Public Defender, Sozar Subari, submitted to the Parliament on March 31 a voluminous report on human rights record in the country covering the second half of 2008.
Apart of the human rights abuse cases reported on the reporting period the document with over 1,100 pages includes the cases reported in the previous months and years, which, as Subari said, were “source of special concern” and which were “left without proper reaction” from the respective state agencies.
In his introductory comments attached to the report, the Public Defender, criticizes the legislative body and says that it is “regretful trend that the Georgian Parliament is not yet reacting on systematic violation of human rights and by doing so, intentionally or unwittingly, it is encouraging human rights abuse.”
He also says that “absence” of checks and balances system, as well as “no progress” in enhancing the judiciary system’s independence remain as “serious problems” and source of “special concern.”
Subari says that despite public statements of the authorities “nothing has been done” to cut the presidential powers in favor of the Parliament.
In late December, President Saakashvili proposed a draft constitutional amendment, described by the ruling party a step towards cutting the presidential powers. Although a month-long public discussion period required for a constitutional amendment has already expired, no further proceedings have been undertaken by the legislative body on the matter. The ruling party explained that the draft of constitutional amendments have been sent to Venice Commission, which is the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional and legal issues, and further proceedings would take place as soon as the Commission provided its recommendations. Meanwhile, on March 31, the ruling party offered the opposition to launch a dialogue, including on possible “constitutional reform.”
In the report, Subari again raises the issue of a so called “secret meeting” that allegedly took place under the chairmanship of Interior Minster, Vano Merabishvili, and with the participation of senior officials at which, Subari claims, it was deliberately planned to break up anti-governmental demonstration on November 7, 2007 with use of excessive force. Subari reiterated his readiness to testify before a potential parliamentary investigative commission and provide evidence to prove that such meeting took place, if such commission is set up by the Parliament. “Despite of our numerous requests [to set up such a commission], we have not received any response from the Parliament,” Subari says.
In his report the Public Defender described Maia Topuria and other eleven convicts, affiliated with wanted ex-security chief Igor Giorgadze’s Justice Party, who have jailed for coup plotting, as “political prisoners.” He also says that Nora Agvliani, a sister of wanted warlord Emzar Kvitsiani, is also “a political prisoner.” Nora Agvliani was arrested in 2006 and sentenced over charges related with participation in an illegal armed formation and illegal purchase and possession of arms.
The report also includes cases of “deliberate torching” and “ethnic cleansing” in the Tskhinvali region” during the August war.
“Tens of thousands of people were displaced and their rights are being violated up to now not only because they are not able to return back to their homes, but also because they have not yet been granted a formal status of internally displaced persons and often assistance provided to them is not enough,” the report reads.