The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour at the U.S. Department of State (DOS) published the 2015 edition of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which is an annual assessment of individual countries’ record on human rights, fundamental freedoms, corruption, transparency, and workers’ rights.
The DOS points out a global governance crisis with a closing space for civil society, stifling of media and internet freedom, marginalisation of opposition voices, which is ‘a reaction to the advance of democratic ideals — to rising demands of people from every culture and region for governments that answer to them’.
In the chapter about Georgia, the authors of the report praise Georgia’s 2013 parliamentary elections which led to the democratic transfer of power, although points out ‘allegations of political pressure at the local level, inconsistent application of the election code, and limited oversight of campaign finance violations’ with instances of harassment and intimidation of party activists and supporters.
According to the report, arbitrary detentions by Russian and de facto [South Ossetian] authorities of Georgian citizens along the administrative boundary line remain one of Georgia’s significant human rights challenges.
The report also takes notice of judicial problems, such as cases of pressure on the judiciary, questionable judicial appointments, inconsistent government responses to violence or abuse, incomplete investigations, premature charging of suspects, and inappropriate use of pre-trial detention.
The government’s efforts at combatting societal discrimination against women, members of ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities, and persons with disabilities were deemed insufficient.
Although the authors of the report praises the steps undertaken by the government to o promote accountability and address shortcomings in the administration of justice, they bring attention to the fact that one opposition party [United National Movement] considered the investigation and prosecution of former officials to be politically motivated. They write that ‘in 2015, one former high-level official was charged with embezzlement and abuse of power, another former high-level official was convicted of embezzlement and misuse of authority, and a current high-level official was acquitted on charges of exceeding official authority’.
The report also criticises the de facto authorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia for restricting the rights of ethnic Georgians to participate in the political process, own property, register business, and travel.
In a separate chapter about freedom of speech and press, the freedom reads that ‘democracy NGOs expressed concern that government and former government officials’ public criticism of civil society, including calls for investigations of individual NGO leaders, led to self-censorship by journalists and civil society actors’ and that ‘media remained politically polarized and provided the public only limited access to objective, neutral news’.
The authors of the report bring up the case of government’s interference in the legal dispute over TV station Rustavi 2 as ‘an attempt to change the editorial policy of Rustavi 2, which often espoused views sympathetic to the opposition UNM party’.
Read the full report about the state of human rights in Georgia here.