Public Defender Addresses Human Rights Challenges in Georgia on the International Human Rights Day

On December 10, the Public Defender of Georgia addressed human rights challenges in the country in a lengthy statement issued on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a pivotal document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 in the aftermath of World War II. The Ombudsman’s statement covers a multitude of topics including poverty, implications of the Russian occupation, rights of persons with disabilities, civil-political rights, media freedom, penitentiary system concerns, gender-based violence.

According to the Public Defender’s Office, in 2023, “the protection of human rights was stained by the killing of Georgian citizen Tamaz Ginturi by the occupation forces.” This grave event echoes previous instances of impunity for the murders of Davit Basharuli, Giga Otkhozoria, Archil Tatunashvili, and Irakli Kvaratskhelia, for which the Russian Federation bears responsibility. Additionally, the statement outlines ongoing violations, such as illegal detentions, ill-treatment of citizens in occupied territories, and the restriction of education in native language for the ethnic Georgian population.

The Public Defender also points out persistent challenges in addressing poverty, particularly its impact on vulnerable groups, including children and older persons. Issues related to child poverty, abuse prevention, and the lack of proper living conditions are highlighted, emphasizing the need for flexible and effective support services.

In addition, the statement addresses the difficulties faced by persons with disabilities, emphasizing the importance of inclusive education and the lack of a national accessibility plan or a standard. It also raises concerns about the obstacles faced by national minorities in terms of education, cultural activities, and participation in decision-making processes.

The statement criticizes government’s handling assemblies and demonstrations. “Unfortunately, when interfering with the freedom of assembly, the police used disproportionate force in some cases,” in 2023, the statement says, adding that “For example, the dispersal of the rally held on March 7-9, 2023 and the unjustified termination of the entire assembly by law enforcement officers with the use of force were based on the violent actions of only a part of the participants in the assembly, which, according to the Public Defender’s assessment, required the implementation of individual – necessary and proportionate measures against specific offenders.”

According to the Public Defender, the detention of participants in assemblies and demonstrations is based on the Administrative Offences Code adopted in 1984 during the Soviet era, which is incompatible with the current constitutional order of Georgia.

Freedom of the media, the activities of human rights defenders and issues relating to psychiatric institutions and the rights of prisoners within the penitentiary system were also areas of concern throughout the year. With regard to the latter, the Public Defender writes that “the vicious practice of lengthy placement of prisoners of closed institutions in de-escalation rooms and solitary confinement (secure) cells without the grounds provided for by the law, for the purpose of punishment, which the Public Defender assesses as ill-treatment, remains a serious challenge.”

The statement concludes by noting the positive development of the European Commission’s recommendation that Georgia be granted the status of candidate country for EU membership. Nevertheless, the Public Defender stresses the need for further efforts in the reform of the judicial system and the fulfilment of the conditions set by the European Commission.

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


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