Tuesday 15.11.2016 in Latest Developments in Georgia Country Page
In October, the Open Society Georgia Foundation raised the alarm about the rights of sexual minorities in Georgia. According to a media report, on 14th October a transgender woman was brutally beaten by two men in Ortachala, suffering multiple injuries. Such attacks are commonplace in Georgia. Over the years, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Georgia have endured continuous violence, hate speech and discriminatory treatment by society and public institutions alike. The Coalition for Equality in Georgia has called upon the Ministry of Internal Affairs to carry out a timely and effective investigation of the case.
Civil society came under attack during parliamentary elections in Georgia on 8th October. The elections were not only a test for political stability, but also a test for democracy and freedom of expression in Georgia. On polling day itself, a violent incident occurred in western Georgia when a group of men broke into a polling station in the Zugdidi district. They disrupted the counting procedure and physically attacked international election observers who were trying to film the disturbance. The observers, who also had their phones stolen during the attack, represented a joint civil society mission of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the International Partnership for Human Rights and the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE). The observers released a statement the day after the attack:
The Georgian government consequently has an obligation to protect international observers. We therefore request that Georgian authorities investigate the incident swiftly and effectively, in order to identify and punish the perpetrators and restore the stolen property (which included footage of the incidents and other materials related to the election observation) to our observers.
In September, 20 Georgian NGOs launched a new coalition called ‘For Euro-Atlantic Georgia’. The coalition's main goal is ‘to build a free and independent state, with effective democratic institutions, based on full respect for human rights and freedoms.’ According to Democracy and Freedom Watch, the coalition's representatives also agree on the importance of civil society’s active role in consolidating Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration process.
Protests took place in Tbilisi at the end of September in advance of Pope Francis' visit to Georgia. A group of Georgian Orthodox ultranationalists and priests held a rally outside the Vatican Embassy in Tbilisi to protest the Pope's upcoming visit. Protesters claimed that this visit was an affront to the Georgian Orthodox Church and an insult to the Georgian people as the Holy See is anathema to the beliefs of Orthodox Christianity. Organisers say that the action was aimed to preserve the reputation of the true church.
Important discussions on freedom of online expression and censorship were held in October during a multi-stakeholder dialogue organised by the Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Union. This roundtable, organised in cooperation with Georgian stakeholders, was aimed at reviewing the country's guidelines for internet service providers. There was a strong focus on the rights of users and responsibilities of internet service providers and hosting companies, particularly when responding to the state's requests to block, filter or remove content. The meeting emphasised the importance of net neutrality, while the CoE praised domestic efforts to establish an internet governance forum.
Earlier, in September, 2016 during the International Day for Universal Access to Information, the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) with the support of Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF) held its 7th annual announcement ceremony of Georgia's most and least open public institutions, including analysis of access to public information in Georgia in 2016. Between 2010 and 2016 IDFI sent over 37,000 requests for information, of which over 30,000 were answered. The Ministry of Justice was named as the least open institution in 2016 while the Parliament Administration was named most open insitution.