Council of Europe Office in Georgia
26, Kakabadzeebi Brothers street, 0108 Tbilisi, Georgia
|Georgia: rapporteurs welcome improved political climate but stress that challenges remain|
Following their visit to Tbilisi from 13 to 16 January 2014, the co-rapporteurs for Georgia, Michael Aastrup Jensen (Denmark, ALDE) and Boriss Cilevics (Latvia, SOC), welcomed the improved political climate after the Presidential elections that was evident during their visit. At the same time, they emphasised that many challenges remain that need to be addressed in order to ensure normalisation of the political environment.
With regard to the numerous complaints about alleged wrongdoings and violation of rights during the previous government, as well as counter allegations that most of these complaints are unfounded, the rapporteurs stressed that these allegations need to be investigated and where necessary addressed. “It is important that this is done transparently and impartially, but also promptly so that this difficult subject in Georgia’s political climate can be closed and laid to rest. Justice should prevail but it is important for all parties to overcome their differences and focus on the future and Georgia’s further democratic development.”
Without wishing to comment on the merits of the criminal cases against him, the rapporteurs expressed their concern about the fact that the directly elected mayor of Tbilisi was suspended by a decision of the Tbilisi court without having been convicted of the charges brought against him. “We cannot comment on the legality of this decision, but as a matter of principle, a court should only be able to suspend a popular elected mandate in very limited and precise circumstances provided by law,” said the co-rapporteurs. The rapporteurs were also informed about the allegations made in relation to the imprisoned former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvilli. “Given the importance of his case, we expect these allegations to be fully and transparently investigated. In addition, also taking into account the prisoners’ abuse scandal, clear legal rules need to be urgently established regarding the collection and keeping of video records in prisons. The fact that there is no conclusive video evidence either supporting or contradicting the allegations made is of concern to us,” said the rapporteurs.
The rapporteurs welcomed the self-government reforms initiated by the government. “These reforms address several recommendations made by us and we especially welcome the fact that mayors and gamgebeli will now be elected and no longer appointed, in Tbilisi and also outside the capital. However, we are concerned about the possibility for city councils to remove directly elected mayors and gamgebeli. The impeachment of elected officials should only take place on clearly delimited grounds provided by law,” said the rapporteurs. While welcoming the contents of the reforms, the rapporteurs stressed their deep concern about the fact that these self-government reforms had still not been adopted and were still being discussed in parliament, despite the fact that local elections will take place in a few months. “Democratic principles demand that the legal basis is clear well before elections are called,” emphasised the co-rapporteurs.
The rapporteurs discussed at length the situation with regard to minorities and especially the recent manifestations of intolerance against religious and other minorities such as LGBT. In this respect, they stressed that all political and societal forces should call upon all their supporters to respect the principle of freedom of expression and to be tolerant of opinions different from their own. In that context, the rapporteurs stressed that the Georgian Orthodox Church in particular, as one of the most respected institutions in Georgian society, has an important role to play by calling for tolerance and non-violence for different opinions that exit in society.
With regard to the repatriation of the deported Meskhetian population, the rapporteurs were informed about delays in implementation of the legislation and the existence of a number of other practical obstacles for their return. The rapporteurs emphasised the importance of this commitment and asked the authorities to make, without undue delay, all necessary steps to effectively ensure the practical return of the Meskhetian population.
The rapporteurs will present a report on the Functioning of Democratic Institutions at the April part-session of the Assembly. They expect to then return to the country before the local elections take place.
|A political organisation set up in 1949, the Council of Europe works to promote democracy and human rights continent-wide. It also develops common responses to social, cultural and legal challenges in its 47 member states.|