Georgia: Last chance to stop Russian-style crackdown on civil society

Zura Narimanishvili via Unsplash

International human rights organisations, civil society groups, and election observers are urging European and national leaders to promptly address the Georgian government’s attempt to crackdown on civil society as the country approaches its General Elections in October.

Since April 15th Georgians have been rallying in protest against the proposed “Transparency of Foreign Influence” law, which bears striking resemblance to the Russian so called “Foreign Agent Law”. This law threatens to equip the government with tools to suppress civil society and independent media, derailing Georgia from its democratic path towards EU integration.

Urgent and decisive international political support for the Georgian civil society is crucial to defend Georgian democracy from Russian-style authoritarianism.

The “Transparency of Foreign Influence” law would require organisations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as agents of foreign influence. Failure to comply would subject them to forced registration and investigation by the Ministry of Justice of Georgia. By passing this law before the October 26th elections, the ruling party in Georgia would gain a significant means to greatly restrict citizen oversight of the electoral process, something never seen before to this extent.

Russian inspired “Foreign Influence” law is an instrument to crackdown on civil society and independent media

Similar legislation on “Foreign Agents” has been introduced in Russia in 2012. Increasingly repressive amendments to the law led to the complete annihilation of independent media and civil society activity in Russia. Independent election watchdog Golos was one of the first declared “foreign agent”. Today, independent citizen election observation in Russia is fully prohibited. In 2022, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Russian “Foreign agents” law violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

Georgian authorities resort to violence against peaceful protesters

On May 2, 2024, Georgian police turned violent against peaceful protestors using tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, detaining dozens of people. The unprecedented use of violence by the Georgian authorities to suppress peaceful protests against the law emphasises the critical need for the international community to support the Georgian people.


1. EU Heads of States and Governments should acknowledge the urgency of the matter as once the legislation is passed the deterioration of civil society and electoral integrity may accelerate severely.
2. EU should urge Georgian government to investigate recent cases of pressure and harassment against citizen election observers and human rights defenders in the country.
3. EU member states and their representatives in Georgia should show solidarity with the Georgian people who took to the streets in defense of their democratic rights and European future.
4. Along with the Presidents of European Council and Commission as well as the HR/VP, the diplomatic community in Georgia should show presence on the streets of Georgia in solidarity with the Georgian people.

In case the Georgian government should adopt the repressive law, we propose following five recommendations to be considered by European institutions:

1. The European Commission should put on hold Georgia’s EU integration process which requires the government in Tbilisi to fulfill the nine steps set out by the European Commission which include ensuring a free, fair and competitive electoral process.
2. The European Commission should follow the European Parliament’s resolution of April 25, 2024 and introduce restrictive measures such as travel ban and asset freeze against Georgian oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili for his role in the deterioration of the political process in Georgia, as well as sanctions against those responsible for the violent crackdown on peaceful protestors.
3. The European Commission should suspend budget support to Georgia and financing of government-led projects.
4. European Institutions increase financial support and explore alternative ways of supporting Georgian civil society and democratic movements, including through the European Endowment for Democracy.
5. The EU and its Member States should support a large-scale and long-term election observation effort both through international institutions as the OSCE/ODIHR and domestic observers in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in October.


In early 2023, the parliamentary majority announced a draft law on “Transparency of Foreign Influence”. The government ultimately dropped the legislation in response to public protest, but have reintroduced a similar version of the bill in April 2024. Despite promises to terminate its plans, the ruling Georgian Dream faction reintroduced the “Transparency of Foreign Influence” bill and adopted it in the first reading on April 17, 2024 with the third and final reading set to take place on May 17, 2024.

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  • Co-signatories

    European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE)
    European Exchange gGmbH – Germany
    Political Accountability Foundation (Fundacja Odpowiedzialna Polityka) – Poland
    Swedish International Liberal Centre SILC – Sweden
    Norwegian Helsinki Committee – Norway
    Civil Network OPORA – Ukraine
    Unhack Democracy – Hungary
    Promo-LEX – Moldova
    Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor – Armenia
    Stefan Batory Foundation (Fundacja im. Stefana Batorego) – Poland
    Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors GNDEM
    The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations ENEMO
    Centre for Monitoring and Research (Centar za monitoring i istraživanje CeMI) – Montenegro
    “Wschód” Initiative (Inicjatywa “Wschód”) – Poland
    Freedom Foundation (Fundacja Wolności) – Poland
    Economic Freedom Foundation (Fundacja Wolności Gospodarczej) – Poland
    Committee for the Defence of Democracy (Komitet Obrony Demokracji) – Poland
    BoMiasto Association (Stowarzyszenie BoMiasto) – Poland
    Action Democracy (Akcja Demokracja) – Poland
    Civic Development Forum (Forum Obywatelskiego Rozwoju) – Poland
    Active Democracy Foundation (Fundacja Aktywna Demokracja) – Poland
    Public Affairs Institute (Instytut Spraw Publicznych) – Poland
    Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Helsińska Fundacja Praw Człowieka) – Poland
    Visible Foundation (Fundacja Widzialne) – Poland
    Eastern European Democracy Center (Wschodnioeuropejskie Centrum Demokratyczne) – Poland
    CEE Digital Democracy Watch (Fundacji Obserwatorium Demokracji Cyfrowej) – Poland
    Schuman Foundation (Fundacja Schumana) – Poland
    Bronisław Geremek Centre Foundation (Fundacja Centrum im. Bronisława Geremka) – Poland
    Education and Social Mobilisation Foundation (Fundacja Edukacji i Mobilizacji Społecznej) – Poland
    OFF School Foundation (Fundacja OFF School) – Poland
    Polish Ecological Club – Masovia region (Polski Klub Ekologiczny Okręg Mazowiecki) – Poland
    Visegrad Insight – ResPublica Foundation (Fundacja ResPublica) – Poland
    Association of Legal Intervention (Stowarzyszenie Interwencji Prawnej) – Poland
    Friends of the Youth Climate Strike Foundation (Fundacja Przyjaciół Młodzieżowego Strajku Klimatycznego) – Poland
    KARTA Center Foundation (Fundacja Ośrodka KARTA) – Poland
    Initiative “Protest with an Exclamation Point” (Inicjatywa Protest z Wykrzyknikiem) – Poland
    Citizens Network Watchdog Poland (Sieć Obywatelska Watchdog Polska) – Poland
    Astra Network – Poland
    Free Courts Foundation (Fundacja Wolne Sądy) – Poland
    Civis Polonia Foundation (Fundacja Civis Polonus) – Poland
    Donors’ Forum (Forum Darczyńców) – Poland
    European Civic Forum
    Bulgarian Centre for Non-profit Law – Bulgaria
    Open Society Foundations Bratislava (Slovakia) – Slovakia
    Association for International Affairs (AMO) – Czechia
    Open Lithuania Foundation – Lithuania
    Open Society Institute – Sofia – Bulgaria
    The Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) – Netherlands
    Human Rights Without Frontiers – Belgium
    The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) – Denmark
    East and Horn of Africa Election Observers Network (E-HORN)
    Election Support Network of Southern Africa (ESN SA)
    West Africa Election Observers Network (WAEON)
    African Election Observers Network (AfEONet)
    Democracy Volunteers
    School with Class Foundation (Fundacja Szkoła z Klasą) – Poland
    “Our Ombudsperson” Initiative (Inicjatywa Nasz Rzecznik) – Poland
    Social movement “No to chaos in schools”(Ruch społeczny “NIe dla chaosu w szkole”) – Poland
    International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN)
    Protection International
    Democracy Reporting International
    Belarusian Helsinki Committee – Belarus
    Human Rights Centre Viasna – Belarus
    Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center (TIAC) – Armenia
    Asociația Junimea Europeană Federalistă – Romania
    All-Ukrainian non-governmental organization Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU) – Ukraine
    Association for the defence of democracy in Poland (L’association Défense de la Démocratie en Pologne) – France
    Foundation for German-Polish Cooperation
    European Alternatives
    FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    ACFIM (Alliance for Finance Monitoring) – Uganda

  • Member organisations - Georgia
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