Human Rights Day is celebrated on December 10. In order to mark the celebration, I would like to offer the public a brief overview of human rights problems revealed throughout the year in Georgia.
The human rights protection of which was the most problematic in Georgia during 2011:
- Right to a fair trial – the problem of violation of the right to a fair trial remained to be acute throughout last year. Cases that involved criminal and administrative violations were problematic. Use of restrictive measures are particularly noteworthy with regard to criminal cases, as frequently pre-trial detention was applied without any substantiation and in violation of legal requirements. Furthermore, administrative cases, and administrative imprisonment in particular, have also proven problematic. Generally, the right to defense is not ensured, courts’ decisions lack substantiation, frequently courts deliver their decisions on the basis of statements of police officers, without examining or upholding other important evidence;
- Equality before law – during the year 2011, we witnessed unequal treatment by the authorities in the process of administration of justice. Frequently, criminal law policy is too strict and provides for disproportionately severe liabilities for petty crimes. At the same time, various civil servants, officials or law enforcers are imposed with light responsibilities, if any at all, despite the fact that their actions frequently contain signs of a crime. (E.g. following the May 26 assembly dispersal, several law enforcers were imposed with disciplinary responsibilities, which we believe were disproportionate to the violations committed; furthermore, details of imposed responsibilities were not made public);
- Right to assembly and manifestation – Georgian public witnessed unlawful intrusion of law enforcers in the right to assembly and manifestation several times throughout 2011. There were cases when peaceful assemblies/manifestations were unlawfully dispersed by the police, including by use of gross physical force, which was uncalled for. (E.g. the January 3, 2011 incident when the police dispersed a peaceful rally of war veterans.) Disproportionate use of force by law enforcers was particularly problematic, which was clearly illustrated by the dispersal of the May 26 assembly, when the police used clearly excessive force resulting in hundreds of injured rally participants. It is particularly alarming that authorities fail to adequately respond to such facts of violation and to impose adequate legal responsibility on perpetrators, which further escalates that impunity syndrome. In the process of dispersal of assembly and manifestation, authorities also interfered with journalistic reporting;
- Prohibition of ill-treatment – throughout the last year, a number of GYLA’s beneficiaries who fell victim to torture and inhumane or degrading treatment increased. Protection of health at penitentiary facilities is particularly problematic; furthermore, there were cases of inhumane treatment. It is alarming that authorities fail to take further adequate actions with regard to such violations, i.e. to prosecute.
- Right to property – various kinds of problems related to realization of property right persist in the regions. In a number of cases there were mass registrations of property rights, while later the registration was unlawfully annulled; in certain cases, properties that were necessary for public needs were seized in return for inadequate compensation; in some cases registration of property was refused unlawfully, without any substantiation.
- Labor rights – the Labor Code of Georgia basically fails to ensure any guarantees for protection of interests and rights of employees. Therefore, we frequently witness violations of labor rights. Furthermore, according to reports of labor unions, the right to labor union membership was unlawfully restricted throughout the year.
- Rights of IDPs – series of eviction of IDPs in violation of law and/or without any substantiation occurred throughout the year. The process of providing compensations and granting the IDP status was terminated, which left a number of people without adequate housing, compensation or protection.
Tamar Chugoshvili is chair of Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association and human rights activist
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