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Coronavirus Pandemic: Field Visits to Baghdadi

31.03.2021

Manana Vardiashvili

From July 1, 2020 to April 1, 2021 Human Rights Center (HRC) provided free legal advice to more than 1,270 people on human rights abuses caused by the Coronavirus. The lawyers took up 89 cases for advocacy from which 34 cases have been successfully advocated.

Within the framework of the project Free Legal Advocacy and Human Rights Monitoring after the Coronavirus Pandemic, being implemented in Tbilisi and 5 regions of Georgia: Shida and Kvemo Kartli, Kakheti, Imereti and Samegrelo, HRC studies the facts of violations of human rights during and after the state of emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and provides qualified legal aid to the allegedly abused individuals.  

The lawyers of HRC travel to the crowded places of Tbilisi and in the regions and meet with the citizens in order to identify the facts of human rights violations and provide information about the project to the population. 

Since the start of the project, from July 1, 2020 up to the date, a total of 82 field visits have been carried out in the regions. 

Today is the next regular field visit day. Ana Chapidze, a lawyer at HRC, together with the project director, Nino Tlashadze, is to meet the residents of Baghdadi. 

We had bad luck with the weather. It is already March 24 but unusually cold for spring in Baghdadi. It snows and chilly wind is blowing. Anna says that in such weather, there will be no people on the streets, so we will go into stores, pharmacies or markets and stop everywhere where we see several people together. 

Shops are open in the center of Baghdadi. Anna and Nino prepare leaflets to be distributed among the people and meetings and interviews begin. 

What problems do they have in Baghdadi?

Marina B. is 54 years old. She is a salesperson in one of the stores. She says that the problems in Baghdadi are the same as in the rest of Georgia and the restrictions imposed to stop the coronavirus pandemic have aggravated the already difficult economic situation in Baghdadi. 

"When the state of emergency was declared and the shops were closed, I was left unemployed. I know that as a person affected by the pandemic, I was eligible for an allowance and had to receive GEL 200 per month for 6 months, but I did not receive a single penny because the owner of the store did not provide information about me to the Revenue Service. I cannot go to court, I do not have enough money to hire a lawyer,“ says Marina, and she is heartbroken to learn that she could consult a lawyer at HRC free of charge, and that even if she filed a lawsuit, HRC would provide her with legal aid. 

Marina puts the leaflet of HRC in her bag: If she needs free legal aid in the future, she knows where to call. 

The state of emergency was in force in Georgia from March 21, till May 23, 2020. During this period many regulations and restrictions were enacted to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic: Stores and restaurants and cafes were closed, public transport seized operations, movement of vehicles was banned, no more than three people were allowed to gather, a curfew was in force from March 31, and vehicle and human traffic in streets was banned from 21:00 till 06:00.   
 
Many businesses have been shut down in Georgia due to regulations and restrictions, and many were closed completely - hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs and their only source of income. Thousands of people were left without assistance and the rights of many citizens were violated during and after the state of emergency. 

Nino G. also thinks that her rights have been violated. After listening to the conversation of the HRC lawyer Ana Chapidze, in one of the stores, she comes for consultations at her own will. 

"I was working for a private company, from which I was fired 5 months ago due to the reduced income because of the coronavirus pandemic. I think I am a victim of discrimination because the company was not down in terms of revenues. I have neither requested nor received any allowance provided by the Government to people affected by the pandemic. I thought that financial aid was given only to people fired from the public sector. May I also ask for the allowance or sue the owner of a private company that fired me for no reason?” asks Nino. 

After receiving a legal advice from Ana Chapidze,  Nino also takes the leaflet of HRC with her: Now she first meets with the former employer and after talking to him decides whether to apply to HRC for legal assistance or not. 

Gocha B. also keeps the leaflet of HRC. He has a bakery and a small cafe. Gocha tells us that due to the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, the cafe was closed for several months, the losses are significant and now, when he requests to postpone and restructure the loan taken from the bank, he may seek legal advice from a lawyer at HRC. 

"Through the project, we provide qualified legal aid to those citizens whose rights were violated during the coronavirus pandemic, against the background of restrictions imposed to stop the pandemic. The project started on July the 1st. During this time we have made 82 field visits to the regions and provided free legal advice to more than 1,270 people. Within the framework of the project, HRC has taken up 89 cases, of which 34 cases have been successfully advocated, and for the rest of the cases legal proceedings are ongoing in the administrative bodies and common courts,” says Nino Tlashadze, project director. 

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