World Report 2023: Georgia |  Human Rights Watch

Media freedom suffered setbacks, there were numerous attacks against media professionals and the imprisonment of a critical television director. Other areas of concern included a lack of accountability for law enforcement abuses, illegal surveillance, unfair working conditions and violence against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

The European Union said it was making Georgia's candidacy for membership conditional on progress on 12 issues, many of which had to do with human rights.

Lack of accountability for law enforcement abuses

Abuses by law enforcement continued to go unpunished. In December 2021, Parliament hastily abolished the State Inspector's Service, an independent body investigating abuses by law enforcement agencies, and instead created two new separate bodies tasked with detecting abuses of power by law enforcement agencies and monitoring data protection, respectively.

The sudden decision followed the opening of an investigation by the state inspector general into possible abuses and violations of data protection laws against imprisoned ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili. Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović called on Parliament to reject the bill because it lacked “adequate consultation with relevant stakeholders.” [and] undermined the independent functioning of the body.”

As of October, the Ombudsman's Office had received 70 complaints of ill-treatment by prison staff or police. The authorities were investigating 61 of them. The office requested the investigative agency to initiate investigations into the remaining cases. At the time of writing, none of them had resulted in criminal prosecution.

In January, local television stations broadcast video footage showing a police officer beating a 17-year-old boy with hearing impairment in a subway station. One officer punched and punched the boy several times while another stood nearby without intervening. The state inspector general's office investigated and a court sentenced the officer to five years in prison in July.

In May, Giorgi Mzhavanadze, a leader of the youth protest group Shame Movement, claimed that police officers handcuffed him and physically and verbally abused him at a police station in Tbilisi after he arrived to pick up a traffic ticket. The Special Investigation Service, which investigates cases of abuse of power, opened an investigation, while the Interior Ministry claimed to have arrested Mzhavanadze for insubordination.

In June, Parliament hastily passed a controversial surveillance law. The bill introduced by the ruling party allows indefinite wiretapping and other surveillance of individuals without notification for 77 crimes, which now include human trafficking, inhuman or degrading treatment and drug-related crimes.

In August, the Venice Commission, an advisory body to the Council of Europe on constitutional issues, called on authorities to re-examine the legislation, saying that “covert surveillance should be considered an exception” and “should be worded cautiously and interpreted narrowly.” . the state.” The Georgian president vetoed the bill, but in September the ruling party overruled the veto.

In September, an opposition television channel, TV Pirveli, published leaked material that purportedly documented the state security service's massive surveillance of opposition parties for the benefit of the ruling party. The materials show the surveillance of leading politicians in public and private environments.

Media freedom

In May, a court sentenced Nika Gvaramia, director of Mtavari Arkhi TV – a leading critical television channel – to three years and six months in prison for abuse of power in management decisions while he was director of another private television channel. Authorities alleged that his management decisions resulted in less profit for the company. The decision was largely criticized by Georgian civil society as illegal and politically motivated. Georgia's public defender argued that a decision by a company's director, even if harmful, cannot be prosecuted and called for the case to be dismissed. In November, the appeals court upheld the decision.

There have been numerous attacks against journalists and interference with their work. In March, several attackers attacked Ema Gogokhia, a Mtavari Arkhi reporter, and her cameraman in Zugdidi as they filmed city employees removing a drawing of the Ukrainian flag from the facade of a political party's office. The Special Investigation Service (SIS) opened an investigation into the operation.

In June, two attackers attacked TV Pirveli cameraman Murman Zoidze in Batumi. The SIS arrested two people in connection with the incident.

In July, prosecutors opened an investigation into an incident in which a lawmaker allegedly physically assaulted TV Pirveli founder Vakhtang Tsereteli.

In May, three journalists fired from the Georgian state broadcaster Georgian Public Broadcasting accused the channel's management of censorship and “gross interference” in editorial policy, particularly in material critical of Russia. Days later, another former journalist from the station made similar allegations.

Labor rights

Despite recent legislative improvements, fair working conditions remain a problem in Georgia. Overtime regulations are weak, social protection is minimal, unions lack legal guarantees that would allow them to effectively negotiate systemic changes, and lack of resources hampers the effectiveness of the labor inspectorate.

Wages are effectively unregulated, leaving workers at risk of exploitation. The monthly minimum wage of 20 GEL (about $7) is twelve times lower than the subsistence level and has not been updated since 1999. Low wages are exacerbated by a work culture that normalizes wage theft. A report by the Georgia Fair Labor Platform, a coalition of unions and nongovernmental groups, found that 88 percent of workers had experienced at least one form of wage theft.

Healthcare workers, already overworked due to the Covid-19 pandemic, have been hit hard by wage theft. In 2022, the Labor Inspectorate found that 86 private clinics that received special funds to top up nurses' salaries had used the funds for other purposes. On a positive note, the government has increased the minimum wage for nurses in public clinics.

Workplace safety also remains a problem. According to the labor inspectorate, 23 workers died and 230 were injured in industrial accidents from January to September.

Sexual orientation and gender identity

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people continue to face harassment, discrimination and violence in Georgia. In May, a group of about 30 men attacked five transgender women in their home in Tbilisi. The attackers, armed with stones and bricks, attacked the women and their landlord, damaged their house and threatened to kill them. At the time of writing, an investigation was ongoing.

In July, the Tbilisi City Court fined three people for raids on the offices of Tbilisi Pride, an LGBT rights group, during mass anti-LGBT attacks in July 2021 that resulted in dozens of injuries and the cancellation of the Pride march. The court acquitted the defendants of the more serious charges of persecution and organized group violence. In total, police arrested 31 people over the violence. Courts sentenced 26 people to prison for violence against journalists covering the events. However, they failed to identify and prosecute the organizers of the mass violence.

In December 2021, the European Court of Human Rights found that Georgia violated freedom of association and the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment and discrimination in 2013 when authorities failed to protect peaceful protesters from homophobic and transphobic violence. On May 17, 2013, violent mobs attacked a group of activists attempting to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, injuring dozens.

Women's rights

From January to August, the public prosecutor's office reported 13 cases of femicide and 11 attempted murders of women by family members. The Human Rights Center, a local human rights group, said courts often release on bail abusive partners who continue to threaten survivors.

In November 2021, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) found that Georgia violated several articles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in the Khanum Jeiranova case. Jeiranova died in 2014 after experiencing public humiliation and violence at the hands of her community. CEDAW found that Georgia had, among other things, failed to investigate and punish those responsible for Jeiranova's abuse and death and failed to protect them from gender discrimination.

Important international players

In response to Georgia's application for membership, the European Council in June declared its intention to grant the country candidate status once Georgia meets the 12 priorities set by the European Commission. These include, among others, combating political polarization, strengthening the independence and accountability of all state institutions, ensuring an independent judiciary, ensuring the independence and pluralism of the media, protecting the rights of vulnerable groups and strengthening the equality rights of vulnerable groups and improving gender equality.

In June, the European Parliament adopted a resolution deploring the “significant deterioration” of media freedoms in Georgia, including intimidation, violence and “politically motivated criminal investigations against media workers and owners,” and condemned the detention of Gvaramia.

Also in June, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued three arrest warrants for war crimes committed during the 2008 conflict between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia. The arrest warrants target three members of South Ossetia's de facto government for unlawful detention, torture and inhumane treatment, violation of personal dignity, hostage-taking and unlawful rendition. The suspects have not been arrested and are believed to be currently in an area controlled by South Ossetian or Russian authorities. In 2023, the ICC Prosecutor's Office expects to downsize the investigation in Georgia and focus its efforts on executing the three arrest warrants.

In September, the UN Human Rights Committee called on the government to investigate human rights violations and hold perpetrators accountable, increase efforts to combat violence against women, and protect people from discrimination and violence based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

In June, U.S. officials expressed support for the country's democratic aspirations but also “deep concerns about Georgia's democratic trajectory.”

Following her visit in February, Dunja Mijatović published a report calling on the Georgian authorities to ensure effective implementation of anti-discrimination laws and better protection of labor and environmental rights.