New criminal procedure code and amended election code, allowing for direct election of Tbilisi mayor are named as "significant human rights achievements" of 2009 in the U.S. Department of State’s annual human rights report, released on March 11.
Parliament passed new criminal procedure code last October and most of its provisions will go into force in October, 2010,
"The central philosophy of the new criminal procedure code is to establish the legal foundations for adversarial court proceedings: hearings and trials that balance the interests of the state with the rights of the accused, with the judge serving as a neutral and detached magistrate tasked with ensuring fair proceedings," Department of State's 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices says.
The report says that "respect for media freedom declined" in Georgia and similar to previous report, the recent one also says "there were credible reports that the government restricted freedom of speech and the press."
"Throughout the year NGOs, independent analysts, and journalists accused high-ranking government officials and opposition politicians of exercising influence over editorial and programming decisions through their personal connections with news directors and media executives and of exercising influence over advertising income through their personal connections with business owners," according to the report.
"The privately owned national stations Rustavi-2 and Imedi, the country's two most popular television stations, and the country's public television station, were all generally considered to have a progovernment editorial policy."
It says that media in breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia "remained tightly restricted by the de facto authorities and Russian occupying forces."
The report also says that alleged cases of arbitrary arrest and detention increased last year and politically motivated imprisonment, excessive use of force by the police, government pressure on the judiciary, senior-level corruption in the government, poor prison conditions and abuse of inmates were among main human rights abuses reported in 2009.
According to the report there were "cases of government interference with the rights of assembly and association."
"While three months of protests [in April-July] by the nonparliamentary opposition were generally held peacefully, there was a clear imbalance in protest-related incidents - crimes against government officials were investigated and solved quickly, while this was not the case for crimes committed against nonparliamentary opposition activists," the report says.
Like the previous one, the recent report notes that although levels of petty corruption fell, concerns remained about high-level and "elite corruption." It also says that there were a low number of reported corruption cases among judicial authorities.
John Bass, the U.S. ambassador to Georgia, said in a video podcast that the last year’s report on Georgia “reflects a society in transition from a past of occupation and conflict to a future as a full democracy.”
Along with achievements, he said, the report “highlights a variety of areas were the Georgian government needs to improve its performance to meet international norms.”
“Many of these revolve around the inconsistent or selective application of the rule of law in investigative resources,” the U.S. ambassador said.
He also said the Georgian government had been “unusually cooperative and responsive” in exploring and addressing criticisms raised by the international community.