By: Sopho Kharazi
With 4.5 million people, Georgia is located in the southwestern Asia, bordering with Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia. Its strategic location is reflected by the access to the Black Sea. Georgia has gone through a lot of political changes: from monarchy to Soviet totalitarianism and finally to democracy. Even though its democratic transition did not happen without human rights violations, today, according to the report published by Freedom House, the level of democracyin Georgia equals 4.61 (Cecire, “Georgia”). Despite this fact, a lot of events still question Georgia’s ability to protect its citizens from internal and external threats. This research will discuss governmental transitions of the country and analyze human rights violations alongside the R2P theory on the occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.Moreover, the paper will describe human rights issues in the rest of Georgia.
GOVERNMENTS OF GEORGIA
Despite the fact that Georgia is a small country, numerous political changes have taken place after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Throughout 1990s and 2000s, four governments replaced each other. On October, 28th, 1990, Round Table-Free Georgia Coalition led by Georgian dissident, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, won the elections of Georgian Supreme Soviet with 54% majority of votes and received 155 seats (“Conflict in Georgia” 3). On the contrary, Communist Party of Georgia received only 64 seats with 44% of votes that represented nations negative attitude towards the regime (3). Two weeks later, Gamsakhurdia was elected as a Chairman of Georgian Supreme Council or in other words, became de facto head of Georgia (3). Georgian anti-communistic attitude was expressed in two groups with different tactics. The first one was Gamsakhurdia’s group that worked through Supreme Council. The second one was the National Congress, also elected in October 1990 (3). Despite the same goal, these two groups competed for power that caused instability in Georgia. After February 1991, Gamsakhurdia started attacking allies of National Congress, “Mkhedrioni” (3). On March 31st, 1991, Supreme Council held the first referendum referring the issue of restoration of Georgia’s independence (4). The referendum passed with 90% of votes from 3.5 million voters that led to the restoration of Georgia’s independence on April 9th of the same year (4). In April 1991, 227 members of parliament adopted Independence Declaration of Georgia (4). On May 26th, 1991 Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected as the first President of Georgia with 86.5% of votes (4). Even though his rule was concentrated on Georgian nationalism, Gamsakhurdia’s administration became very “tyrannical” as “restrictive policies, designed to
muzzle the minorities and the political opponents, were put into place” (Minahan, “Miniature Empires”). Alongside the ethnic problems, Gamsakhurdia was believed to be supporting the coup attempt of 1991 in Moscow (“Conflict in Georgia” 4). For this reason, Prime Minister of Georgia, Tengiz Sigua and National Guards Commander, Tengiz Kitovani left the office and joined opposition consisting of 28 political parties including Communist Party, Monarchists, the National Democratic Party (NDP) led by Giorgy Chanturia, and the National Independence Party (NIP) led by Irakli Tsereteli (4). Reasons for the protests were closure of Georgian newspaper, constant attacks on journalists, retsriction on freedom of expression, violence against any critics of the regime, and imprisonment of political opponents (4). Eventually, a violent rebellion of December 1991 led by Military Council coalition forced the President to escape from the country on January 6th, 1992, leaving Georgia without the head of state (Minahan, “Miniature Empires”). As a result, the country was governed by Military Council headed by the former Prime Minister Tengiz Sigua, former Minister of Defense Tengiz Kitovani and the leader of Mkhedrioni militia Jaba Ioseliani. In accordance to the ITAR-TASS report of 1995, Mkhedrioni was involved in “intimidation, physical abuse of citizens, embezzlement and other illegal actions” (“Information on the Mkhedrioni”). Moreover, Jaba Ioseliani was responsible for “high treason, organizing terrorist acts, murders and other grave crimes” (“Information on the Mkhedrioni”). In order to control the Military Council, the former secretary of Georgian Communist Party (GCP), and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, Eduard Shevardnadze arrived from Moscow to the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi in March 1992 (“Georgia”). In the same year, more than 30 parties received seats in Parliamentary elections (“Georgia”). On August 24th, 1995 Parliament adopted Constitution which has recognized “unicameral legislature, an independent judiciary, and an executive branch” (“Government of Georgia”). At the same time, during November and December Parliamentary elections, Citizens’ Union of Georgia (CUG) led by Shevardnadze received 77% of votes and on November 5th, Shevardnadze became the President of Georgia (“Georgia”). He arrested members of Mkhedrioni who attempted to assassinate him (“Georgia”). Four years later, CUG received 132 seats in Parliament (“Georgia”). According to the election observers from Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), voting process was fair (“Georgia”). The main program of the Government was to develop Georgia socially, economically and politically. Even though the government adopted numerous reforms in order to improve human rights situation in the country, the progress was not significant. According to the report on “Georgia Human Rights Practices, 1995” prepared by the US Department of State, violent treatment of detainees by the police and security forces, corrupted judicial system, unfair trials and frequent interference into private lives were main characteristics of the regime. Subsequently, it was not expectable that in 2001,
Shevardnadze won another Presidency term with 81% of votes (“Georgia”). OSCE noted irregularities during the voting process and evidences of fraud (“Georgia”). In accordance to the report prepared by the Freedom House, status of Georgia in 2002 was “partly free” while ratings of freedom, civil liberties, and political rights equaled 4 when the best score was 1 and the worst – 7 (“Georgia”). This became one of the reasons of Rose Revolution. By the time of above-mentioned elections, there were several coalitions in Georgia: pro-Shevardnadze party “For a New Georgia”, “Revival Party” organized by the head of Adjara region, Aslan Abashidze, “National Movement” of Mikheil Saakashvili, “Democrats” of Nino Burjanadze, and the New Rights led by Zurab Zhvania (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). Eventually, on November 3rd, 2003, the Rose Revolution erupted and was led by former Justice Minister Mikheil Saakashvili, former Parliament Speaker Zurab Zhvania, and Parliament Speaker Nino Burjanadze (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). Consequently, on November 22nd, Saakashvili and his supporters entered legislature with roses and demanded resignation of Shevardnadze which formally happened on the next day (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”).
From above discussed two governments of Georgia, it can be stated that Georgia had an unstable transition from being a part of USSR to representing independent state. However, this is not surprising as Georgia has never experienced any democracy in its history as it only existed in monarchical and totalitarian regimes. Subsequently, it is not unusual that new independent governments striving for democracy failed to implement it. Furthermore, it is questionable why Rose Revolution took place in Georgia. According to the report of CSCE, there were four elections in Caucasus happening at the same time: presidential and parliamentary elections in Armenia, presidential elections in Azerbaijan, and parliamentary elections in Georgia (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). All of them were characterized with the uprisings of the oppositions. In Armenia, opposition protested against the results of both elections but the protests were suppressed (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). In Azerbaijan, there were clashes between the protestors and police forces and again, the protests were repressed (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). However, in Georgia, opposition and society managed to overthrow the head of state which was the first such event in post-Soviet countries (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). But why did Georgia succeeded and its two neighboring countries did not? First of all, government of Georgia was extremely weakened by corruption as criminals were not threatened by the law (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). For instance, according to Thomas Adams, deputy coordinator for US assistance, “in 2003 corruption resulted in the loss of over 100 million GEL from the Georgian state budget” (Fawn, “Georgia: Revolution and War”). Subsequently, the government was not ready for a well organized demonstration as Shevardnadze had no competent control over the ruling apparatus anymore (“Georgia’s Rose
Revolution”). Secondly, the demonstration was very well organized mainly because of the uprising role of NGOs in Georgia. Freedom of NGOs had effective political influence (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). At the same time, Open Society Institute of the Soros Foundation financially assisted Georgia’s Liberty Institute whose few members traveled to Serbia to study in details Slobodan Milosevic’s case (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). Moreover, the Institute closely cooperated with student movement “Kmara” (Enough) that spread the news on the vote fraud (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). Thirdly, the most important element of the revolution was the fact that opposition leaders were united for the same aim which was not a case in Azerbaijan and Armenia (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). Fourthly, one of the largest broadcasting companies of Georgia, Rustavi-2 actively supported opposition and contributed to the establishment of public opinion (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). Finally, economically Georgia was devastated. As a member of Helsinki Commission, its condition was regressing while Baku and Yerevan were experiencing progress (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). Eventually, Georgians decided that despite uncertainty, everything would be better than Shevardnadze’s government. It is essential to mention that the Rose Revolution had an important influence on other post-Soviet countries as it symbolized “peaceful conflict resolution” in which democracy gained victory (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). Saakashvili’s success created a warning for other governmental officials who were threatened by the idea of similar charismatic leaders in their countries fighting against corruption and repressive government (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”).
In January 2004, a charismatic leader, Mikheil Saakashvili won the presidential elections and ruled the country till 2012 with his United National Movement (UNM) party holding the majority of the seats in Parliament (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). In the legislative elections of March 2004, the UNM won 133 seats out of 150 in Parliament while on January 4th, 2004, Mikheil Saakashvili was elected as the third president of Georgia with 1,027,070 votes (“GEO105151.E”). The main campaign of the UNM was “institutionalizing anticorruption measures and seeking to reunite South Ossetia and Abkhazia by reordering Georgia’s relations with Russia” (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). Additionally, the movement is reformist, striving for establishing close relations with NATO and the EU. On February 6th, 2004, the Parliament adopted constitutional amendments which granted more power to legislature and executive as Georgia’s president now was able to “dissolve parliament” (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). At the same time, position of Prime Minister was created and was given to Zurab Zhvania. Saakashvili started his fight against corruption with imprisoning former governmental officials, including Shevardnadze’s son-in-law who was freed after donating $15 million to the state (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). The President also began his campaign against crime. On March 12th, 2004, he arrested an Orthodox priest, Basil Mkalavishvili,
who since 1999 had been physically attacking religious minorities in Georgia, especially Jehovah (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). This act of Saakashvili has been the first step towards protection of minorities in Georgia. One of the most important steps towards reunification of Georgia was restoration of control over the region of Adjara whose de facto leader, Aslan Abashidze escaped to Moscow on May 6th, 2004 (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). After gaining control over Adjara, Saakashvili’s next aim was South Ossetia where leaders in Tskhinvali opposed to it, warning to respond with violence as their aim was uniting with Northern Ossetia within the territories of Russia (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). This became one of the reasons of war for South Ossetia (“Georgia’s Rose Revolution”). Saakashvili was elected for the second term in January 2008 and the UNM received 119 seats out of 150 in Parliament in May 2008 (“GEO105151.E”). At the same time, the party won 66% of the vote nationwide in June 2010 (“GEO105151.E”). During Saakashvili’s administration, the government also improved taxation system and provided public goods which increased level of economic development (Cecire, “Georgia”). Additionally, his government was very effective in empowering governmental institutions and decreasing the level of criminality (Cecire, “Georgia”). At the same time, Saakashvili played an important role in making Georgia internationally more active through establishing relations with the EU, NATO and the UN (Cecire, “Georgia”). 170 Georgian soldiers, for instance, joined ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) mission in November 2009 in Kabul (“Wounded and Killed Georgian Soldiers”). Alongside, the positive results of his administration, Saakashvili’s way of ruling the country involved authoritative features. Power was in the hands of the elites involved in the UNM party (Cecire, “Georgia”). Use of authoritarianism was also represented in the violations of the rights to private property (Cecire, “Georgia”). Confiscation of the private property without a sufficient reason alongside the obligatory fees for the businessmen who were threatened with the loss of their businesses was a frequent tool used by the UNM party (Cecire, “Georgia”). Moreover, economic development within the country did not improve the living standards of the poor population. Additionally, the situation worsened during Georgian-Russo war for South Ossetia that ended up with one more occupied territory within Georgian borders (Cecire, “Georgia”). Subsequently, elections of 2012 brought to power the coalition of Georgian Dream (GD) which received 54.97% of the vote and gained 85 seats in the Parliament (“GEO105151.E”). On the contrary, the UNM party managed to gather only 40.34% of votes (“GEO105151.E”). The GD coalition was led by the billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili who held the position of the Prime Minister (Cecire, “Georgia”). It would be wrong to say that the victory of GD was surprising. The reason is that prior to the elections, the GD coalition broadcasted videos showing torture of prisoners during the UNM government (GeorgianNewsTV, “Georgian Prisoners Torture”). This represented the human rights
violations occurring during Saakashvili’s rule and helped GD coalition to win the elections (Cecire, “Georgia”).As the presidential elections were held only in 2013, Georgia was in need of peaceful cohabitation between the party and President Saakashvili, as any conflict would worsen political and economic situation of the country. However, peaceful cohabitation was interrupted by the discovery of arms in different parts of Tbilisi claimed to be hidden by the former Ministers of Georgia (“Georgia: Making Cohabitation Work,” 2). After the complete alternation of power, Giorgi Margvelashvili has been the president of Georgia since 2013 (Cecire, “Georgia”). An interesting fact is that he is not a member of any political party. New government started campaign of “restorative justice” that targeted former UNM members for their crimes. Subsequently, most of the former ministers left the country, including the former President Saakashvili who fled to Ukraine (Cecire, “Georgia”).
Since 2013, two Prime Ministers were replaced, leaving Giorgi Kvirikashvili – the former Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development – on the position. Despite the fact that Ivanishvili is not a Prime Minister anymore, he still remains active in the political sphere of the country. This has become the reason of the on-going disputes between the GD and UNM as the latter blames Ivanishvili for remaining in power through “informal ways” (Cecire, “Georgia”). Today, Georgia’s governmental situation is not at its best phase. Even though during the four-year reign GD government did not bring sufficient socioeconomic improvements and weakened private investments, it still won the 2016 elections on October 8th with 48.768% of the vote and received 115 seats in Parliament. On the contrary, the UNM party gathered only 27.11% of votes and received 27 seats. Apart from these parties, the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia (APG) gained 5.01% with 6 seats and Industry Will Save Georgia (MGS) – 0.78% with 1 seat (Cecire, “Georgia”). According to the World Bank facts, independence of judiciary system alongside democratic character of electoral system remained the same while condition of civil society worsened (Cecire, “Georgia”). Fortunately, at the same time, National and Local Democratic Governance have become more liberal, while corruption decreased and democracy increased (Cecire, “Georgia”).
ABKHAZ-GEORGIAN AND RUSSO-GEORGIAN WARS
Despite the fact that there is 17-years difference between these two armed conflicts, both of them have similar causes and consequences. On August 14, 1992, a civil war broke out between a region of Abkhazia and the newly independent Republic of Georgia. The sixteen-month conflict was between Abkhaz forces aided by intervener Russian Federation and the government of Georgia “in the form of National Guard, paramilitaries and volunteers” (“Georgia/Abkhazia: Violations of the
Laws of War and Russia’s Role in the Conflict.”). The Abkhaz fought for independence while Georgia tried to maintain control over its region. Throughout the Soviet era, Abkhazians have been seeking freedom from Georgia, as they were dissatisfied that all major economic, administrative and political decisions related to their region were made in Tbilisi. Moreover, this anxiety was worsened by the demographic situation in Abkhazia, as Georgians according to the data of 1989, composed 45.70% of the whole population while Abkhazians – only 17.70% (“Demographic Situation in Abkhazia”). After several rebellions, in July 1992, Abkhazians replaced an existing constitution with the “long dormant 1925 Constitution”1 which declared Abkhazia a sovereign republic (“Georgia/Abkhazia: Violations of the Laws of War and Russia’s Role in the Conflict.”). In response to this, Georgian military occupied the capital of Abkhazia, Sukhumi in order to enforce Abkhazian leadership to obey to the regional center of Gudauta2. Over the next year, Abkhazians have been supported by military troops coming from the Confederation of the Mountain People of the Caucasus (CMPC) and local Russian military units. This assistance made Abkhazians able to re-establish control over the territory up to the Russian-Georgian border (Kozhokin, “Chapter 5: Georgia-Abkhazia”). According to Moscow, Russia’s actions in the war of Abkhazia were solely for purpose of humanitarian intervention as Georgians have tried to ethnically cleanse Abkhazia from Abkhaz people (Roudik, “Russian Federation: Legal Aspects of War in Georgia.”). From the Abkhaz perspective, Abkhazia was forced to join Georgia in 1931(Kvarchelia, “An Abkhaz Perspective”). Subsequently, after the collapse of the USSR, Abkhazians considered it rightful to receive independence. On the other hand, Georgian government insisted on the “central authority of the union state with authority to delegate responsibilities to Abkhazia”(Kvarchelia, “An Abkhaz Perspective”). As a result, compromise has been hard to achieve. Abkhazia only agrees to negotiate on the issue of legal relations with Georgia and rejects any attempts of the dialogue on the issue of incorporation of Abkhazia within Georgian territory (Kvarchelia, “An Abkhaz Perspective”). According to the Abkhaz officials, despite not signing it, Georgia accepted this type of compromise presented by the UN Special Envoy Eduard Brunner in Geneva in April 1994 (Kvarchelia, “An Abkhaz Perspective”). Additionally, Georgian government did sign the Declaration on Measures for a Political Settlement which was confirmed by the UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali(Kvarchelia, “An Abkhaz Perspective”). In his report of May 3rd, 1994, Boutros-Ghali stated that the UN will put much effort in order to help Abkhazia gain sovereign rights through negotiations(Kvarchelia, “An Abkhaz Perspective”). Since July, 1997, relations between Georgia and Abkhazia has become critical because Georgia refused signing the protocol prepared under Russian mediation, referring to “joint action’ in the fields of foreign policy and foreign economic ties, border guard and customs arrangements, transport and communications, ecology, energy and insuring human and civic rights” with Abkhazia (Kvarchelia, “An Abkhaz Perspective”). According to the records of 1,000 respondents interviewed by Medium Orient in April-May 2016, 27% of Abkhaz population supports the idea of being autonomous within Russia. On the contrary, 45% of the population desire full independence while 16% of Abkhazians want Abkhazia to be a part of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) (Tekushev, “Pro-Russian Trend in Abkhazia”). It is also important to mention that 48% of Armenian respondents and 56% of Russian respondents are willing to see autonomous Abkhazia within Russian territory (Tekushev, “Pro-Russian Trend in Abkhazia”). Subsequently, it becomes clear that there is a significant difference in the opinions of nationally diverse population of Abkhazia.
Relations between Georgia and Russia have been unstable since the Abkhazian war. These relations were worsened after the Bucharest Summit where the possible membership of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was discussed (Asmus, 2010). Eventually, Russo-Georgian diplomatic ties ended when in August 2008, Georgian and South Ossetian forces clashed (Asmus, 2010). On August 7th 2008, another civil war broke out between Georgia and South Ossetia caused by on-going casualties among Georgian militias and South Ossetia’s separatists who represented danger for the whole region. South Ossetia, similarly to Abkhazia desired independence for a long time and was supported by Russia for years. From the first day of war, Russia started sending its troops and arms to the province claiming that its primary aim was to protect Russian citizens of South Ossetia as Georgian actions in the region were “acts of aggression” (Roudik, “Russian Federation: Legal Aspects of War in Georgia.”). From the first day of war, Mikheil Saakashvili ordered Georgian armed forces to attack Russian forces entering Georgia through Roki Tunnel 3and heading towards the city of Tskhinvali4 (Asmus, 2010). On the one hand, Georgian troops aimed to stop South Ossetian militias from attacking villages populated mostly by Georgians in South Ossetia. On the other hand, Georgian military forces had to stop Russian troops who invaded Shida Kartli 5and Gori 6within sovereign Georgian territory (Asmus, 2010).
Both of the above described conflicts are similar to each other with only one difference: in accordance to the statistics, majority of Abkhazians (around 58%) and South Ossetians (around 75%) see the collapse of the Soviet Union as a big mistake (Toal and O’Loughlin, “How People in
South Ossetia”); at the same time, around 85% of Abkhazians and 85% of South Ossetians strongly trust Russian leadership (Toal and O’Loughlin, “How People in South Ossetia”); however, in contrast to 80% of Abkhazians who want to gain independence, 80% of South Ossetians are willing to integrate with Russia (Toal and O’Loughlin, “How People in South Ossetia”).
Today, the situation on the occupied territories is very critical as there are evidences of ethnic cleansing against Georgians in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Both of the provinces are occupied by Russian militias. International organizations alongside eye-witnesses state that there is on-going execution of Georgians including women and children (“Ethnic Cleansing of Georgians”). In the Tskhinvali region, numerous cases of rape have been reported committed by Ossetia’s militia in the hostage camps. Those who were physically incapable of leaving the region were captured as hostages and later, exchanged for prisoners of war (“Ethnic Cleansing of Georgians”). Houses and private property owned by Georgian settlers of South Ossetia have been destructed and confiscated after the war. Small villages have been destroyed alongside bridges, mining and administrative border in order not to let Georgian refugees return to the provinces (“Human Rights in the Occupied Territories of Georgia,” 1-3).According to the leader of the South Ossetian separatist movement, Eduard Kokoity, ethnic cleansing ensures that Georgians will not be able to return to their homes(Parfitt, “Human Rights Watch: Russia inflating casualty figures”). Moreover, Chairman of the Supreme Council of South Ossetia ZnaurGassiev stated that “Georgians will no more return here – we burned all their houses in the enclaves”(Parfitt, “Human Rights Watch: Russia inflating casualty figures”).Additionally, Russian and Ossetian troops carried outmurders of ethnic Georgians and destruction of their villages outside the conflict zone in Gori and Kareli.7 Russia regards these areas as “security/buffer zone” (“Ethnic Cleansing of Georgians”). However, the area is not safe as people are still attacked by South Ossetians and are in need of protection. In accordance to the Human Rights Watch, their researchers “witnessed terrifying scenes of destruction in four villages that used to be populated exclusively by ethnic Georgians. According to the few remaining local residents, South Ossetian militias that were moving along the road looted the Georgian villages and set them on fire…” (“Georgian Villages in South Ossetia Burnt, Looted”).At the same time, Georgian inhabitants of the occupied territories are forced to give up their Georgian citizenship and receive Russian, Abkhazian or South Ossetian passports. Failure of doing so ends up with the exile of ethnic Georgians from the territories. Double citizenship on the occupied territories is possible only with Russian Federation. Subsequently, in South Ossetia, today, more than 90% of residents have Russian citizenship (“Human Rights in the Occupied Territories of
Georgia,” 3-5). As a consequence, OSCE Chairman, Alexander Stubb stated that South Ossetians “are clearly trying to empty southern Ossetia of Georgians” (“South Ossetia emptied of Georgians”). It becomes obvious that Russia as the country that is obliged to protect citizens of the de facto territory, fails to fulfill its responsibilities while Georgia proves to be incapable to protect its citizens from the crimes mentioned above. As the Civil Registry Agency of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia states, 20,000 Georgians are unable to return to their homes in South Ossetia and Abkhazia while those who do, live under the constant fear(“Ethnic Cleansing of Georgians”). At the same time, Constitution of Georgia and the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child are being violated as Georgian children residing on the occupied territories are unable to be educated in their native language. Reports of the UN secretary-General and the UN Security Council state that Georgian books are purposefully burnt (“Human Rights in the Occupied Territories of Georgia,” 5-6). At the same time, Georgia received numerous reports on the kidnapping, robbery, and “frequent punitive raids” (“Georgia,” 4). According to the ODIHR/HCNM Report, “the de facto authorities in South Ossetia, including Russian military authorities, have placed undue restrictions on movement across the administrative boundaries, in contravention of OSCE commitments and other international obligations” (“Human Rights in the Occupied Territories of Georgia,” 7). Subsequently, freedom of movement is also restricted by Russian militias who prevent ethnic Georgian refugees to return to their homes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.Attempts to cross the borders leads to the arrest or physical abuse (“Human Rights in the Occupied Territories of Georgia,” 7-9). For instance, the recent event occurring at the Abkhazian-Georgian administrative border questions several issues. On May 19th 2016, a Georgian citizen, Giga Otkhozoriawas shot to death at the Georgian territory bysoldiers protecting Abkhazian border. According to the locals, the Georgian citizen was denied to send a package to his family in Abkhazia that lead to the dispute. After the conflict, the man was shot six times by the guards. At this time, the victim was still located on the Georgian-controlled territory (“Georgian man shot”). This incident once again shows how human rights are violated as a result of the conflicts. Despite the fact that Georgia blames Russia who is responsible for the Abkhaz occupied territory, it is possible to argue that Georgiais also guilty in this tragedy as it failed to provide adequate security to its controlled borders and protect its citizens. This event questions eligibility of R2P within Georgia. Even though territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are occupied and claim to be independent by Russian authorities, these provinces are still located within Georgian borders. Additionally, Georgia does not recognize independence of these regions and claims them to be the part of the country. Subsequently, as “the State carries the primary responsibility for protecting populations from genocide, war crimes,
crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing,” Georgia is responsible to protect its citizens from above mentioned discrimination and ill-treatment (“The Responsibility to Protect”).
SITUATION IN THE VILLAGE OF PEREVI – SACHKHERE DISTRICT
Perevi village is inhabited with 1,000 ethnic Georgians and borders the Java District of South Ossetia. Russian military created an illegal checkpoint within the village that allows South Ossetian militias alongside Russian armed forces enter the village and violate human rights of the local population. Existence of South Ossetian military forces in the village creates another possibility of ethnic cleansing. For this reason, inhabitants of Perevi are under the threat of joining other internally displaced persons. According to the Government of Georgia, these militias have a well-organized plan and strategy of attacking Georgian population through delivering tanks to the village and blocking the roads (“Ethnic Cleansing of Georgians”).
SITUATION IN AKHALGORI – A TOWN OF SOUTH OSSETIA
Situation in Akhalgori is very cautionary. In 2008, the Civil Registry Agency at the Ministry of Justice of Georgia accounted the registration of 5,368 internally displaced persons from this town. All ethnic Georgians holding job positions were fired and replaced by South Ossetian officials who control the ethnic cleansing plan that is carried out systematically. At the same time, these officials cooperate with militias and commit robbery of Georgians who have no one to protect them as even Ossetian police supports these abuses. One of the most terrible facts is that South Ossetian militias do not mercy even children. They attack schools, physically abuse teachers and students and destroy classrooms. Moreover, teachings at schools are done in Russian only, as Georgian language is prohibited. The town is isolated from the rest of the country as borders are closed preventing people crossing them (“Ethnic Cleansing of Georgians”). In accordance to the interview of the Russian military commander in South Ossetia, Colonel A. V. Tarasov, “there was in fact the desire among the South Ossetian troops to expel ethnic Georgians from the region” (“Humanitarian consequences of the armed conflict in the South Caucasus”).
ATTEMPTS TO RESOLVE THE CONFLICTS
In order to solve this conflict with Russia, Georgia believes that both of the countries should act according to the International Law. Subsequently, on August 12th, 2008, Georgia brought the case in front of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and accused Russian Federation alongside South Ossetian officials of violation International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discriminationthem (“Ethnic Cleansing of Georgians”). However, despite this fact, things have not improved. According to the UPR Report, even today, intervention of Georgia into the issues of the occupied territories is limited due to the poor “communication sources”(“Georgia,” 5). One of the
main reasons alongside burnt and destroyed bridges is the fact that since 2009, Russia lengthened the fence stretching along the 63 km occupation line. Restriction on the freedom of movement is especially intensified in Gali District of Abkhazia (“Georgia,” 4). Despite this fact, Georgian Government is actively involved in providing protection of the human rights on the occupied territories through the Geneva International Discussions, Co-Chaired by the UN, EU, and OSCE(4). In 2014 Georgia published Action Plan that proposes new strategies in order to protect human rights outside and within the occupied territories (5). According to the Article 17, “all necessary measures to protect the rights of persons living in the occupied territories of Georgia, through the use of bilateral and multilateral international, legal instruments” must be undertaken (“National Strategy for the Protection of Human Rights in Georgia,” 21). However, Georgia still realizes that “it cannot provide security and protection of the population in the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia” (“Statement”).On September 6th 2016, the UN General Assembly held an Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect, where Chargé affairs of the Permanent Mission of Georgia to the United Nations, VakhtangMakharobishvili talked about the urgent necessity to implement R2P principles within Georgia. He claimed that “common efforts” are essential to remove challenges in order to establish R2P Principle in the country. At the same time, according to Mr. Makharobishvili, Georgia is in need for the international assistance to protect human rights within occupied territories as Russia blocks any access to international monitoring mechanisms including the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM). Moreover, Russia does not let any organizations enter Abkhazia and South Ossetia (“Statement”).
Today, Georgia continues its commitments in implementing Responsibility to Protect within the three-pillar framework. According to the Counselor at the Permanent Mission of Georgia to the United Nations, Ms. Inga Kanchaveli, the first pillar of R2P that suggests protection of the population by the state can be divided into two phases in Georgia’s case: 1) Protection of Georgian citizens within the occupied territories; and 2) “general state building aimed at inter alia creating safeguards for preventing the situations conducive to the mass atrocities”(“Statement,” 2) As the second pillar of Responsibility to Protect obliges international community to assist the country with fulfilling its responsibilities, Georgia actively participates in the experience-sharing process through the Open Government Partnership initiative to establish a “transparent, efficient and accountable government” (2). At the same time, Georgia participates in decision-making for supporting UN General Assembly’s humanitarian resolutions. However, the key point to remember is that because Georgia has failed to fulfill the first two pillars of R2P, as it unsuccessfully attempted to protect its population on the occupied territories while assistance of the EU and the UN did not bring much improvements, the third pillar needs to be implemented within the country. As on the Informal
Interactive Dialogue of September 2013 the UN Secretary-General urged international actors to work collectively on the prevention of mass atrocities, Ms. Kanchaveli warned international community on the possibility of these crimes happening on the occupied territories of Georgia if international community does not intervene.
VICTIMS OF WARS IN GEORGIA
On May the 2nd, 2014, the Parliament of Georgia adopted an Anti-Discrimination Law.
According to the Article 1:
“this law is intended to eliminate every form of discrimination and to ensure equal rights of every natural and legal persons under the legislation of Georgia, irrespective of race, skin color, language, sex, age, citizenship, origin, place of birth or residence, property or social status, religion or belief, national, ethnic or social origin, profession, marital status, health, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, political or other opinion, or other characteristics” (“LAW OF GEORGIA ON THE ELIMINATION OF All FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION”)
REFUGEES AND INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS) OF GEORGIA
According to the Government Decree No.169, Georgia created the Interagency Council for Human Rights Strategy and published an Action Plan devoted to the protection of Georgian citizens’ human rights. The Strategy was established with the help of NGOs and independent organizations and it covers different objectives: 1) Recognition of obstacles “in the field of respect for human rights” across the whole country including occupied territories; 2) Definition of the process of strategy implementation; and 3) Description of mechanisms which help to implement the strategies (”Georgia,”5). This Strategy is especially necessary to create a safe environment for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees the number of who equals 262,704. In order to guarantee their safety, the government tends to strengthen the rights of IDPs through The State Strategy on IDPs and the Action Plan for the implementation of the State Strategy (Government Decree N127 04/02/2015), the Livelihood Strategy (Government Decree N257 13/02/2014) and the Law of Georgia on Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories of Georgia (implemented on 01/03/2014) (10). These actions provide IDPs with housing, equal social rights, state insurance, and improvement of living conditions. Order N320 on Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia of the Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories guarantees “provision of accommodation” and the “transfer of ownerships” (10).In order to reduce the number of stateless individuals within the country, the Georgian government adopted the Organic Law on Citizenship based on the principles of the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness also ratified on April 2, 2014 (11). Moreover, the law of September 1, 2014, on the Legal Status of Aliens and Stateless Persons led to the creation of identity cards to asylum seekers that also equals to residence permit (11). With the help of the Action Plan and the National Migration Strategy of Georgia for 2013-2015, the government tends to develop the process of integration for refugees and humanitarian status holders. For instance, Georgian legislature declares that refugees, asylum seekers, and humanitarian status holders have the same rights to healthcare and education as Georgian citizens. Moreover, they receive financial aid in order to afford accommodations. According to the Law of Georgia on the State Budget of 2015, every refugee or humanitarian status holder receives monthly payment of 45 GEL8 (11). In the case of internally displaced Persons and refugees coming from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it had been reported by the UNHCR office in Georgia that 88% of them desire to return to their homes. However, Georgia still fails to return IDPs and refugees to their hometowns because of the refusal of the occupied territories to negotiate.
Georgia actively works on decreasing discrimination based on ethnicity. The state policy related to ethnic minorities is being processed by the Office of the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality.As the National Concept for Tolerance and Civic Integration alongside Action Plan for 2009-2014 expired, new Civic Equality and Integration Strategy with Action Plan for 2015-2020 have been created (“Georgia,” 15). The new Civic Equality and Integration Strategy pays more attention to the issue of equality, makes sure that ethnic minorities are fully participating in public life, and aims to preserve their cultural identities such as language (15). This strategy also has a more developed plan on integrating Roma minorities into the education sector. Today, there are 213 non-Georgian language schools and 77 non-Georgian language sectors within the country (15). The Ministry of Education and Science approves the translation of school textbooks for grades I-IV into Armenian, Russia and Azeri. Moreover, in thesenon-Georgian schools ethnic minorities intensively learn Georgian in order to easily integrate into society. Apart from education, ethnic minorities can listen to the radio and watch some television programs in Armenian, Russian, Azerbaijani, Abkhazian, and Ossetian. At the same time, a weekly television program “Our Yard” is dedicated to the issue of tolerance. Ethnic minorities had unlimited right to vote during the 2012 Parliamentary, the 2013 Presidential and the 2014 Local Governmental elections. Furthermore, 8 individuals
represent them in the Georgian Parliament (15-16). Apart from education and politics, the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia implements the program “Supporting the Culture of National Minorities” alongside encouraging intracultural dialogues (16).
From the facts mentioned above, it is possible to claim that Georgia is actively engaged in supporting refugees, humanitarian status holders, internally displaced persons, and ethnic minorities. The Georgian government also adopted the State Migration Plan in order to improve mechanisms that help refugees and humanitarian status holders to integrate into society, develop asylum system, and gather more detailed information about the country of origin of refugees and asylum seekers. At the same time, in order to gain more experience in this issue, the government cooperates with the Human Rights Council. It takes parts in the sessions and human rights and humanitarian resolutions. Additionally, Georgia regularly prepares reports for the UN human rights treaty bodies and carefully attempts to implement all the recommendations given. In May 2014, the former High Commissioner, Pillay, arrived to Georgia upon the invitation of the Government in order to discuss human rights situation within the country, mainly the competence of judiciary branch of the country. Moreover, Georgia welcomed the Working Group on arbitrary detention (2011), a Special Rapporteur on the freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (2012), a Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs (2010, 2013), and a Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment (2015) (“Georgia,” 19). These events symbolize Georgia’s will to gain more experience in the field of human rights in order to increase their values within the nation. As a consequence, Georgia succeeds in implementing legislative and institutional recommendations related to human rights. At the same time, for promoting human rights and supporting the HRC, Georgia proposed its candidature for membership of the HRC for 2016-2018 (20).
Despite these facts, Amnesty International declares that Georgia has to improve its strategies and mechanisms in order to protect ethnic and religious minorities more sufficiently. In 2015, Amnesty International published some recommendations in order to improve Georgian government’s competence in this issue. Firstly, the NGO suggests that the government is obliged to thoroughly investigate crimes against minorities. Secondly, Amnesty International claims that crimes against ethnic and religious minorities should be “publicly condemned to send a clear message that such violence will not be tolerated” (“Georgia 2015/2016”). Thirdly, Georgian government should ensure that every representative of ethnic and religious minorities have rights to religious practice without any discrimination, in accordance to the Human Rights Convention. Fourthly, ethnic minorities should have access to fair trial. Finally, in the case of abuses committed
by policemen, governmental authorities should carry on investigation and pay compensation to the victims (“Georgia 2015/2016”).
HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN GEORGIA SINCE 2011
POLICY AGAINST ILL-TREATMENT
From the event of 2012, when whole Georgia saw the videos of torture in Georgian prisons, the new government adopted the Action Plan against torture. The Plan consists of four chapters. First chapter aims to improve procedural, legislative, and institutional mechanisms to prevent torture. Second chapter obliges government officials to carry on investigations against the perpetrators of violence. Third chapter states that victims of torture must be rehabilitated and must receive compensation while fourth chapter concludes the Action Plan with raising awareness against torture and ill-treatment (“Georgia,” 7-8). However, despite this improvement, Amnesty International reports that there have been some issues related to the ill-treatment committed by law enforcement officials. The investigation of these crimes have been slow and ineffective while recommendations related to the improved investigation mechanisms given by the human rights Ombudsman and NGOs were not adopted immediately. For this reason, Amnesty International published some recommendations for Georgia to decrease the level of torture and other type of ill-treatment mainly towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals as the latest hate crime against them happened in 2016, when a transgender was burnt alive in the apartment. In accordance to the first recommendation, Georgia must ensure investigation of ill-treatment against LGBTI people and fully implement justice against those who are responsible for crimes. Secondly, Georgia should make sure that LGBTI people have freedom of expression and their rights are respected (“Georgia 2015/2016”).
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND RELIGION
International treaties alongside the Constitution of Georgia and the Law of Georgia of Speech and Expression protects freedom of speech of every individual within the country. At the same time, Constitution of Georgia preserves everyone’s freedom of thought, religion, and belief (“Georgia,” 8). Additionally, in order to improve mechanisms guaranteeing religious freedom, Georgia created the State Agency for Religious Issues in 2014. This Agency aims to provide the government with “research, analytical and advisory activities” (9).It is also important to remember that Georgia is not legally obliged to pay compensation for the harm done by the Soviet regime. Despite this fact, in
accordance to the Government Decree of 2014, Georgia paid GEL 1,750,000 9to the Muslim, Jewish, Roman-Catholic, and Armenian ethnic and religious minorities (9).
Apart from religious freedom, Georgian Criminal Code guarantees rights of journalists to independently do their job. At the same time, Georgia has adopted Freedom of Information Act which ensures that every Georgian citizen has right to receive information on every issue related to the country (9). However, the issue related to the freedom of expression has to be questioned after the still-ongoing conflict with one of Georgia’s most popular broadcasting company, Rustavi2. As the company is oppositional to the Georgian Dream coalition, Tbilisi court decided to open the case against the “opposition-affiliated” owners of the company, mainly because Rustavi 2’s support for the UNM creates danger to the GD coalition (“Georgia Country Report,” 4). This event questions media freedom and competence of the rule of law within the country. These concerns were not left ignored by the local NGOs and Amnesty International. On October 21st, it was reported that the director of Rustavi 2 was blackmailed by the security services (“Georgia 2015/2016”).This undermines Georgia’s ability to ensure people’s access to information and freedom of expression which also makes democratic principles of the country more fragile.
JUSTICE AND FAIR TRIAL
There are numerous evidences proving that justice during the reign of the ex-president, Mikheil Saakashvili was privatized while trials were unfair. Subsequently, new President, Giorgi Margvelashvili has begun to implement new judiciary reforms since 2012. The primary aim of these reforms is to remove the political character from judiciary branch of the government and make High Council of Justice alongside some judicial institutions more independent (“Georgia,” 6). Judges are being actively involved in the formation and implementation of these reforms which made court hearings more transparent and organized. Subsequently, independence of judges from political pressure aims to make trials fairer for every Georgian citizen (7). Despite this fact, some events prove that system of justice still needs to be improved and developed as politically motivated persecutions continue to occur. One of the most controversial events related to this issue was the case of Gigi Ugulava, the former Mayor of Tbilisi who was released in September. In 2013, he went through the pre-trial arrest as he was accused of money laundering. However, his detention was illegal as it lasted longer than the imposed limit of nine months. Judges who made the decision to release Mr. Ugulava on September 17th, were threatened. Subsequently, this led to the imprisonment of Mr. Ugulava the very next day for four and a half years. Eventually, this case symbolizes how “the different branches of State power… acted in concert in preventing justice
from being done” (“Georgia 2015/2016”). It would be justifiable to state that this case questions Georgia’s ability to protect the rights of its citizens.
RIGHTS OF CHILDREN AND WOMEN
According to the Child Protection Index of Georgia 2015 Georgia has one of the strongest child protection systems among the post-Soviet countries, especially, compared to Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, and Serbia (13). By 2015, Georgia remains a low level of children who are separated from their families, low level of children who live in “state-run institutions,” and 64% of children living in a foster care (13). These improvements are the results of Georgia’s cooperation with UNICEF and the EU who together completed the first Georgian Juvenile Justice Code (14). At the same time, the government works on developing programs for homeless children and children with disabilities. However, Georgian system of child’s protection has one disadvantage. It does not provide children living under the care of NGOs and Georgian Orthodox Church with protection, collection of data, and monitoring. Subsequently, the Child Protection Index of Georgia 2015 recommends the state to collect data on every child “living in private placements” and monitor them in order to decrease level of abuse in private placements (14).
As gender equality is one of the main problems in Georgia, the Parliament adopted the National Action Plan on Gender Equality for 2014-2016. The Plan was created in accordance to the Council of Europe’s Gender Equality Strategy 2014-2016 (“Georgia,” 14). According to UNDP Resident Representative in Georgia, Shombi Sharp, “gender equality has become a priority for the Georgian Government. In fact, a lot of progress has been made already in terms of new policies and legislation. But now it is time to translate this into real change – to bring more women into politics, close the wage gap and increase the number of female entrepreneurs. Evidence shows that across the world, where this is achieved, everybody wins, from women and their families to the welfare and development of the country” (“National Action Plan on Gender Equality: Annual Results”).The Action Plan aims to end traditional gender stereotypes, provide both genders with equal access to justice and public participation, increase the number of women in the different employment sectors, mainly in politics, and guarantee equal wages for both genders holding the same job positions(“Georgia,” 14). The results of Action Plan have been positive as, for instance, in 2015 a chairperson of the Supreme Court of Georgia became a woman. However, it should be remembered that a significant progress cannot be achieved in a short time period. In other words, women are still undermined in Georgian society, despite the fact that Georgian government works hard on this issue. One of the main obstacles to overcome in order to reach gender equality is domestic violence.
The UN research estimated that every 11 Georgian married woman is a victim of domestic violence through physical or psychological way. At the same time 75% of women claim that domestic violence is a private matter rather than public. As the situation became worse, the government published the National Action Plan for 2013-2015 on Elimination of Domestic Violence. The Plan seeks to improve mechanisms to prevent domestic violence and protect women, support victims in rehabilitation process, and raise awareness on this issue (14-15).
In conclusion, today, it is possible to state that Georgia is a democratic state. However, its democracy faces a lot challenges because of different reasons. The situation that takes place on the occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia questions Georgia’s ability to protect its citizens. Oppression against ethnic Georgians on those territories can be justifiably named as ethnic cleansing. It can be stated that both Georgia and international community have failed to fulfill their responsibility to protect. Georgia does not hide the fact that it is unable to prevent ethnic cleansing on her own. Subsequently, not once, Georgian officials asked international community to intervene. However, as Russian militaries closed any ways for the international organizations to monitor situation within the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia while none of the representatives of the occupied territories are willing to negotiate, the implementation of the second pillar of R2P alongside the first one proved to be unsuccessful. As a consequence, Georgia attempts to persuade international community to take action according to the third pillar of R2P if the world does not want to witness one more genocide. Apart from that, the case of Giga Otkhozoria proves that Georgia is incompetent to protect its own borders from human rights violations. It can be argued that in order to avoid cases such as the one mentioned above, Georgia should strengthen its border security, especially by South Ossetia and Abkhazia. However, it is important to recognize the improvements on the issue of human rights within the rest of Georgia. There are numerous NGOs that aim to strengthen human rights in the country. One of them is International Centre of Conflict and Negotiation (ICCN) that emphasizes importance of conflict prevention in the Caucasus region, especially in Georgia. The organization aims to improve level of democracy within civil society, spread tolerance and human rights, and work on peacebuilding. However, despite this fact, Georgia still needs to cooperate with international actors to strengthen human rights within the country through different forums and experience-sharing.
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