UN Human Rights Committee assesses state of human rights in Georgia

UNHR concerned about the number of complaints to the Prosecutor’s Office regarding violations before the 2012 elections.
Agenda.ge, 01 Aug 2014 - 08:26, Tbilisi,Georgia

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has released its concluding observations in its fourth periodic report of Georgia regarding the state of human rights in the country.

The Committee praised Georgia’s progress and adoption of various legislation to improve basic human rights in Georgia, mentioned areas it was still concerned about and offered recommendations how Georgia could continue improve the state of human rights for all.

The main issues the Committee was concerned about was underrepresentation of women in decision-making positions in legislative and executive bodies including in Parliament and Government; a significant gender wage gap, prevalence of sexual harassment including in the workplace, high numbers of early marriage and the practice of sex-selective abortions, with families aborting female foetus.

The report said the Government should "step up its measures aimed at ensuring gender equality” and develop strategies to combat patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes surrounding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in family life and society. This could be done through campaigns that raised awareness of women’s rights.

Moves already made by Georgia to promote gender equality was welcomed by the UN. The Committee said it was happy Georgia had adopted a Law on Gender Equality (2010) and of the National Action Plan for Gender Equality for 2014-2016.

The UN also praised Georgia’s adoption of the Law on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination on May 2, 2014 however the Committee expressed concern about the effectiveness of how this would be enforced, in the absence of an independent body to oversee related issues and issue fines to perpetrators to discourage future incidences.

It also said there were "insufficient resources” allocated to the Office of the Public Defender to carry out its new functions effectively.

Furthermore, the Committee raised serious concerns about the acceptance of discrimination and social stigma in Georgia, including hate speech and acts of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, as well violation of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

"The State party should take effective measures to combat any form of social stigmatization of homosexuality, bisexuality or transsexuality or hate speech, discrimination or violence against persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” the UN Committee said.

"[Georgia] should provide effective protection to LGBT persons and ensure the investigation, prosecution and punishment of any act of violence motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity in accordance with Article 53, paragraph 31 of the Criminal Code. It should also take all necessary measures to guarantee the exercise in practice of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly of LGBT persons and defenders of their rights,” the Committee report read.

The report noted the Committee was particularly concerned by Georgia’s "slow progress” investigating, identifying and prosecuting those who violated basic human rights of others during or immediately after the 2008 armed conflict with Russia, which included instances of enforced disappearances, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against the civilian population, unlawful detention, torture and inhuman treatment, destruction and appropriation of property that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The UNN Human Rights Committee recommended Georgian authorities to ensure allegations related to the above instances were "effectively, independently and impartially investigated” and those responsible for the crime (including those in positions of authority) were prosecuted and appropriately punished. Victims should be offered compensation too.

"The Committee, while acknowledging the challenges faced by the State party in providing victims with remedies, is concerned about the tens of thousands of complaints lodged with the Prosecutor’s Office in relation to violations committed before the 2012 elections, including unfair trial, torture and ill-treatment and illegal expropriation,” reads the report.

The Committee said while it acknowledged the need to uphold the rule of law and fight corruption, to provide victims of human rights abuses with appropriate support and compensation and to avoid impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations and corruption, it was concerned that the number of investigations and criminal charges brought against high ranking politicians of the previous government "might create the appearance of the utilisation of the legal system for political retribution purposes”.

The Committee said Georgian authorities should pursue investigations into past cases of abuses but avoid doing so in a way that resembled political retribution.

On a positive note, the report praised the fact Georgia had adopted several legislative and institutional steps including the National Human Rights Strategy for 2014-2020 and the National Human Rights Action Plan for 2014-2015, in April and June 2014 respectively.

It welcomed Georgia’s April adoption of amendments to the Prison Code, the Constitutional Court’s February decision declaring non-constitutional "homosexuality” as an indicator against blood donation, changes to the Law on Assembly and Manifestation, in July 2011, and increasing the age of criminal responsibility from 12 to 14 years, which was adopted in February 2010.

At the end of the report, the Committee requested Georgian authorities to provide specific, up-to-date information on the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations in its next periodic report, which is due for submission on July 31, 2019.

The Committee also asked the State party, when preparing its next periodic report, to broadly consult civil society and non-governmental organisations operating in the country.