Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) and Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI), local CSOs, released on December 10 separate human rights reports, reviewing among others COVID-19 measures, election violations, post-parliamentary election protests, media freedom, and Georgia’s judiciary in 2020.
October 31 Parliamentary Elections
Both CSOs highlighted the issues related to the October 31 parliamentary elections. According to GDI the polls “proceeded with serious shortcomings,” such as final voter tally imbalances occurring in 8% of election precincts and most complaints left unsatisfied.
Both watchdogs highlighted the issues related to freedom of assembly and demonstration during the post-election protests. Particularly, GYLA said police’s use of water cannons against demonstrators outside Central Election Commission (CEC) headquarters on November 8 without prior warning was “illegitimate.”
With COVID-19 related restrictions tightened this fall, GDI said the Government’s lockdown policy is “inconsistent, discriminatory and ineffective,” despite the severe epidemiological situation, which was in the first place caused by “unpreparedness of the healthcare sector.”
GYLA stressed that with May 22 amendments to Law on Public Health, the Parliament delegated to the Government the authority to determine quarantine measures restricting freedom of movement and labor in violation of the constitution.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, issues of employees’ safety and labor rights were intensified, GYLA added, especially in the healthcare sector, mining and the subway system.
Judicial System, Law Enforcement
GDI report stressed that the “political” detention of two state experts, Iveri Melashvili and Natalia Ilychova, ahead of elections, as well as Giorgi Rurua, shareholder of pro-opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV, remaining in custody, illustrate “significant issues” with Georgia’s investigative bodies.
Noting that “power in the judiciary is monopolized by an influential group of justices,” GYLA said the appointment of Khvicha Kikilashvili and Vasil Roinishvili as Constitutional Court justices during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic via “opaque and unbalanced procedures” is aimed at avoiding public oversight of the process.
GYLA noted that the Georgian Government’s efforts to “control media and interfere in its activities” are ongoing.
The watchdogs particularly expressed concern over attempts at “disrupting the independent editorial policy” of Adjara TV and Radio Company, with GDI describing the dismissal of employees at the Batumi-based public broadcaster as “politically motivated.”