US State Department’s 2022 Human Rights Report on Georgia Highlights Significant Problems

The U.S. State Department recently released a critical human rights report on Georgia that highlighted “significant human rights issues”, including “torture or inhuman, cruel, or degrading treatment; arbitrary arrest or incarcerations; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary, along with investigations and prosecutions widely considered to be politically motivated; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including violence and threats of violence against journalists; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; refoulement; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons and activists.”

The report notes that the government took steps to investigate some officials for human rights abuses, but impunity remained a problem. Moreover, “the government’s failure to credibly investigate and prosecute the organizers of July 2021 violence in advance of the Pride March resulted in impunity for those abuses.” As underlined in the report the “lack of accountability also continued for the inappropriate police use of force against journalists and protesters during June 2019 demonstrations and the 2017 abduction and rendition from the country of Azerbaijani journalist and activist Afgan Mukhtarli.”

Human rights violations continued in the Russian-occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, “including credible reports of unlawful detentions; restrictions on movement, especially of ethnic Georgians; and restrictions on the ability of ethnic Georgians to own property or register businesses and to receive education in their native language.”

On the 2020 parliamentary elections in Georgia the report states that while the elections were deemed as largely competitive and respectful of fundamental freedoms by OSCE, “allegations of voter pressure and blurred lines between the ruling party and the state reduced public confidence in the process”.

Freedom of Expression and Media Environment

According to the report “during the year journalists, NGOs, and the international community raised serious concerns regarding the government’s respect for freedom of expression.  These concerns focused on the conviction of the head of an opposition-leaning media outlet, the worsening environment for media pluralism, and insufficient accountability for violence against journalists”.

One of the key criticisms in the report was the Georgian government’s failure to investigate and prosecute those responsible for violence during the July 2021 in advance of the Pride March and for the abduction of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli in 2017.

According to the U.S. State Department: “In December 2021, the Georgian Parliament passed amendments to the Law on Broadcasting, which were criticized by media watchdogs for potentially restricting freedom of expression and worsening the media environment. The amendments expanded the GNCC’s power over media content, changed the procedure for defamation cases, and provided a vague definition of hate speech. The ruling party claimed that the amendments were meant to align the country’s legislation on audiovisual media with EU standards”.

The report says that media watchdogs also expressed concern about the Ministry of Defense’s lawsuit against Formula TV majority owner and former Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili, which was seen as an attempt to seize the government-critical television station.

In addition, the PDO noted in its April report covering 2021 that the country lacked proper statistics on offenses committed against journalists, which impeded awareness of the scale of the problem.

The PDO, some media watchers, NGOs, and opposition parties expressed suspicion that a number of other criminal prosecutions against critical media outlets or their owners also were politically motivated.  Such prosecutions included the 2019 charging of Avtandil Tsereteli, the father of TV Pirveli’s founder, for his alleged involvement in a money laundering case, along with the founder of TBC Bank and his deputy, Badri Japaridze, who were both leaders of the opposition party Lelo.  

Additionally, as report says, “a significant number of journalists reported during the year that government officials either prevented them from covering public events or did not provide them with key public information when requested.” 

Political Prisoners and Detainees

Opposition parties and NGOs accused the government of holding political prisoners and detainees. Specific cases were highlighted in the report, case of Nika Gvaramia’s prison sentence receiving particular attention and deemed politically motivated. The report says that “on May 17, Amnesty International described his three-and-one-half-year sentence as “a blatant act of politically motivated prosecution in retaliation of his dissenting views and criticism of the authorities.” Amnesty International also stated Gvaramia’s conviction highlighted “mounting concerns over declining media freedom in Georgia.” 

According to the report, in response to the imprisonment of Gvaramia, 42 domestic organizations stated that, his imprisonment “is perceived as a warning and threat to other independent media outlets to stop critical coverage of the government’s performance, to cease watchdog activities, and to refrain from the disclosure of facts that are undesirable to the government.”  On December 7, 2022 following the appeals court decision to uphold Gvaramia’s sentence, the PDO stated that “political motivation is clear” in the case and Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights was violated.”

The report talks about the inhuman treatment of former President Mikheil Saakashvili as well as him being as a political detainee. The report discusses the concerns raised about Saakashvili’s health, with the public defender repeatedly calling on authorities to provide proper medical treatment for the former President, whose condition was reported to have significantly deteriorated.

The report says, the government permitted international and domestic organizations to visit persons claiming to be political prisoners or detainees, and several international organizations did so.

In December 2021, Georgia abolished the State Inspectorate and replaced it with two new agencies. However, the new investigative agency is not authorized to investigate certain crimes committed by prosecutors. The Georgian Dream party faced criticism for rushing the vote to abolish the SIS and for the lack of transparency in the process. The SIS was investigating the alleged mistreatment of former President Saakashvili during his forced transfer, and the OSCE criticized the process.


According to the U.S. State Department, “civil society organizations and the international community highlighted the lack of judicial independence and influence of a group of judges known as the “clan.” One of the EU’s 12 conditions for obtaining EU candidacy – reform foster an independent, accountable, and impartial judiciary – prompted Parliament to release a judicial reform strategy and action plan followed by initiation of the amendments to the Law on Common Courts. However, according to the report the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary stated that the judicial action plan and proposed amendments failed to address the main problems in the judicial system, such as the concentration of power and informal, clan-based influence in the system.  The justice reform strategy did not provide a unified picture of the challenges in the judiciary or the problems in legislation and practice.  According to GYLA, the amendments to the Law on Common Courts did not comply with the recommendations of the EU and international partners, as well as local NGOs.  GYLA reported that the proposed changes to the Law on Common Courts did not serve to improve the justice system and described the process as “another missed opportunity for substantial changes in the justice system.”

The Venice Commission also criticized the increased powers given to the High Council of Justice to transfer judges without their consent and the vague grounds for disciplinary misconduct and suspension of judges’ salaries”.

The report also highlightes the Georgian Parliament’s controversial decision to override a presidential veto and pass amendments that expanded the government’s ability to conduct covert investigative measures, despite concerns raised by the Venice Commission and others.

Internet Freedom

While no internet censorship or disruptions were reported by the Georgian government, concerns were raised about unauthorized surveillance. The report says the ruling party was accused of using bots and trolls to manipulate social media discourse. Internet freedom in Russian-occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia remained unclear.


The report highlights, “the Georgian government implemented a law providing criminal penalties for corruption convictions against low-level officials. However, NGOs continued to express concerns about weak checks and balances, lack of independence of law enforcement agencies, and no effective mechanisms for preventing corruption in state-owned enterprises and independent regulatory bodies, leading to allegations of high-level corruption. NGOs called for an independent anticorruption agency, as the current institutional model was insufficient”.

The report says that as of July 25 TI Georgia has 85 cases listed as uninvestigated cases of alleged corruption involving high-ranking public officials or individuals associated with the ruling party.

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