According to Bidzina Ivanishvili’s statement, he has analysed every international assessment and its rankings and noted a "huge" advancement in every one of them as concerns human rights protection, media freedom and government efficiency. Mr Ivanishvili mentioned his letter published on 30 May 2016 and stated that international rankings serve as proof that the facts he named therein were true.FactCheck has already verified Bidzina Ivanishvili’s statements in regard to government efficiency and media freedom (see the link).
This time, we looked at the annual human rights reports published by major international organisations working in the field such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.FactCheck studied the reports of 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016
published by Human Rights Watch which analyse the state of human rights protection in Georgia in the period of 2011-2015.
The 2012 report, which covers 2011, highlights the issue of the freedom of assembly and presents the incidents of 26 May 2011 as an example of the violation of the right of freedom of assembly. Additionally, the report underlines the fact that the United States and the European Union both called upon the Government of Georgia to investigate the facts of police brutality committed on 26 May 2011.
Human Rights Watch notes that the Government of Georgia increased the maximum misdemeanour sentence from 30 days to 90 days in 2011. Its report reads: "Although the sentence is equivalent to a criminal penalty, detainees do not have access to full due process rights." The report also highlights the eviction of IDPs from their temporary shelters and underlined that the eviction process failed to meet international standards. The poor conditions in Georgia’s prisons were also highlighted. Human Rights Watch emphasised in its report that the EU called upon Georgia to implement judiciary reform and was concerned about the absence of guarantees for political and media pluralism.
The 2013 report, covering the situation in 2012, positively assessed the Parliamentary elections of October 2012 although it does mention the persecution of opposition party activists. It also underscores that the problem of administrative detention – also mentioned in the 2011 report – remains acute because the government had not implemented any reforms in this regard.
The 2013 report highlights the problems of torture and inhumane treatment, in particular, and states that: "The authorities acknowledged both the systemic nature of prison abuse and their failure to react effectively." According to the document, different international organisations had called upon the Government of Georgia to conduct a comprehensive and transparent investigation in regard to the prison abuse video footage which was released and to bring the perpetrators of the abuse to justice. The report says that it was the first time when the European Union addressed the Government of Georgia with specific recommendations concerning the independence of the judiciary and other problems.
The 2014 report underlines that the investigation of the facts of torture and inhumane treatment in Georgian prisons was being conducting at a slow pace and lacked transparency. The report also emphasised that: "The Prosecutor General fully released Vladimer Bedukadze, who provided information about the acts of torture in which he was also involved, from criminal responsibility."
The 2014 report also brings forward the issue of selective justice and political persecution: "The authorities did not explain the criteria they used to determine which cases of past abuses to investigate and whilst investigating past abuses, prosecutors questioned over 6,000 persons, mostly UNM party activists. Both factors caused the opposition to allege that its activists were subject to politically motivated pressure."
The document also underlines the violation of the rights of sexual and religious minorities.
Further, the 2014 report highlights the violation of the right of privacy: "In May, an Interior Ministry deputy leaked one of the videos involving a journalist who had been fiercely critical of senior officials. The deputy was dismissed and is awaiting trial on charges of illegal use or distribution of private information. Other illegal secret recordings have not been destroyed. It is also mentioned that the Interior Ministry maintains surveillance equipment on the premises of telecommunications operators, giving it automatic access to all communications without judicial oversight."
The 2015 report indicates that "investigations into past abuses continued to raise questions regarding selective justice and politically motivated prosecutions. The lack of accountability for abuses committed by law enforcement also remained a problem. Other areas of concern include minority and women’s rights".
The report highlights that Georgia’s international partners, including the EU and the United States, expressed concerns about the criminal charges filed against the former President, Mikheil Saakashvili, urging authorities to adhere strictly to due process and ensure that the prosecution is free from political motivations.
The document also underscores facts of violence against women: "According to media reports, at least 23 women died in the first ten months of 2014 due to domestic violence." The report cites data from the Ministry of Education and Science according to which 7,367 girls stopped going to school from 2011 to 2013 because of early marriage.
The report positively assessed the adoption of an anti-discrimination law together with the Constitutional Court in Georgia striking down a 13 year-old ban on homosexual men from being blood donors.
In the 2016 report, assault against political opponents, ineffective investigation of facts of torture and inhumane treatment, media freedom and the violation of the rights of minorities are still cited as problems. The murder of Sabi Beriani, a transgender woman, and the court’s acquittal of a man for her premeditated murder is also mentioned. Hate crimes are also listed in the report.
The document also underscores that the European Union noted some improvements in some fields in its European Neighbourhood Policy progress report. However, at the same time, the need to ensure the separation of powers and judicial independence, avoid political retribution, confrontation and polarisation and increase the accountability of law enforcement is also emphasised. The report also highlights progress achieved in terms of the prevention of torture.
Human Rights Watch uses the research and reports of the UN, EU and the USA Department of State and other international organisations to prepare its own reports. Therefore, the assessments of Human Rights Watch reflect the attitude of the international community. The official website of Human Rights Watch, based upon its reports of the previous years, indicates that the state of human rights in Georgia is still a matter of concern despite some certain progress.Amnesty International’s annual reports highlight the exact same issues. However, because of their huge volume, FactCheck
is not undertaking a detailed analysis of these documents. We are confining ourselves to reiterating that the assessment of the situation in Georgia by Amnesty International mostly coincides with the assessments of Human Rights Watch.
Conclusion The reports of international organisations analysed by FactCheck
did indeed note points of progress such as, for example, in terms of the eradication of torture and inhumane treatment in certain institutions. However, each and every report on human rights reiterates problems concerning politically motivated arrests, violations of the rights of minorities and the ineffective investigation of facts of torture and inhumane treatment. The official website of Human Rights Watch, based upon its reports of the previous years, indicates that the state of human rights in Georgia is still a matter of concern despite some certain progress.Therefore, Bidzina Ivanishvili’s statement that the rankings of international organisations point to a "huge advancement in terms of every aspect" of human rights protection in Georgia is FALSE.