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Alternative Report for the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

29.08.2005

Alternative Report for the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

This alternative report is prepared to be taken up in connection with the consideration of the second and third periodic reports of Georgia on its implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

This report is prepared by the Human Rights Information and Documentation Center (HRIDC), a Tbilisi, Georgia based human rights NGO, corresponding member of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH). The report covers the period from 2000 to 2005 and aims at giving additional information to what has already been  submitted by FIDH to the CERD (FIDH report on ethnic minorities in Georgia).

Introduction

In November 2003, the 12-year-long regime of Edward Shevardnadze was ended by the “Rose Revolution”. After the parliamentary elections in November protest actions started, demanding Shevardnadze’s resignation. Mikheil Saakashvili, leader of the opposition, led a group of protestors into the parliament while security forces escorted Shevardnadze out of the building. On November 23 Shevardnadze resigned and an interim government was appointed under the leadership of Nino Burjanadze, Chairperson of the Parliament.

On 4 January 2004, new presidential elections were held and Saakashvili won an overwhelming majority. Officially, the voter turnout amounted to 83%, 96% of which voted for Saakashvili. In March 2004, new parliamentary elections were held that were won by a coalition of National Movement and the United Democrats, which received 135 deputy mandates.  In addition, the Rightist Opposition, a coalition between the Industrialists and the New Rights, received 15 mandates.

Soon after taking office, President Mikheil Saakashvili announced measures for the implementation of far-reaching political and economic reforms in Georgia.
With the purpose of establishing a unitarian government and giving to the residents of the region the opportunity to enjoy democratic principles and general freedoms, which they lacked during Shevardnadze’s office and the regime of Aslan Abashidze, former leader of the Autonomous Republic of Adjaria; the autocratic regime in Adjaria, historically a region of Georgia, has been changed.

The reforms of the new authority referred to different bodies and structures. It is notable that anti-corruptive measures have been carried out in different bodies, with mixed results

The recent legislative and constitutional changes are of particular concern. These measures include constitutional changes that allegedly enhance executive authority at the expense of the legislative and judicial branches of government. The changes made by the Parliament, on February 6, 2004, strengthened presidential powers by allowing the president to dissolve parliament. Another amendment empowers the president to appoint and dismiss judges, thereby increasing the president's influence over a judiciary that already suffers from a lack of independence. The President has the right to halt or annul international agreements, treaties, Georgian laws and presidential enactments. Moreover the government rushed through those constitutional changes without publishing the draft amendments for public discussion as required by the Constitution.

Those concerns about the legislative changes are expressed in reports by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights , Human Rights Watch , the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) , Amnesty International  as well as the Council of Europe (Venice Commission , Parliamentary Assembly , Directorate of Strategic Planning )

The Rule of Law is still shaky. The procedural norms are violated every day by quick and unjustified decisions of law enforcers and other authorities, which sometimes cause further problems or end in the revocation of declarations.

HRIDC has documented patterns of human rights abuse and observed the number of facts of torture and ill-treatment by the police in the pre-detention isolators of the Ministry of Interior as well as arbitrary detentions. Torture in pre-trial detention is still common and the criminal justice system fails to protect the victims of abuse. It should be mentioned as well that since the revolution two people have died from torture in Georgia. Particular concern is voiced over the statements of President Mikheil Saakashvili's on law enforcement that seem likely to encourage lower officials to violate basic rights.

On the basis of NGO observation it could be stated that the prerequisite political, public and psychological atmosphere for defending fundamental human rights does not exist in Georgia.

What is more, especially Chechen refugees on Georgian territory are vulnerable to forced repatriation to Russia, where they face serious threats to their lives, safety and freedom.

After the new government has come into power the facts of about the dispersal of a peaceful demonstration by force has had a common and frequent nature. This is the violation and rejection of fundamental human rights. We consider that the governmental actions like that that are monitored frequently in the post-revolutionary Georgia, causes the establishment of an atmosphere of fear in the society that will reanimate the authoritarian regime in the country.

The facts confirm that government has changed, but beatings remain the same. Clubs are being hoisted against demonstrators, who are fighting for their freedom of speech. After the November revolution, people have held many protests with different demands, but these demonstrations, in contrast to the autumn’s occasion, were dispersed by special teams of police.

The First result of Democratic Georgia’s development is that Georgia is ranked 94th in an annual worldwide index of press freedom issued by the Paris-based lobby group for media rights Reporters Sans Frontiers (Reporters Without Borders). The report indicates the state of press freedom in a total of 167 countries. In last year’s similar report, which included a total of 166 countries, Georgia was ranked 73rd. To our regret, this is a fair estimation. 

In early 2004, there were concerns that the diversity of the media was being significantly reduced since most of the media formerly connected to the opposition now supported the government, leaving very few outlets that did not have a pro-government orientation. Post-revolutionary Georgia becomes a standard-bearer of oppression on free media.

It is obvious that the government is carrying out some reforms using non-democratic methods and is violating fundamental human rights in the name of fighting crime. It is absolutely unacceptable to convince the public that any methods are acceptable for achieving these objectives. Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that the government has been changed, the motto - “the end justifies the means”- has remained the same.

 

The discussion of Georgia was held in geneva, on August 3-4, 2005. After the discussion the committee has published the recommendations to Georgia.

The full version of the alternative report can be reached here:

http://www.humanrights.ge/eng/files/CERD alternative report Georgie.pdf

The recommendations of the CERD can be reached here:

http://www.humanrights.ge/eng/files/Georgia.pdf 

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