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NGOs complain to the government

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, February 12
The Human Rights Center, Public Attorney, Healthy World, Georgian Confederation of Trade Unions, Human Rights Priority, Multinational Georgia, Youth for Justice and Media Institute have addressed the Government in regards to participating in the Human Rights Protection National Strategy. The organizations have responded to the activities of the commission working on the national strategy and “regret” that they are not part of the process.

“The initiative group has not even invited us to any discussions – for example, the February 8 discussion at the Sheraton Metekhi Palace,” the NGOs stated.

They stress that they share the opinion of the Government of Georgia and believe that it is urgently important to elaborate the Human Rights Protection National Strategy and Action Plan.

“However, criteria for the selection of non-governmental organizations, which work on such significant documents and participate in the process, are unclear to us,” they stated. According to the NGOs, it is inadmissible to exclude those organizations from the working process, which declared the principled position regarding the unbearable conditions in the penitentiary system during past years, protested torture of people, persecution on political grounds, violation of the rights to property, election, labor, assembly and manifestation as well as other fundamental rights.

The organizations are afraid that significant topics like the legal and psycho-social rehabilitation of the victims of torture, establishment of the Commission for Identification of the Shortcomings of Judicial System and restoration of justice, revision of the cases on political prisoners and their rehabilitation, further improvement of the labor law, institutional development of the labor market and so on “will remain beyond the Strategy and the Action Plan.”

In a responding letter, Kakha Kozhoridze, head of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, stated that he would raise the issue of the participation of the organizations during the following meeting. He admitted that the working document of strategy had many shortcomings. However, Tamar Gabisonia, executive director of the NGO Constitution Article 42, stressed that terms for the strategy were too restrictive.

“It would be even difficult for us to represent our remarks,” Gabisonia stated, advising the NGOs to send their remarks to those organizations, which are taking part in the process.

“We would deliver your messages and remarks to the government,” Gabisonia responded.

Head of Transparency International Georgia, Eka Gigauri, stated that terms are restrictive. However, according to her, Tamar Chugoshvili, who is the Prime Minister’s advisor in human rights issues, has met with those organizations which are not in the commission and listened to their remarks. Gigauri also stated that large-scaled discussion on the action plan and strategy will be held on February 13, when all interested sides will be able to express their visions and deliver written versions of their assessments.

For the first time, a national strategy on human rights is being established in Georgia. The strategy would cover from 2014 to 2020 and will be written with the recommendations of Thomas Hammarberg, EU Special Adviser on Constitutional and Legal Reform and Human Rights in Georgia. The government presented a working version of the strategy last week. Discussions on the version are planned on February 12.