days.

Source: https://www.echr.coe.int/Pages/home.aspx?p=home

Implementing ECHR judgments: Progress despite COVID in 2020, but further efforts are needed

Published in Justice
Thursday, 01 April 2021 12:54

Strasbourg, 31.03.2021 – States across Europe are continuing to make progress on implementing judgments from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest annual report from the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.

However, further efforts are needed to tackle systemic issues highlighted by the ECHR, including ill-treatment or deaths caused by the security forces and poor conditions of detention, as well as inter-state cases and a growing number of cases concerning abusive limitations on rights and freedoms.

“Today’s report shows that our member states take their obligation to implement judgments from the European Court of Human Rights very seriously, even in difficult circumstances,” said Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić.

“It is also very positive that NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions are becoming more and more involved in the process, making it more effective and transparent.

“Nevertheless, this is no time for complacency. Many important judgments have been outstanding for several years and a small number of high-profile cases are not being resolved quickly enough. Our member states have a duty to implement ECHR judgments promptly and fully. This is not a kind request – it is a binding requirement.”

The report shows that a total of 983 cases were closed by the Committee of Ministers in 2020 as a result of steps taken by the member states concerned. Of those 983 cases, 187 (19%) were “leading” cases – notably highlighting new structural or systemic problems – and 796 (81%) were repetitive.

At the end of 2020, 5,233 cases had yet to be fully implemented by the member states involved, of which 1,258 (24%) were leading cases and 3,975 (76%) were repetitive. 634 leading cases had been pending for over 5 years, but the number of such cases has been falling since 2016.

The report states that 581 payments of “just satisfaction” to applicants, awarded by the ECHR, were made on time in 2020. However, the Committee of Ministers was awaiting confirmation of payment in 1,574 cases at the end of 2020, over two-thirds of which had been awaiting confirmation for more than six months.

Finally, the report underlines that the Committee of Ministers received a record 176 formal communications from non-governmental organisations and National Human Rights Institutions in 2020, concerning 28 different states. The Committee also received its first five communications from the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights.

Further information

Georgia: Reform for elections, political associations and parliament rules should be “reconsidered”, according to Venice Commission

Published in World
Wednesday, 24 March 2021 15:29

Strasbourg, 24.03.2021 – In a joint opinion, requested in December 2020 by the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia and adopted at the latest plenary of the Venice Commission (19-20 March 2021), the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission call on Georgia to reconsider several amendments to the Election Code, the Law on Political Associations of Citizens and the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia.

With regard to the Election Code, proposed changes would infringe the rights of political parties to equal opportunities by denying them free airtime if they do not receive public funding. The denial of free airtime to those parties is both “disproportionate and unfounded”, as it is exactly these parties with less funds at their disposal that would need access to free airtime in order to voice their opinions and present their programmes to the electorate, according to the opinion.

Furthermore, not only is there no evident connection between allocating free airtime and receiving state funding that would justify such a step, but also such a restriction is not in the public interest, as it would reduce access to information that the public needs in order to make an informed choice in elections.

The Venice Commission also is concerned by proposed amendments to the Law on Political Associations of Citizens that would deny state funding to a political party or electoral bloc that did not take up at least half of the parliamentary mandates that it won, and would deprive the party or bloc of state funding for the next six months, if half of the members of parliament of any party or bloc did not attend without good reason more than half of the regular plenary sittings.

Sanctioning political parties – and not individual MPs – by depriving them of funding, if the respective MPs do not attend most sittings during a parliamentary session, appears “disproportionate” and at odds with the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, which already regulate such matters in a clear and balanced manner, according to the opinion.

Similar considerations apply to the proposed amendment to the Rules of Procedure of Parliament, which would result in the full deduction of the salary of an MP who does not attend without good reason all plenary sittings during a calendar month of the regular session, both for the period of the parliamentary session and for the ensuing recess period. This latter proposal also likely would not be compliant with the Constitution of Georgia, which makes salaries for Members of Parliament mandatory.

The opinion proposes considering “more proportionate and appropriate means” to achieve the goal of the amendments, which could involve imposing direct consequences on individual MPs for their actions. This would be more in line with the Georgian Constitution and international standards, the Venice Commission notes. “Such broad sanctions against parties not taking part in the Parliament’s work were not found in any other Venice Commission or OSCE/ODIHR member/participant states,” the opinion reads.

In a separate joint opinion, also requested last December by the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR call on Georgia to reconsider adopting a proposed new provision – Article 791 – to the country’s electoral code, as related to the participation by an alien acting as party leader in pre-election campaigning. Adopting this amendment could lead to an unduly restriction of political pluralism, the Venice Commission warns, listing several concerns.

The proposed amendment does not clearly define which criteria would be used to determine who is considered to be an electoral list’s or party’s political leader. Besides, while the right to vote and stand for election may be subject to some conditions, including the respective individual’s nationality, restrictions of aliens to participate in domestic political life should be limited to the establishment of political parties, but not to their membership. Furthermore, the sanction of deregistering a party list due to the foreign nationality of a person acting as its political leader seems a disproportionate measure that targets the party rather than the alien in question. 

The appeals process regarding such deregistration as defined by the proposed amendment is "worrying" because deregistration of a party or electoral block can be made up to two days after elections: a decision may be taken after votes have been cast and voters might in good faith vote for a party which may then end up being deregistered.

Finally, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR believe that the amendment could be perceived, in the strict sense, as ad hominem legislation, i.e. directed against a particular individual, a legislative technique previously criticized by the Venice Commission.

The opinions were prepared under the Quick response Mechanism in the framework of the EU/CoE joint programme Partnership for Good Governance”, co-funded by the Council of Europe and the European Union and implemented by the Council of Europe.

COE MEDIA RELEASE

Georgia: PACE monitors call on all political parties to take up their seats in parliament

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 24 November 2020 10:30

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

 

PACE Georgia monitors welcome adoption of Constitutional amendments by the Georgian Parliament

Published in Politics
Monday, 29 June 2020 15:24

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.

https://pace.coe.int/en/news/7942/pace-georgia-monitors-welcome-adoption-of-constitutional-amendments-by-the-georgian-parliament-

Georgian Foreign Minister: Situation in occupied territories significantly deteriorated, process of annexation and occupation continues

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 28 January 2020 14:52

The situation in occupied territories significantly deteriorated, unfortunately, the actual process of annexation and occupation continues, – Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani answered questions of the members of the PACE after delivering a speech at the Winter Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg today.

“Installation of barbed wire fences and artificial barriers is in progress. Even when we speak now, the process is going on. I would like to recall the recent case of kidnapping and illegal detention of the doctor, who was visiting a patient on the occupation line, which was outrageous fact. The only instrument we have is consolidation of the international community, and that we are doing constantly, with your support, through different instruments and frameworks”, – Minister said.

According to the Georgian Foreign Minister, the pressure should be increased on the force exercising control over the occupied territories.

“The issue of access to the occupied territories is another important challenge that we also have to deal with on a daily basis. The recent case that took place in the Akhalgori district of the Tskhinvali region was the violation of the fundamental principles of international law – freedom of movement. We face this challenge in both occupied regions of Georgia – in Abkhazia and in Tskhinvali regions.  In Gali district of Abkhazia, ethnic Georgians are forced to abandon Georgian citizenship. They have no access to get an education in their native language, they are denied to get immediate medical treatment, they have no access to their agricultural lands, and this is happening in the twenty-first century, which is unacceptable. This should be discussed very carefully in all international formats. I’ve mentioned that only instrument is a constant raise of that issue and drawing the attention of the international community. We should not turn a blind eye on these illegal activities, otherwise, it will encourage the occupation force, the Russian Federation, to continue all these illegal activities”, – Davit Zalkaliani said.

Adopting its final agenda at the opening of the 2020 Winter Session, the Assembly decided to hold an urgent debate on the theme “International obligations concerning the repatriation of children from war zones”, as well as a current affairs debate on “Recent developments in Libya and in the Middle East: what consequences for Europe?”. The Session opened this morning with the election of Rik Daems (Belgium, ALDE) as the new PACE President.

The Presidents of Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, as well as the Georgian Foreign Minister and President of the Committee of Ministers and the newly-elected Secretary General of the Council of Europe, will address PACE and answer questions.

Debates on the agenda include a complementary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly in response to a serious violation by a member State of its statutory obligations, the functioning of democratic institutions in Poland, and reported cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

Parliamentarians will also discuss threats to media freedom and journalists’ security, a report on “Democracy hacked? How to respond?” and the protection of freedom of religion in the workplace.

The Assembly will hold two joint debates – one on migrant trafficking and missing refugee and migrant children, and another on organ transplant tourism and trafficking in human tissues and cells.

A report on minimum standards for electoral systems and a report on the observation of elections in Belarus are also on the agenda.

Avtandil Otinashvili, Strasbourg

New youth sector strategy 2030: strengthening democracy through youth engagement

Published in Education
Thursday, 23 January 2020 10:46

Strasbourg, 22.01.2020 – Today the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted the new Youth sector strategy 2030 which will provide policy guidance to the 50 States Parties to the European Cultural Convention for the ten years to come.

Young people’s creativity, dynamism, social commitment and competences are crucial for any sustainable democratic society. For almost fifty years, the Council of Europe youth sector has been supporting generations of young people and their organisations to become actors of social change and assists public authorities to implement participative youth policies.

The new Youth sector strategy 2030 will give a new impetus to this work in four thematic priorities:

  • Youth revitalising pluralistic democracy,
  • Young people’s access to rights,
  • Living together in peaceful and inclusive societies and
  • Youth Work.

The Committee of Ministers, when adopting the new strategy, stressed the importance of the unique geographical scope and role of the Council of Europe youth sector and its instruments, including the co-management system, the European Youth Centres in Strasbourg and Budapest, the European Youth Foundation, and the partnership with the European Commission in the field of youth.

The Youth sector strategy 2030 is being launched in the framework of the Georgian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers (November 2019 – May 2020) which attaches the highest importance to the full and meaningful participation of young people in European societies, and aims notably at “strengthening democracy through education, culture and youth engagement”.

Case of Rustavi 2 - Tea Tsulukiani makes a statement on Strasbourg"s decision

Published in Justice
Thursday, 18 July 2019 18:19

"The dispute has ended with the victory of the state,"- Tea Tsulukiani, the Justice Minister of Georgia made a statement a few minutes ago.

According to her, only part of the Strasbourg decision on Rustavi 2"s case is not subject to appeal - the cancellation of the suspension mechanism.

"The state has won the dispute with a full victory. The Chamber composed of seven judges decided unanimously that it is no longer appropriate to maintain the application of the suspension mechanism and it is removed. They found inadmissible all complaints of "Rustavi 2" . They found inadmissible the complaint on property rights of brothers Kharamanishvili and " TV Sakartvelo". They unanimously ruled that the right of the brothers Karmanishvili and TV " Georgia" regarding the fair court, which is linked to Nino Gvenetadze was not violated. There is no need to discuss the complaint in this case, "Tea Tsulukiani said.

www.rustavi2.ge

Star of Zurab Zhvania opened in Strasbourg

Published in Politics
Thursday, 11 April 2019 12:53

The star of Zurab Zhvania, former Prime Minister of Georgia has been opened outside the building of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg. Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, being with a working visit in Strasbourg, unveiled the star.

The star of Zhvania has the politician’s one of the most popular phrases on it that the late PM said during the PACE sitting 20 years ago.

“I’m Georgian, and therefore I am European.” These are the words of late Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania while speaking in front of the Council of Europe in 1999. During the speech, he expressed Georgia’s EU aspirations and outlined the country’s foreign policy agenda for the next decade.

Family members of the late Prime Minister attended the star’s opening.

Urgent debate on the role and mission of the Assembly

Published in Politics
Monday, 08 April 2019 14:08

Adopting its final agenda at the opening of the 2019 Spring Session, the Assembly decided to hold an urgent debate on the theme “Role and mission of the Parliamentary Assembly: main challenges for the future”. The Assembly holds its session in PACE from 8 to 12 April 2019, with addresses by the Prime Ministers of Armenia and Georgia. 

Joint debates will be held on stopping hate speech and acts of hatred in sport - as well as the role of political leaders in combating hate speech - and on strengthening co-operation with the UN and implementation of its Sustainable Development Goals.

Other topics to be discussed include promoting parliaments free of sexism and sexual harassment, the implications for human rights of social media, and a report on balancing the rights of parents, donors and children during the anonymous donation of sperm and oocytes.

The Assembly will also look at so-called “laundromats” and new challenges in combating organised crime and money laundering, and will take a stand on the creation of a new EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights will present her annual activity report for 2018 and take questions, while there will be the usual exchange of views with the current head of the Council of Europe’s ministerial body, Finnish Foreign Affairs Minister Timo Soini, and question time with Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland.

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