TBILISI, DFWatch–The U.S. State Department has published a report on human rights which describes the October election in Georgia as historic.
The report deals with the parliamentary election in October, the prison torture, problems within the justice system and problems in the media.
In October 2012, a new coalition defeated the National Movement of President Mikheil Saakashvili, thus marking the first time power was transferred peacefully in a former Soviet country east of the Baltics.
The report draws attention to remarks by observers for the OSCE, who wrote that the election was competitive, but the election environment was polarized and tense.
“The campaign was marred by harassment and intimidation of party activists and supporters, often ending with detentions or fines of mostly opposition-affiliated campaigners,” the report reads.
Two weeks before the election, September 19, Georgian media published a handful of videos showing physical and sexual abuse of prisoners. It spurred a massive public outcry and resulted in weeks of protests and demonstrations in the capital and in other regions of the country.
Although frequently criticized for the exact same things in the past, the prison minister Khatuna Kalmakhelidze and the interior minister Bacho Akhalaia decided to resign in the midst of the emotional public reaction.
The report in details describes the situation in the country during and after the prison abuse scandal.
In 2012, during the election campaign, people in the regions, especially those living in towns and villages, didn’t have access to diverse media, as only a few TV channels covered the whole country, and they were government controlled: Rustavi 2, Imedi and the Public Broadcaster.
Independent and opposition media then started a campaign to purchase and distribute satellite dishes to the population around the country; however tens of thousands of dishes were confiscated by the government.
“Before the October elections, all three reportedly had close ties to the government, generally had a pro-government editorial policy, and were the only providers of noncable coverage on a national level,” reads the report, which also describes incidents of violence and harassment of journalists, “Journalists affiliated with pro-opposition media outlets reported unequal access to government buildings, politically motivated detentions, telephone threats, and surveillance by unknown persons while covering stories.”
The report describes problems of refugees from breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia and also government’s policy towards those regions.
“De facto authorities in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remained outside the control of the central government.”
There are problems described for labor rights, rights of gathering, freedom of speech, also elite corruption and business.