Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) and Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), local civil society organizations, submitted a joint alternative report to the UN Human Rights Committee on Georgia’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The report, submitted to the Committee on August 17 and published on September 22, covers the key rights developments and infringements in the last 6 years in Georgia. It focuses on various issues, starting from individual rights violations, such as the cases of killing Temirlan Machalikashvili and the abduction of Azerbaijani dissident journalist Afghan Mukhtarli to the rights violations in Georgia’s Russian occupied territories, challenges with freedom of expression, media, and assembly, including the events of June 20-21, 2019. Other parts of the report also examine labor rights and safety challenges as well as setbacks in ethnic minority participation in public life.
Freedom of Expression, Media
The report underscored that freedom of press and expression remained a problematic issue in the country, as the developments in 2017-19 highlighted the Georgian government’s aspiration to “regulate media”. The document noted that the dismissal of Batumi-based Adjara Public Broadcaster’s Director by the Advisory Board was linked to “growing political pressure on state-owned media.”
Right to Life, Prohibition of Torture
The killing of 19-year-old Temirlan Machalikashvili, a native of northeastern Pankisi Gorge, during the special operation of the State Security Service of Georgia (SSG) represents one of the harshest violations of the right to life, according to the report.
The document also focused on occupational safety and the cases of death and health damage of workers as one of the setbacks in the context of right to life.
Speaking of the kidnapping of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli from downtown Tbilisi in 2017, the report stated that “for three years General Prosecutor’s office was investigating the case under article 143 of Criminal Code, (illegal deprivation of liberty) but no one’s criminal responsibility was raised.”
Occupied Territories – Right to Liberty and Security
The report underscored that situation in regards to arbitrary detentions by the Russian occupation forces “remains alarming.” “Annually, hundreds of Georgian citizens are victims of such violations, including women and children,” the document noted, adding that the detainees are convicted under the Russian Criminal Code with violation of right to fair trial and procedural guarantees.
The Georgian CSOs underscored that the human rights situation in occupied Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia has significantly worsened in September 2019, since the closure of the Odzisi checkpoint allowing locals, mostly ethnic Georgians living in Akhalgori district, to cross into Tbilisi-controlled territory in order to obtain vital services. The watchdogs recalled that the closure caused several fatalities in Tskhinvali region as the locals were denied by Tskhinvali authorities to cross into Georgia proper to receive quality healthcare.
Rights of Minorities
Protection of rights of minorities in Georgia remains problematic, the report concluded. According to the document, “the minority culture policy is not based on equality approaches, and in the regions, it often takes the form of assimilation rather than integration.”
The report stated that “the realization of the right to participate in elections and public life is only [pro forma] for various vulnerable and marginalized groups,” adding that “political representation and participation are particularly problematic for ethnic minorities.”