TBILISI, DFWatch – A United Nations envoy says the new party finance rules Georgia introduced in December are a violation of human rights.

Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai says that ‘they at times use ambiguous language, are fuelling an overall climate of distrust, and appear to largely violate international human rights law.’

He made the statement Monday at a press conference to sum up his visit to Georgia.

Parliament adopted changes to the law about Political Union of Citizens last December in spite of resistance from the political opposition as well as many groups involved in furthering democracy and protecting human rights. The law defines a number of restrictions and prohibitions for political parties, restrictions which also apply to all legal and physical persons who are directly or somehow related to a political party.

The groups say that the law’s vague wording offers the government an opportunity to interfere in their work, and they demand an amendment to the law and have prepared a petition which was published on February 13 and later will be presented in parliament.

Maina Kiai explained how international human rights law works within this context and remarked that ‘international law imposes obligations on states to respect the right of every individual to associate freely, irrespective of political preferences.’

“The Organic Law on Political Unions of Citizens, as amended, applies restrictions on every person in this country – and those “in business relations with them” -for the mere reason of holding political opinions. This violates the right to association, and is potentially threatening to watchdog NGOs and civil society organizations whose work could be deemed political,’ he says.

‘While paragraph 3 of article 26 prima of this law stipulates that these restrictions cannot be used against freedom of expression and civil engagement that is not sufficient as a safeguard against potential abuse. NGOs and any legal entity and person must have the right to support any candidate, or political persuasion of their choice.”

He adds that these amendments have been ‘motivated by a desire to control the political activities of a specific individual, rather than for objective and sustainable reasons.’

He expressed being surprised that the law about Political Unions of Citizens grants the right to the Georgian Chamber of Control, solely on the grounds of its own opinion and without any evidence, to decide that this or that legal or individual person is connected to a political party.

He focused on the importance of the sharp delimitation between the ruling party and the state and remarked that this issue is significant in light of the upcoming elections in the country.

‘I reiterate that while the government has chosen to adopt rules to limit the financing of political campaigns, these rules should not be detrimental to the enjoyment of freedom of association. As they stand today, they create an uneven political playing field and thus violate the right to freedom of association,’ said the United Nations envoy, whose full title is Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.