TBILISI, DFWatch – 123 lawyers have been put in jail the last 7 years, and tell horrific stories of beatings and rape. But EU parliamentarians Thursday decided not to mention the lawyers in their criticism of Georgia.
Krzysztof Lisek, speaker of the European Parliament on Georgia issues, was in Tbilisi Friday discussing the latest resolution with Georgian parliamentarians. He says the ‘EU is not a closed club, and its doors are open for everyone sharing the EU’s values, including for Georgia.’
Lisek organized a session of the EU’s integration and foreign relations committee in the Georgian parliament. He explained the recent resolution, which in effect tells the Georgian government how it must improve in order to get an association agreement and free trade with the EU.
“EU considers Georgia a European country. The North Partnership program included two of six countries – Georgia and Moldova are going in the right direction in terms of reforms. The procedures of EU integration don’t end with yesterday’s resolution, but Georgia made one step forward to Europe with this document. According to the Lisbon agreement, the European Parliament has become a more active and powerful body. It’s important that the resolution was made by a majority, 93% of the votes,” he remarked.
Krzysztof Lisek says Georgia is a European country which ‘shares rule of law, human rights, democracy.’
Akaki Minashvili from the parliamentary majority and chairman of the foreign relations committee said he was pleased by the fact that the opposition representative left the session.
He didn’t name the surname of the MP, but Petre Mamradze, representative of the parliament faction Unity for Justice stated that there was one man in the hall, ‘who is against everyone, but he realized that he had lost the debate in advance.’
The resolution in question was adopted by the European Parliament on November 17, but its content has not been published yet. Lisek says that the text together with an official translation will be published in the next few days. The text voted over is however available on the official website of the European Parliament.
Several important issues are raised in this version, including harassment of lawyers in Georgia.
The following recommendations are directed at the Georgian government:
“Should immediately take effective measures to investigate the lawyers’ abuse and beating facts; stop politically motivated persecution and punish the guilty; provide freedom and pluralism of media, freedom of speech. With this aim: a) give the media an opportunity to independently run its activity without political and economic harassment; b) get involved in a constructive dialogue with the political opposition; give priority to the eform of the courts to improve its full independence in order to eradicate violations of human rights, property rights and political rights; improve conditions in detention facilities; create appropriate conditions for business and investments; guarantee rule of law; secure labor rights and standards in accordance with the requirements of the International Labor Organization.”
“It’s natural and good that the European Parliament carefully watches the ongoing processes in Georgia and focuses not only on chronic Georgian problems, but also on the cases of political persecution for the last month and a half, which should be followed by some reaction from the government as well as civil society,” read a statement by the Republican partyto the provisional version of the resolution.
Beatings, arrests, rape
Zaza Khatiashvili, Chairman of the Georgian Bar Association thinks that the arrests and harassments of lawyers are done to intimidate the lawyers and shut them up.
He says this is such a critical problem in the country today that a year ago, Jose Maria Fernandes, president of the European Lawyers Association, personally wrote to Saakashvili and asked him to investigate the cases of attack on the lawyers Shalva Khachapuridze, Koba Sokhadze and Vladimir Tabagua.
Khatiashvili says Koba Sokhadze had made a recording on his mobile phone of police beating citizens in the streets. He had his phone taken away, was beaten and then later the judge sentenced him to 30 days in jail.
15 people attacked Shalva Khachapuridze as he was leaving one of the graveyards in Tbilisi and started beating him. Khachapuridze went to the police and asked them to investigate, but instead he was told that the attackers had acted quite correct in beating him.
Vladimer Tabagua had just been meeting his client in jail, a person who had been tortured, and he was bringing this information out of the prison. He was arrested at the entrance.
Khatiashvili also highlights cases of beatings and rape.
-Lawyer Irina Saginadze was twice physically assaulted while bringing information about a tortured prisoner out of the prison. She was threatened with rape.
-Diana Martiashvili is another lawyer who was subjected to such abuse.
-Jumber Milorava was bringing information out of the prison about a tortured prisoner.
-Marina Ivelashvili was arrested on a charge that she didn’t represent her client appropriately. She was sentenced of 5 years and 9 months and has already served three years for losing the case. More than 700 French lawyers signed a petition demanding her release.
-Naira Otiashvili was arrested by the police despite the existence of a video recording which proved that she didn’t violate the law. During the trial this footage was not allowed to be shown to the court.
-Ramin Papidze was thrown out of Batumi court and fined more than 10 000 Georgian lari, after he was attacked by a guard while leaving the court building. The guard beat him, but instead of the guard being punished, the lawyer was.
Khatiashvili says the government didn’t investigate these facts and even more, the harassment against lawyers still continues, in violation of a UN convention to which Georgia is signatory. The government is obliged to protect the lawyers, he says.
According to Khatiashvili, 123 lawyers have been punished the last 7 years. The Georgian Bar Association has appealed the Council of Europe and the European Parliament for help and one year ago sent a personal appeal to the European Parliament chairman and the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner. Zaza Khatiashvili says that it would be important for the country if this issue would have been mentioned in the resolution.
But all these issues were not included in the resolution which was finally adopted. Representatives from the parliamentary majority even claim that it never was mentioned before the European Parliament voted.
Responding to this, the Republican Party later released this statement:
“Today in the morning the Republican Party had released a statement regarding the European Parliament resolution, which was based on the text of a resolution published on the website of the European Parliament in the morning. Several minutes ago a new version has been published on the European Parliament website, in which several issues are changed. Our aim is to give right and truthful information to society regarding the European Parliament resolution and we therefore see the need to explain that:
1. Regulation regarding the issue of beating and abuse of lawyers is taken out of the text.
2. The formulation of the issue about the political motivated court is changed.”
But according to experts and politicians the current situation in Georgia was objectively reflected in the final resolution passed by the European Parliament on November 17. They say it correctly formulated the requirements the country’s government will have to fulfill.
Comments coming from the government were only focusing on the fact that the term ‘occupation’ was used three times in the resolution.
The European Union has association agreements including free trade provisions with 26 countries. When making such agreements the EU typically asks for commitments to political, economic, trade, or human rights reform in the country.