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US State Department 2016 Human Rights Report


Lana Giorgidze

The US State Department published the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016 and among them is the report on the Human Rights State in Georgia.  Cases of illegal detention and deprivation of lives of the citizens of Georgia in the territories occupied by Russia and de-facto authorities are reviewed alongside other violations in the 50-page report. The report also reviews: the facts of domestic violence, early marriages, miscarriages in the judiciary system, facts of alleged oppression on court and weakness of state institutions.

The US State Department report, together with other issues, reviews the media environment in Georgia. According to the report, the media remained politically polarized and provided the public only limited access to objective, neutral news. Major television stations expressed a political bias, albeit to a lesser degree than in previous years. Government officials periodically criticized certain media outlets, in most cases Rustavi 2, alleging a pro-opposition bias.

Representatives of the Georgian Dream do not think the US State Department Report is critical when they discuss the case related with the TV-Company Rustavi 2. Part of the ruling party states the evaluations about the media environment are exaggerated; while another part states the report does not rely on the conclusions of the State Department but it quotes evaluations of local political parties and nongovernmental organizations.
The parliamentary minority group states the strategical partner sent strict warning message to the Government of Georgia with this report, as similar restriction of freedom of expression has significant negative impact on the society.

One chapter of the Report is dedicated to the situation in the Georgian penitentiary system.
“While overall prison and detention facility conditions continued to improve, conditions in some old facilities were inhuman and lacked sufficient ventilation, natural light, minimum living space, and adequate health care,” the Report reads.
The Report quotes the main findings of the Human Rights Center’s 2015 Report about Female and Juvenile Prisoners, which stated that women and juvenile prisoners did not have access to lawyers for legal assistance in preparing various documents, complaints, statements on early release, and other important matters.

Executive director of Human Rights Center Aleko Tskitishvili said representatives of the Center interviewed the women and juvenile prisoners based on specially designed questionnaires to identify concrete violations and problems. 

“Within framework of the 2015 monitoring, the identified problems were evaluated in compliance with international and national laws. Within framework of the project, the lawyers of Human Rights Center provided women and juvenile prisoners with free legal aid about concrete facts of violation. The significant violations observed by the organization were – degrading procedure of full examination of the women, lack of conjugal meetings, lack of hygiene means, late/improper medical treatment for women prisoners, communication with foreigner women prisoners, incomplete information about property rights, unarranged telephone booths/cards and more. As for the problems in the facility of juvenile prisoners, the major problem was privileges among underage prisoners, cases of repeated crimes, social isolation, insufficient number of psychologists and lack of distant education programs,” Aleko Tskitishvili told humanrights.ge.

The Report also reviews the ineffective mechanism to respond to the alleged crimes committed by law enforcement officers. The case of the lawyer Giorgi Mdinaradze is discussed in the respective chapter, who, on November 8, 2016, was physically abused during the implementation of his professional duties.

Lawyer of Human Rights Center Eka Kobesashvili defends his rights in front of the court. Kobesashvili said the physical assault fact of the lawyer demonstrated that ineffectiveness of the investigation and incorrect qualification of the criminal cases are the major problems in the country,
“Investigation into the physical assault on the lawyer was commenced for the abuse of professional power while the investigation neglected inhuman and degrading treatment of the lawyer from the side of police officers,” Eka Kobesashvili said.

Alongside the abovementioned issues, the 2016 Report of the US State Department reviews the situation about political prisoners, labor rights, discrimination on national, ethnic and racial grounds, problems due to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The US State Department publishes the Human Rights Reports every year, which reviews the state of human rights in the countries worldwide. 
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