Georgia should step up the fight against discrimination and better guarantee workers’ rights and the human right to a healthy environment

“Georgia has taken significant steps to strengthen workers' rights, including by adopting comprehensive legislation and establishing a labour inspectorate. However, increased efforts and additional measures are needed to combat the negative impact of a decade of deregulation on occupational safety and health, ensure better working conditions for all workers, reduce the gender pay gap and promote non-discriminatory access to the labour market for persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups,” said Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović today after a visit to Georgia from 21 to 23 February 2022.

During the visit, the Commissioner was informed that the recent rise of organised far-right and ultra-conservative groups in the public sphere, including politics, is already impacting the human rights of LGBTI persons, religious minorities and other groups living in the country. “I call on the Georgian authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure the protection of people targeted by these groups, including by publicly condemning any manifestation of intolerance and duly prosecuting and punishing all those responsible for hate speech and hate crimes,” she said. The Commissioner added that politicians, as well as community and religious leaders, should refrain from homophobic or otherwise hurtful and discriminatory rhetoric and promote respect for diversity and tolerance in society.

Georgia has implemented significant legal and institutional reforms over the past decade to prohibit violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but these provisions need to be complemented and properly implemented. LGBTI persons remain among the most vulnerable groups in Georgian society and face discrimination in many areas of life, as well as verbal and physical violence. This impacts the exercise of their right to peaceful assembly, as demonstrated by the violent attacks on journalists and LGBTI activists during the Tbilisi Pride celebrations on 5 July 2021. “Georgian authorities should take holistic and effective measures to prevent and combat LGBTIphobia and better protect the human rights of LGBTI persons,” the Commissioner said.

As regards religious minorities, the Commissioner recommended that the Georgian authorities not only better protect them from hate crimes and hate speech, but also intensify their efforts to promote genuine dialogue with all majority and minority religions and address a range of related issues, including access to places of worship, religious property and non-discrimination on religious grounds in schools.

Regarding the environment and human rights, while Georgia has taken some steps to ensure that major infrastructure projects are accompanied by environmental impact assessments, more attention should be paid to the human rights impacts of construction and hydropower projects. The Georgian authorities should involve all stakeholders, in particular individuals and communities directly affected by projects with environmental impacts, in a meaningful and transparent manner in decision-making on such projects and fully respect their freedom of assembly. This requires, for example, improving social and environmental impact assessments, ensuring a more structured decision-making process and improving oversight of the implementation of such projects.

In Tbilisi, the Commissioner met with President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Lasha Darsalia, Minister of Interior Vakhtang Gomelauri, Georgian State Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality Tea Akhmediani, Deputy Ministers for Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs Tamila Barkalaia and Ilia Ghudushauri, and Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture Otar Shamugia and his deputy Nino Tandilashvili. She also met with Deputy Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Archil Talakvadze and other members of Parliament. In addition, she met with Public Defender Nino Lomyaria and her deputies Giorgi Burjanadze and Ekaterine Skhiladze, as well as with representatives of civil society.

Finally, the Commissioner travelled to Zugdidi, where she met with the Chairman of the Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, Ruslan Abashidze, and spoke to people living there for a long time, including young people, who described to her the difficult circumstances of their displacement and their concerns about their integration into Georgian society and their access to housing, education and healthcare.

The Commissioner's report on her visit will be published shortly.