Georgia: Parliament must drop the legislation on “transparency of foreign influence”

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Georgian authorities’ attempt to reintroduce the draft Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence is an attack against civil society and independent media. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH) and the Human Rights Center call on the Parliament of Georgia to reject the adoption of this legislation, which is not compatible with the respect of the rights to freedom of association and expression.

Paris-Geneva-Tbilisi, May 7, 2024 – On May 1, 2024, the Georgian Parliament adopted the Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence in its second reading, with 83 votes in favour and 23 against, after having adopted it in its first reading on April 17, 2024. This legislation, inspired by the Russian “Foreign Agents Law” had already been put forward in February 2023 by the People’s Power group. At the time, the draft law was adopted by the Parliament in its first reading, before being eventually withdrawn following massive protests and criticism from the international community. To be enacted into law, the draft must be adopted by the Parliament in a third and final reading scheduled for mid-May and must be signed by the President. However, although Georgia’s President Salome Zourabichvili announced that she would veto the law, the government could override the presidential veto in a fourth vote.

If enacted, this law would impose severe restrictions on civil society organisations and media outlets, requiring those receiving over 20% of their funding from abroad to register and label themselves as “organisations pursuing the interests of a foreign power”. In the original 2023 draft, the label was “agents of foreign influence”. Aside from this change in terminology, the provisions of the legislation remain essentially unchanged. Foreign-funded organisations would be burdened with heavy reporting requirements and subject to approval by the Ministry of Justice, which could lead to arbitrary investigations into the organisations’ documents. Failure to comply with these provisions would also result in sanctions and administrative penalties of up to 25,000 GEL (approximately 8,500 Euros).

The law has been firmly opposed by civil society, including through large demonstrations since April 3, 2024, when the Georgian Dream party announced its intention to reintroduce the bill. The European Parliament, in its resolution of April 25, 2024, warned the Georgian authorities about the potential impact of the adoption of the law on the country’s accession to the European Union, after it was granted candidate status in December 2023.

The demonstrations have been met with widespread police violence against protesters in a context of increasing breaches of the freedom of assembly in Georgia. During the April 16 and 17 protests, the Human Rights Center documented disproportionate and unlawful use of force and special means to disperse the assembly. The situation escalated even further during the protests held on April 30 and May 1st, in parallel to the second reading of the law at the Georgian Parliament, when the Ministry of Internal Affairs officials used water cannons, rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas against protesters, as well as unlawful administrative detentions and inhuman treatment during the arrests and in detention facilities.

While the restrictive Georgian legislation is criticised for being modelled on the Russian “Foreign Agents Law”, which has been widely used to suppress dissenting voices, the reintroduction of the legislation on “transparency of foreign influence” also coincides with the signature of a law on “foreign representatives” by the president of Kyrgyzstan, which contains similar restrictions. In September 2023, with the adoption of the Law on the Special Register and Transparency of the Work of Non-Profit Organisations, a comparable legislation was introduced in Bosnia and Herzegovina by the National Assembly of Republika Srpska in its first reading.

This trend is particularly worrying because the laws on foreign agents reflect government authorities’ portrayal of civil society as the internal enemy, with the intention not only of silencing dissenting voices but also of stigmatising and discrediting them. With increased surveillance, harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and a proliferation of restrictive regulations, Georgia has moved towards a “strategic development of a negative narrative around the exercise of fundamental freedoms for the defence of human rights in the country”, as noted by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders following her visit of the country in November 2023.

The Observatory and the Human Rights Center urge the Parliament of Georgia to reject the draft Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence and call on the authorities to respect, protect and promote the rights to freedom of association and expression in the country, in accordance with regional and international human rights standards, particularly Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Georgia is a state party.


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

The Human Rights Center, was founded in 1996 and is dedicated to protection and promotion of human rights, the rule of law and sustainable peace in Georgia. The HRC monitors and documents human rights violations, engages in local advocacy and provides free legal aid.

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