Today Human Rights Watch, an international human rights monitoring organization, published its World Report which includes a chapter on Georgia. The document names as key challenges the lack of accountability for law enforcement abuses, imprisonment of an opposition-minded TV company founder Nika Gvaramia and interference with media work, unfair labor conditions, the harsh environment facing the LGBTQ+ community, women’s rights, and recent developments in Georgia’s foreign relations.
- 13/01/2022 – HRW Report Recaps Georgia’s Tumultuous 2021
- 08/06/2022 – Public Defender Urges President to Pardon TV Chief
The HRW highlights the case of the imprisonment of Nika Gvaramia, the director of Mtavari Arkhi TV, a leading critical TV channel, who was jailed over managerial decisions. The organization underscores that the verdict was criticized by Georgian CSOs as unlawful and politically motivated.
The report also mentions an attack on Ema Gogokhia, a reporter for Mtavari Arkhi, and her cameraman in Zugdidi, while they were filming municipal employees removing a drawing of the Ukrainian flag from the façade of a political party’s office; an attack on TV Pirveli cameraman Murman Zoidze in Batumi; and an incident in which ruling Georgian Dream party MP Anri Okhanashvili allegedly physically attacked opposition-minded TV Pirveli’s founder, Vakhtang Tsereteli on the US Embassy compound.
The report also discusses the dismissal of journalists by the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB), which has been accused by its former employees of subjecting them to censorship and editorial interference.
- 07/05/2022 – Another Former Public TV Journalist Alleges Censorship
- 25/03/2022 – Georgian Public Broadcaster Accused of Pro-Russian Censorship
Impunity of the Law Enforcement
According to the report, ”impunity for abuses by law enforcement persisted” in 2022, citing the Public Defender’s Office statistics that it received 70 complaints of ill-treatment by prison staff or police and despite the fact that authorities launched investigations into 61 cases, “none had resulted in criminal prosecution at the time of writing.”
The report also discusses the ruling party’s controversial decision to abolish the State Inspector’s Service, an independent body investigating abuses by law enforcement. According to the HRW, it was a “sudden decision [which] followed the opening of an investigation by the state inspector into possible ill-treatment and violations of data protection laws regarding jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili.“
The report lists widely publicized cases of ill-treatment and abuse by police. For example, the case of Nika Mzhavanadze, one of the leaders of the youth protest Shame Movement, who was allegedly abused by police officers after he arrived to collect a fine notice at a police station. The case of a 17-year-old minor with a disability, who was beaten by a police officer in a metro station, is also reported.
The report discusses, among other things, the controversial surveillance bill, which strengthens the authorities’ ability to wiretap and use other forms of surveillance against individuals without their knowledge in relation to 77 offenses. The bill was adopted despite the President’s veto, overridden by the ruling party.
Unfair Labor Conditions
Regarding the working conditions in the country, the HRW says that “despite recent legislative improvements, fair labor conditions remain a concern in Georgia. Overtime regulations are weak, social protections are minimal, unions lack legal guarantees that would allow them to effectively bargain for systemic changes, and shortage of resources hamper the Labor Inspectorate’s effectiveness.”
- 10/01/2023 – Minimum Wage Established for Doctors and Nurses
Regarding the LGBTQ+ and Women’s Rights
The HRW says lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Georgia continue to face harassment, discrimination, and violence. In this context, the organization mentions an incident in May 2022 when a group of some 30 men attacked five transgender women in their home in Tbilisi.
Addressing the topic of women’s rights, the human rights organization mentions the number of cases of femicide and the attempted murder of women by their families, and separately discusses the case of Khanum Jeiranova, an honor crime victim, underlining that Georgia failed to protect her from gender-based discrimination.
Developments in Foreign Relations
The document mentions that Georgia has the twelve recommendations by the European Union to fulfill to receive the candidacy. The organization cites several international actors, including the US, EU, and UN Human Rights Committee who have commented on and made calls against human rights violations and the trajectory of democracy in Georgia.
The HRW also addresses the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) which issued three arrest warrants against de facto South Ossetian officials for war crimes committed during the 2008 conflict between Georgia and Russia. “In 2023, the ICC prosecutor’s office anticipates downsizing the investigation in Georgia and focusing efforts on the execution of the three arrest warrants,” the document reads.