Georgia must ensure equitable opportunities for all parties to compete in upcoming parliamentary election

29/10/2020
Press release

As the parliamentary election scheduled for 31 October 2020 approaches, the Georgian Human Rights Center (HRC Georgia) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) reiterate their call for the Georgian authorities to ensure that the elections take place in a free, transparent and fair environment. Our organisations also underscore the urgency for Georgia to conduct necessary reforms to improve the independence of the judiciary in the country.

Four months after the long-awaited electoral reform, our organisations are worried about reports of incidents undermining the free and fair character of the elections. Local organisations ensuring the election’s monitoring have reported cases of use of administrative resources for electoral purposes and instances of harassment of candidates and journalists by the ruling party. The conduct of the elections in the context of the covid-19 pandemic also raises concerns, as the introduction of additional restrictions to contain the spread of the virus is likely to heighten risks of further deterioration of the electoral environment.

The upcoming elections will take place in a tense climate, as the Georgian population has been closely following ongoing proceedings against political opposition leaders and former high ranking officials. This wave of judicial harassment has been carried out by the authorities in order to debilitate the opposition in the pre-electoral context. Over the past year, HRC Georgia has undertaken a project aimed at monitoring these cases’ proceedings. Through its monitoring, HRC observed frequent violations of international fair trial standards. The introduction in March 2020 of a nation-wide state of emergency further aggravated this situation as it restricted a number of individual rights enshrined in the Constitution, including the right to a fair trial.

This situation has contributed to reinforcing a climate of distrust towards judiciary institutions by the Georgian population. This climate has been fueled by the authorities’ action (or lack thereof) on many occasions, such as in the aftermath of the events of 20 June 2019, when law enforcement resorted to excessive use of force in an attempt to break up peaceful demonstrations. Following the protests, the authorities launched an investigation into the events, but the slow pace of the process has been perceived as evidence that the authorities have no real intention of holding the perpetrators of the violations to account.

Local and international stakeholders, including the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, have often warned about the population’s lack of trust towards the judicial system and formulated recommendations to address this issue and strengthen the Supreme Court’s independence. The authorities have only partly implemented these recommendations.

In October 2020, FIDH and HRC exchanged views on the human rights situation in Georgia during a series of informal meetings with representatives of the European Union (European External Action Service, European Commission, European Parliament), in which they called on the EU to urge the authorities of Georgia:

- To investigate the reported cases of politically motivated persecution, as well as other instances undermining the free and fair character of the elections;
- To ensure the 2020 parliamentary elections take place in a free, transparent and fair environment by ensuring that appropriate measures against the propagation of the virus are in place and these measures do not impede the conduct of campaigning activities;
- To ensure the full implementation of the domestic, European and international human rights framework, in particular regarding the right to a fair trial;
- To engage in a process aiming at reforming the judicial system to reinforce its independence, including through a reform of the High Council of Justice, the development of a system based on the review of the current grounds for disciplinary proceedings against judges; and
- To duly implement the recommendations made by the Venice Commission regarding the appointment procedure for Supreme Court Justices; hold off any new appointments until the recommendations are implemented.

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