U.S.-based rights group Freedom House urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “to make human rights and democracy shortfalls in the Caucasus region the cornerstone topic in private meetings and in public statements” during her visit to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan on June 4-6.
“Encouraging and supporting democratically accountable systems in the Caucasus region is essential,” David J. Kramer, Freedom House president, said. “While we realize there are a range of policy interests to be discussed during the trip, Freedom House calls for a particular emphasis on the ongoing concerns about human rights and democracy throughout the region, especially in Azerbaijan and Armenia.”
In case of Azerbaijan, Freedom House urged the Secretary of State to address issues of intimidation of political activists and their imprisonment in “deeply flawed trials”, use of force to break up antigovernment rallies, as well as freedom of press. On Armenia, Freedom House stressed that its reforms were hampered by “the deep relationship between politics and business, which effectively prevents the advancement of greater accountability and transparency.”
On Georgia, Freedom House said: “Georgia affords some but not all of the institutional safeguards and holds promise for more meaningful reform, if the right steps are taken. The upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Georgia present a test for civil society in Georgia to develop more effective and mature political platforms.”
Georgia’s indicators in an annual report by Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2012, remained unchanged and the country is still deemed “partly free”. In recent Freedom House’s survey on global press freedom, Georgia's ranking has improved for third consecutive year, but the country still remains in the category of “partly free.”
A group of Georgian election watchdog, legal advocacy and media organizations have also appealed to Secretary Clinton ahead of her visit to Georgia on June 5, calling on her to raise the need for further legislative amendments to improve electoral environment in the country ahead of the October parliamentary elections.
Secretary Clinton will hold talks with Georgian leadership, civil society and opposition representatives in Black Sea resort town of Batumi. She will arrive in Georgia from Armenia and will then travel to Azerbaijan on June 6.