The EU and Georgia held the 14th round of their annual Human Rights Dialogue by videoconference on 6 July. This dialogue allowed again for an open, constructive exchange on the human rights situation in Georgia and on the latest developments with the EU’s policy on the promotion and protection of democracy and human rights.
The EU and Georgia recalled their commitment to the universality and indivisibility of human rights for all, without distinction of any kind, including on grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, property, birth, disability, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. They jointly condemned violent attacks against civil activists, community members and journalists on Monday in Tbilisi, which forced the cancellation of the LGBTIQ Pride March. These attacks are unacceptable. They reaffirmed that effective protection by the authorities of fundamental rights of freedom of assembly and expression is at the basis of any democracy. The EU and Georgia took note of Georgia’s confirmation that it had launched investigations into the violent attacks and that these investigations are ongoing. They also discussed the importance to make further efforts to address hate speech, incitement to hatred and intolerance.
They acknowledged that the Covid-19 pandemic and its socio-economic consequences have a growing negative impact on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, including on civic space. It further deepens pre-existing inequalities and increases pressure on persons in vulnerable situations. They underlined that human rights, democracy and the rule of law will remain at the heart of the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The EU reaffirmed its support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders. The EU and Georgia expressed concerns about the dire human rights situation in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, especially with regard to arbitrary detentions restrictions to the right to freedom of movement, violation of property rights and education in mother tongue, ethnic discrimination towards Georgians. They called for the immediate and unconditional release of Zaza Gakheladze, Irakli Bebua and other illegally detained Georgian citizens. They addressed the persistent obstacles to a safe, voluntary and dignified return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes. The discussions focussed also on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the humanitarian situation on the ground and measures undertaken by the Government of Georgia to assist the local population. The participants acknowledged the importance of mitigating measures taken on the dividing line with Abkhazia region. The EU and Georgia underlined the importance of ending impunity in the latest cases of deprivation of life of Georgian citizens Archil Tatunashvili and Giga Otkhozoria.
The EU and Georgia recalled the ECHR Judgement in the case concerning the armed conflict between Georgia and Russia in August 2008 and its consequences, which ruled that after 12 August 2008 the Russian Federation, exercising effective control over the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, violated several provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights.
They reaffirmed that the Russian Federation had to implement its obligations under the 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement and stressed that the Geneva International Discussions should contribute to solving the human security and human rights challenges of people affected by the conflict. The EU and Georgia stressed the need for unhindered access by international humanitarian and human rights mechanisms of the relevant international organisations, as well as the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM), to both regions. The EU noted the decision of the Government of Georgia to launch an inclusive process of developing a comprehensive “Strategy for de-occupation and sustainable peaceful conflict resolution” including the ongoing strategic review of the reconciliation and engagement policy. The EU encouraged increased efforts in addressing the fate of missing persons with a view to giving closure. The EU reiterated its support to Georgia’s peace initiative “A Step to a Better Future” and its implementation.
The EU and Georgia discussed the situation of the rights of persons belonging to minorities and civic integration processes in Georgia. The EU welcomed the elaboration of the State Strategy for Civic Equality and Integration for 2021-2030 and encouraged its effective implementation to further improve the participation of persons belonging to ethnic minorities in all areas of public life and access to services.
The EU underlined the importance of the full and timely implementation of the Agreement signed on 19 April by the political parties in Georgia. It commended the progress achieved to date, particularly on electoral reforms, and called for swift implementation of remaining commitments.
Participants agreed on the importance of maintaining a free and pluralistic media environment, political pluralism, and ensuring the safety of journalists, as a prerequisite for the conduct of democratic elections, including in the context of the forthcoming local elections. The parties agreed on the importance of continuing to upholding the highest standards of protection to the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, including the right to peaceful protest.
The EU recalled the importance of combating all forms of discrimination and urged Georgia to increase efforts to end all forms of discrimination, including based on gender and sexual orientation, and called for protection and better integration of those in the most vulnerable situations, including LGBTI persons. The EU also encouraged Georgia to progress on legislation and coordinated efforts to deliver real benefits in the lives of persons with disabilities.
The EU noted progress made in combatting domestic violence and all violence against women, hate crimes and discrimination, and ensuring victim-centred investigations and encouraged further action to ensure full enjoyment of women’s rights. The EU recalled the importance of implementing commitments related to the Istanbul Convention. The participants discussed the importance of women’s economic empowerment and ways to remove barriers to equal participation and gender parity.
The valuable ongoing work of the National Human Rights institutions, including the Public Defender’s Office and the State Inspectorate Service, was also discussed. The EU and Georgia agreed on the important role of independent oversight bodies in promoting and protecting human rights and stressed the need to allocate adequate resources.
The EU welcomed significant progress in adopting legislative changes and implementing policy reforms to promote safety at work and establish an effective enforcement mechanism i.e. a full-fledged Labour Inspection Service, and stressed the importance of continuing work on protection of labour rights. The EU welcomed the entry into force of the Child Rights Code and the operationalisation of the Juvenile Justice Code, including important role played by the Juvenile Referral Center. The EU stressed the importance of finalising the deinstitutionalisation process. The best interests of the child should be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children.
The EU noted the considerable progress made and priority attached by Georgia in preventing torture and ill-treatment and the adoption of a relevant action plan. The EU also acknowledged that the Ministry of Justice adopted a strategy for reforms integrating a human rights based approach in the penitentiary and crime prevention systems and encouraged its effective implementation.
The EU encouraged a swift adoption of the National Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan 2021-30.The parties also agreed to continue further strengthening their good cooperation on human rights related matters in multilateral fora, including the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe and agreed on the importance of strengthening multilateralism.
In line with its policy of consulting civil society ahead of its meetings on human rights, the EU drew on the valuable input of Georgian and international NGOs and international and regional organisations active in Georgia.
The Georgian delegation was headed by Mr Teimuraz Janjalia, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs while the EU delegation was led by Mr Richard Tibbels, Head of Division in the European External Action Service. The next Human Rights Dialogue between the EU and Georgia is scheduled to take place in Brussels in 2022.