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17 CSOs Warn Prosecution Against Censuring Human Rights Watchdogs

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Seventeen Georgian civil society groups, mostly human rights watchdogs, expressed their “extreme concern” by the Prosecution’s statement of November 21, in which it demanded other civil society groups to disclose whistle-blower’s identity in an alleged plot to rig the voting in Presidential runoffs.

The CSOs state, that the Prosecution’s statement contains indirect threat of prosecution of those human rights groups that refuse to disclose their sources, and thus “represents a dire warning” to those individuals who provide rights activists with vital information about human rights abuses.

The signatories to the statement say this recent act forms a part of a “deliberate policy” by the government, which “has long surpassed the limits” of legitimate criticism acceptable in democratic society.

The signatories point out that since the adoption of the Law on Freedom of Speech and Expression in 2004, this is the first case of any official agency questioning the right of human rights defenders to guard the confidentiality of their sources. They state that this right is also protected by the Constitutional right of the freedom of expression.

Watchdogs say the Prosecution’s interpretation of the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code to limit these rights is “anti-systemic, in breach of the Constitution and human rights principles”.

“We underline, that no state authority has legal competencies that may surpass human rights obligations…to narrow down, modify or limit them” the CSOs state. On the contrary, the government’s authority is “to serve the full and adequate implementation of Constitutionally guaranteed rights.”

They call on the Prosecution to interpret their legal purview in conjunction with, and not in opposition to, the human rights principles, “which is characteristic to authoritarian law enforcement bodies.”

The signatories warn, that going down the path of prosecuting watchdogs for withholding their sources of information “will do irreparable damage to human rights work in Georgia as well as Georgia’s still fragile democracy.”

Signatories include:

Georgian Democratic Initiative (GDI), Institute for Development of the Freedom of Information (IDFI), Institute for Democracy and Safe Development (IDSD), Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF), 42nd Article of the Constitution, Sapari, Human Rights Education and Monitoring Centre (EMC), Movement for Equality, Rehabilitation Initiative for Vulnerable Groups (RIVG), Partnership for Human Rights (PHR), Media Development Foundation (MDF), Georgia Reforms Associates (GRASS), Human Rights Center (HRC), Center “Empathy”, United Nations Association of Georgia (UNAG)*, Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI), Georgian Center for Psychological and Medical Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture (GCRT).

Due disclosure: UNAG is a a parent organisation for Civil.ge

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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