Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Georgia: PACE rapporteurs welcome democratic developments but stress need for continued efforts to maintain public trust

Kastriot Islami (Albania, SOC) and Michael Aastrup Jensen (Denmark, ALDE), co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Georgia by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), have expressed their satisfaction with the positive political developments that have taken place following the recent local elections in Georgia.

At the end of a five-day visit to Tbilisi (12-16 July 2010), the co-rapporteurs said: “The efforts of both authorities and part of the opposition to maintain a constructive dialogue and to secure the opposition’s rightful place in the governance of the country are an important step for the consolidation of democracy in Georgia.” They underscored that the planned electoral and constitutional reforms should be based on an all-inclusive process: “A wide political consensus and solid public consultation process on the direction of these reforms are essential to ensure public trust, not only in the electoral process, but in the political system as such.”

On human rights in Georgia, the co-rapporteurs welcomed the overall improvements with regard to the judiciary and judicial system. However, they expressed concern about problems brought to their attention regarding the administration of justice and guarantee of a fair trial: “Further efforts by the authorities in this field are necessary as even the perception that justice is selective, or that obstacles to the right of a fair trial could exist in this country, undermine public trust in the justice system and ultimately in the authorities themselves.” They highlighted the positive role played by the Public Defender in this field and urged the authorities to swiftly address the concerns expressed in his forthcoming report to the Parliament of Georgia.

They also extensively discussed the reforms in the penitentiary system and welcomed the overall direction of these reforms. However, they cautioned that the continuing increase in the number of prisoners in Georgia, already high, could undermine these reforms. In addition, they noted that concerns with regard to the treatment of prisoners as well as their healthcare remain, and encouraged the authorities to address these areas as a priority.

During their visit the co-rapporteurs also visited the Kaheti region to familiarise themselves with the impact of reforms regarding local self-government as well as minority populations. “During our visit to an ethnic Ossetian village in Kaheti, all ethnic Ossetians we met stressed the improvements made with regard to the living conditions of the minority population since 2003, as well as minority relations in general,” said the co-rapporteurs. “The fact that they feel fully integrated into Georgian society is especially important in the light of some questions raised recently with regard to the multi-ethic character of Georgia,” they added.

The co-rapporteurs will present an information note on this visit to the Monitoring Committee during its meeting in Paris on 9 September 2010.

Source: PACE. Published in Strasbourg on 27 July 2010.

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