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HUMAN RIGHTS

IN GEORGIA


"10 Steps Towards Liberty":


Monthly Bulletin

No: 10 (56)


October, 2003




IN TODAY’S ISSUE:

“10 Steps Towards Liberty": Joint Statement from Georgian Civic Organisations


Kmara Meetings Are Dispersed, Participants Assaulted
Crew of Television Channel Rustavi 2 Attacked in Zugdidi
Activists Protest Attacks Against Media in Western Georgia
Kmara Office Ransacked
The Dispersal of the Opposition Meeting by Abashidze Government
Police violated rights of Fair Elections' Executive Director
European Court of Human Rights:

Fact-finding missions in the case of Shamayev and Others v. Georgia and Russia


Assanidze v. Georgia
Inaccurate Voter Lists
CEC Secretary Beaten
Wanted Ex-priest Mkalavishvili Appears with Parliamentary Candidate
Democratic Revival Union against Kmara
Police Pressure Kurdish Activist
Suspects Beaten in Prison
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Joint Statement from Georgian Civic Organisations
On 15 October 2003 representatives of NGOs and others active in civil society signed a joint statement which includes ten principles to be pursued in Parliament. The Human Rights Information and Documentation Centre also signed the document, which reads:

In view of the fact that the government of Georgia has sharply deviated from the path of liberty and tries to hold on to power by authoritarian methods, we, representatives of the civil society offer co-operation to those political forces, which share ten principles listed below the express readiness to pursue them in the new parliament to be elected in November 2 in order to protect Georgian state as well as the freedom and the dignity of citizens of Georgia.



  1. Reform Soviet-era state administration system, facilitate the reform by limiting USSR security agency staff and Communist nomenclature access to high level positions in the state administration system.

  2. Pass the law on expropriation of groundless property and income of state officials.

  3. Strengthen guarantee for safety of private property; improve business environment, abolish laws currently hampering free entrepreneurship, protect entrepreneurship from illegal pressure from the side of law enforcement and supervisory agencies, introduce liberal tax code and ensure stability of fiscal policy and legislation.

  4. Elaborate and progressively implement a state programme on restoring the territorial integrity of Georgia,

  5. Ensure that Tbilisi and Poti Majors are directly elected, ratify the European Charter on local governance, grant property and financial autonomy to the local government and pass the constitutional law on administrative-territorial arrangement of the state.

  6. Complete the process of Russian military base withdrawal from he territory of Georgia by 2007, elaborate and progressively implement a state strategic plan of integration into the European Union and NATO, abolish the current system of call–up for military service and establish a professional army.

  7. Establish a judicial institute of jurors, decentralise law enforcement agencies, ensure local police chiefs and prosecutors are elected and base a new Criminal Code on principles of human rights protection, competition and equity of parties.

  8. Settle fully arrears of pensions and wages by 2006, bring minimal wages for the budgetary sector in compliance with the minimal basket of goods, direct as a priority the state programmes on health protection to socially unprotected citizens and introduce tax legislation which promotes philanthropy.

  9. Grant financial and administrative independence to education institutions, ensure principals and boards of trustees are elected, introduce a scholarship system of financing, increase education spending at least twofold and ensure students enter higher education institutions on the basis of common, state and standardised exams.

  10. Pass the law on freedom of speech and press, reorganise state television and radio into public broadcasting.


Kmara Meetings Are Dispersed, Participants Assaulted
On 10 October 10 in Tbilisi, police prevented the youth movement Kmara (Enough) from demonstrating in front of the State Chancellery whilst the residentially-backed election bloc “For New Georgia” was holding a presentation of its election platform.
Protesters were beaten by police according to reports. In addition seven activists were arrested and detained for two hours without being charged before they were finally released.
On 11 October police dispersed another anti-governmental protest rally from Kmara in the western Georgian city of Poti.

Kmara activists were beaten by police, some individuals reportedly receiving severe and multiple injuries.


The Kmara activists tried to protest against President Shevardnadze who was visiting Poti.

The Rustavi 2 TV channel reported that its crew was also attacked by the police. Law enforcement officers seized a video camera along with a tape showing the police beating the students.


Crew of Television Channel Rustavi 2 Attacked in Zugdidi
Early on the morning of 12 October the crew of the television channel Rustavi 2 was attacked in the western Georgian town of Zugdidi whilst shooting footage of anti-government Kmara youth activists trying to spell “Kmara” in the streets.
Rustavi 2 reported that several armed men, supporters of “For New Georgia,” beat the station’s cameraman.
Activists Protest Attacks Against Media in Western Georgia
Representatives of Georgian Civil Society Organisations and local television held a demonstration in the western Georgian town of Poti.
The participants protested against frequent cases of attacks on the representatives of mass media by law-enforcement agencies in Poti.
The office of a local Poti newspaper was also raided recently, causing the newspaper to stop publishing.

 

Kmara Office Ransacked


On October 23, Kmara activists found their office ransacked. According to Kmara members, when they left the office late the previous evening, everything was in order. When they returned to the office the next morning, they found broken windows, and insulting leaflets strewn throughout the building.

Kmara members believe that the attack was planned and ordered by the government. Kmara is pressing for an official investigation of the incident.


The Dispersal of the Opposition Meeting by Abashidze Government
On October 23, local authorities in the Adjaran Autonomous Republic broke up a protest rally organized by the National Movement opposition party. Police clashed with protesters, and one of the leaders of the National Movement, MP Koba Davitashvili, was beaten up during the conflict.

Government officials gave permission for the National Movement to hold a protest meeting in the stadium in the Adjaran capital of Batumi, but The National Movement instead attempted to hold a protest rally in front of the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic, with many National Movement supporters chanting the slogan “Adjara without Abashidze [head of the Autonomous Republic].”


The National Movement accuses Aslan Abashidze of dictatorial rule in the region.
Reports say that the office of the National Movement was attacked in Batumi and in Kobuleti, allegedly by the supporters of Abashidze’s party “Revival Union”. Office equipment was destroyed, and a member of the National Movement, Gia Khabazi, who will run for single mandate constituency, was beaten.

The interior troops and police are on high alert in Adjara, patrolling the streets of Batumi.


Earlier, activists of the National Movement were blocked at the Choloki checkpoint, which divides Adjara from the rest of Georgia. In addition, the head of Adjarian branch of National Movement, David Berdzenishvili, was attacked and severely beaten by numerous unidentified persons. Journalists recorded the incident on video. Berdzenishvili also received death threats upon his arrival in Batumi. He will run for MP in the Batumi single-mandate constituency, and will compete with Jemal Gogitidze, one of the leaders of the Revival Union. (The footage of this event can be downloaded from Fair Elections' web page: http://www.fairelections.ge/video/berdzenishvili.mpg, also available in real media format: http://www.fairelections.ge/video/berdzenishvili.rm).
In spite of ample evidence, Adjaran authorities are not conducting an investigation. Instead, Adjaran authorities claim the protest rally was an attempted coup d’etat, and are bring criminal charges against the National Movement.

Police violated rights of Fair Elections' Executive Director


On 24th of October Fair Elections' Executive Director Zurab Tchiaberashvili was illegally detained by the police officer from the Traffic Police of Georgia, Tariel Janadze. Tchiaberashvili was detained after he had discovered the extortion of money from the taxi driver committed by policeman Elguja Samsonadze. Having witnessed this fact, Zurab Tchiaberashvili requested Elguja Samsonadze and Malkhaz Babiashvili to identify themselves. The officers responded to this request with violence and verbal abuses. Samsonadze violently took away Tchiaberashvili's personal mobile phone. Regardless of the request the phone was not returned to the owner until Tchiaberashvili was brought to Matsminda -Krtsanisi District Department #1 of the Ministry of Interior of Georgia.

 

After having discovered that Tchiaberashvili was Fair Elections' Executive Director, the initiators of detainment did not register Tchiaberashvili as detainee and refused to commence the criminal case.



 

However Tchiaberashvili filed a complaint claiming that his rights were violated, he was threatened and illegally detained. The case was submitted to the General Inspection of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for further investigation.

 

Fair Elections considers that on October 24 constitutional rights and freedoms of citizen of Georgia, Zurab Tchiaberashvili were violated.



In particular, the article 18 of Georgian Constitution was infringed. According to this article the freedom of a person is inviolable, arrest or other restrictions on personal freedoms are prohibited without a court order, the detention of an individual is permissible in circumstances determined by law by an official specifically so authorized. In aforementioned case police officer did not have any legal basis for detention, stating otherwise circumstances determined by law did not appear. Therefore Tchiaberashvili's detention was not legally registered and the case did not proceed.

According to the article 18, paragraph five of Georgian Constitution a detained individual must be immediately made aware of his rights and the basis for his detention. However, Tchiaberashvili was not provided, as required by law, with any clarification with regard to his detention.

According to the article 21 of Georgian Constitution, the right to own property is recognized and guaranteed, restrictions of this right is possible only in cases determined by law. As it was already mentioned the police officer unlawfully took Tchiaberashvili's mobile phone and in spite of request the phone was returned to the owner only at the police department.

Article 17 of Georgian Constitution states that a person's honour and dignity are inviolable. Any degrading treatment is impermissible.

The illegal actions committed against Tchiaberashvili need to be investigated and legally evaluated by relevant law enforcement bodies.

We could assess this fact as one simple incident and not respond to such violations committed by the police, especially in the pre-election period when each member of Fair Elections has to deal with lots of election related issues, however we have to say:

 

Zurab Tchiaberashvili is able to protect his rights, but are all the citizens facing such violations capable to protect their rights as well?



 

If such violations take place in the pre-election period, when events occurring in Georgia are in the focus of international society's attention, what can happen after elections?

 

Fair Elections evaluates this fact as violation of Zurab Tchiaberashvili's constitutional rights and freedom and calls for respect and implementation of Georgian Constitution and legislation. Every citizen of Georgia shall have possibility to freely exercise human rights and freedoms and violators (in this case discrediting law enforcement bodies by committing illegalities) shall be punished according to law.


EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Press release issued by the Registrar

Fact-finding missions in the case of Shamayev and Others v. Georgia and Russia

 

Following the hearing in this case (application no. 36378/02) on 16 September 2003, the European Court of Human Rights declared the application admissible and joined the Russian Government’s preliminary objections to the merits.


The Court also decided to carry out fact-finding missions in both countries as soon as possible (see press release no. 455) in order to take evidence from the applicants who had been extradited to Russia and from those who are in custody in Georgia pending a decision on the extradition request made by the Russian Federation, and from witnesses.

The missions were scheduled for the last week of October 2003.


In a fax of 3 October 2003, the Georgian Government asked the Court to adjourn the mission to Georgia, in view of the general election to be held there on 2 November 2003 and the authorities’ concern to ensure absolute security for the members of the delegation. The Court noted that request and decided to adjourn its mission to Georgia.
In addition, the Government of the Russian Federation informed the Court on 20 October 2003 that the Stavropol Regional Court, within whose jurisdiction the five extradited applicants are currently detained, had refused to give the delegation access to the applicants at this stage in the domestic proceedings.
The Court has informed the Russian Government that, in these circumstances, and owing in particular to the lateness with which the Court was given notice thereof, it will have to adjourn the mission to Russia. It also informed the Government that the local court was contacted purely out of courtesy. The issue of access to the applicants is a matter of international law – in particular the European Convention on Human Rights, which, under Russian law, takes precedence over domestic law – and, therefore, falls to be decided solely by the European Court of Human Rights. The Court drew attention to Article 38 § 1 of

the Convention, which provides that the State concerned is to furnish all necessary facilities for the effective conduct of any investigation undertaken by the Court. Moreover, Article 34 of the Convention requires the High Contracting Parties not to hinder in any way the effective exercise of the right of individual application.


The fact-finding mission is now scheduled to take place in both countries at the beginning of 2004 on a date that will shortly be communicated to both Governments.
The European Court of Human Rights will be holding the following hearings in November 2003. Wednesday 19 November 2003

Grand Chamber

9.00 a.m. Assanidze v. Georgia (no. 71503/01) Hearing on the merits

The applicant, Tengiz Asanidze, is a Georgian national, who was born in 1944 and is currently in custody in Batumi (Georgia).

The applicant was the mayor of the town of Batumi, capital of the Adjarian Autonomous Republic, Georgia, and a member of the Adjarian Parliament. He was arrested on 4 October 1993 and charged with illegal financial dealings in the Batumi Tobacco Manufacturing Company and the unlawful possession and handling of firearms. On 28 November 1994 he was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment and orders were made for the confiscation of his assets and reimbursement of the company’s losses. On 27 April 1995 his conviction for illegal financial dealings was upheld, but the other convictions were quashed. The applicant was given a pardon by the President of the Republic on 1 October 1999, but was not released by the local Adjarian authorities.

On 11 December 1999 the applicant, who remained in custody despite the presidential pardon, was charged in a new case on 2 October 2000. He was sentenced to twelve-years’ imprisonment by the Supreme Court of the Adjarian Autonomous Republic. Although his conviction was quashed on 29 January 2001 by the Georgian Supreme Court, the applicant remains in the custody of the Adjarian authorities.

His health is deteriorating, and he has now been held at Batumi, in a cell for remand prisoners at the local security ministry, for nearly three years.

He complains under Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention that his detention is unlawful and that he has no effective remedy available from the national courts to secure his release.


Inaccurate Voter Lists

The topic of inaccurate voter lists is heating up debates on the eve of the 2 November Parliamentary elections in Georgia with the inaccuracy being cited as one of the sources of ballot fraud. Despite many efforts from international donor organisations to ensure the development of accurate and transparent voter lists, the problem still persists.


According to opposition parties and election observer organisations, the names of as many as 600,000 people who are deceased remain on the lists whilst 30 percent of eligible voters have been excluded.


Recently the Central Election Commission (CEC) launched a web page where each Georgian voter can check if he/she is included in a voter list. Many thousands of voters, however, will not find their names on the list. Even Nino Burjanadze, a Parliamentary Chairperson and leader of the Burjanadze-Democrats opposition election bloc, was not included on the list.


On 8 October, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) listed the errors it had discovered in the lists which included many voters whose date of birth was given as 1800.

The necessary procedures to follow for inclusion on the voter lists are not easy to complete and this hinders the timely updating of the lists. The CEC website advises voters who are not included in the list to appeal to the District Election Commission (DEC). Actually convincing the DEC to update the lists, however, could prove problematic.


In the wake of the opposition parties’ protest and the recommendations of election observer organisations, the CEC decided to recheck the lists. U.S. Senator John McCain, who arrived in Georgia on 5 October to assess the pre-election situation in the country, said after meeting with opposition party leaders that the voter lists should be improved as soon as possible. “The representatives of the opposition parties express concern over the inaccurate voter lists. They say that the lists have artificially been increased by 600,000 voters which creates ground for ballot fraud,” Senator McCain told reporters on 6 October.


The CEC has demanded that the Interior and Justice Ministries check the accuracy of the lists which they were asked to prepare this spring. The finished lists contain 2.9 million names, compared with 2.1 million during the 1999 Parliamentary elections. 


The deadline for improving the voter lists expires on 24 October. Many observers say that too little time is left and there is too much to be done to make the list precise.

The opposition claims that the only chance for the presidentially-backed election alliance “For New Georgia” to succeed in the elections is to rig the balloting. “Inaccurate voter lists are a perfect way to commit ballot fraud,” Nino Burjanadze said.

On 9 October, the Burjanadze-Democrats launched an initiative called “Protect Your Right to Vote,” after Burjanadze discovered that her name, along with the names of her family members, had not been included in the list of people entitled to vote in the Parliamentary elections. The Burjanadze-Democrats urged the population to contact its offices in order to register voters not included in the lists.
CEC Secretary Beaten
It is reported that George Mikanadze, the Central Election Commission (CEC) secretary was beaten on the night of 11 October. as he arriving at his home. The assailants hit Mikanadze over the head and took the keys to the safe where important CEC documents were kept.

The incident was witnessed by the Mtatsminda-Krtsanisi police patrol group. When they saw the police, three of the assailants fled but one of them was apprehended and detained. The assailant is identified as Bagration Davitashvili, a citizen of Italy.


Following the attack, the injured Mikanadze was taken to the hospital. According to the doctor damage was sustained only to his face. George Mikanadze is a representative of the pro-governmental political block “For New Georgia.” His colleagues believe that this incident may be connected to the pre-election process and they blame different parties for the attack. Mikanadze and the police have, so far, remained silent about the incident.
President Shevardnadze’s Announcement
President Shevardnadze said that the law of manifestations, which was adopted in 1997 by the Parliament of Georgia, should be enforced as soon as possible.
According to the law, the authorities should be notified about the holding of election campaigns and public meetings two days in advance.

  
“The elections should be held with full observance of laws and the constitution. We should respect the laws, which regulate the relationship between the authorities and the political parties during the elections in the country,” Shevardnadze said at a news briefing on 6 September.


Opposition parties regard strict enforcement of this law as a means to restrain their election campaign.


Wanted Ex-priest Mkalavishvili Appears with Parliamentary Candidate
On 14 October, defrocked Orthodox priest, Basil Mkalavishvili, wanted by the police for numerous attacks against religious minorities, came out of hiding and met with his parish. 

In June, the court sentenced Mkalavishvili to a three-month pre-trial detention. He faces charges of organising violence against Jehovah's Witnesses and Baptist-Evangelists and burning their religious literature over a period of several years. Police, however, have so far failed to detain him.


During his appearance that day, Basil Mkalavishvili was accompanied by Guram Sharadze, a member of the residentially-backed election bloc “For New Georgia,” who will run for Parliament in one of Tbilisi’s single-mandate constituencies.


Valeri Grigalashvili, Head of the Prosecutor’s Department of Investigation, declared that he does not have any information regarding the appearance of Mkalavishvili in Tbilisi.


Democratic Revival Union against Kmara
On 14 October, however, youth movement “Kmara” activists were distributing booklets near the Tbilisi office of the Democratic Revival Union (head of this organisation is Aslan Abashidze) when they claim the “Democratic Revival Union” members attacked them.
According Tsotne Bakuria, head of the Tbilisi organisation of DRU, “Kmara” activists were attacked for “distribution of homosexual proclamations.”
Another member of the DRU, Anzor Abralava, says that “Kmara” members walk around city streets and disturb or agitate the population.
“Kmara” activist, Giorgi Oniani, says that they were peacefully distributing booklets, which included some information about weaknesses of the government. When the “Kmara” members reached the DRU office, several people came out of the building and forced the activists into the hall whilst taking away their booklets. At this point, approximately 40 DRU members then physically assaulted the “Kmara” activists.
Police Pressure Kurdish Activist
Kakha Kalashov, head of the “Kurdish Cultural Centre,” claims he has been pressured by law enforcement officials. According to Kalashov, he was arrested by police on 11 October in Gldani-Nadzaladevi and physically assaulted for supporting two adolescents who had previously been detained by the police.
Besides heading the “Georgian Cultural Centre,” Kakha Kalashov is the head of the NGO “Free Press,” a human rights defence service. He says that he has been harassed by law enforcements for defending innocent people, especially juveniles.
Kalashov decided to appeal to Koba Narchemashvili, the Minister of the Interior, for a remedy to the situation. Kalashov declared: “If the Minister does not take appropriate measures I will have to use extreme ways of protest or apply to a foreign country for shelter.”
Suspects Beaten in Prison
Two prisoners taken to the Penitentiary Department of the Justice Ministry yesterday declared that they received injuries at the police department.
33 year-old Teimuraz Macharadze, detained for extortion, sustained injuries to his forehead and his nose. According to Macharadze, he was injured in Kutaisi during pre-trial isolation after being pushed into a wall.
38 year-old Tariel Lortkipanidze, detained for illegal possession of a gun, extortion, and property damage, received injuries to his forehead, left shoulder joint, and left elbow.

According to Lortkipanidze, police officers abused him during pre-trial isolation at the Interior Ministry.


Tbilisi and the Kutaisi Security Services of Prisons are conducting the investigation. Relevant information was sent to the prosecutor’s office and to the Interior Ministry by the Penitentiary Department.
Acquitted Isiev to be Charged Again
The criminal trial of Chechen Khzmat Isiev ended with his acquittal. As a result, Akhmat Isiev will now be tried in Mtatsminda-Krtsanisi court on a different charge.
Akhmat Isiev is one of the 13 Chechens who were detained on 4 August and charged with illegal border crossing and illegal possession of weapons. The defendants, members of the NGO “Article 42 of the Constitution,” were successfully defended by their lawyers and acquitted.
Currently new charges are now being brought against Isiev. According to the accusation, Isiev is accused of participating in armed resistance with other prisoners against guards on 4 October 2002 who were taking Chechen prisoners from isolation to be extradited. The Mtatsminda-Krtsanisni court will discuss the case.
Three Juveniles Detained
Media News was informed by the Tbilisi state agency that three adolescents: 17 year-old Vakhtang Aitsuradze, 16 year-old David Tsverianov and 16 year-old Kakha Kapanadze, were detained by police on the charge of robbery. Kapanadze was already wanted by Ozurgeti police for robbery. These juveniles are blamed for stealing a bag containing 180 lari from Sofia Demetradze in the Nadzaladevi district of Tbilisi. The case is being investigated by the Gldani-Nadzaladevi police in Tbilisi.
Jeep of Polish Ambassador Found
On 13 October police found the car of Polish Ambassador, Iatsek Multanovski, near the village of Sartichala in the Sagaredjo district. The previous day, Multanovski’s car had been taken by two unidentified armed persons near the village Udabno.
According to Mamuka Zirakishvili, the Head of Sagaredjo police, Multanovski, his wife, his father-in-law and a lecturer at the Foreign Languages Institute were robbed of USD$400, photo cameras and watches. According to Zirakishvili, the statement regarding the robbery was made by the ambassador himself.
The assailants have not yet been found.
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"HUMAN RIGHTS IN GEORGIA" # 10( 56), October, 2003
This is monthly bulletin "Human Rights in Georgia"

Copyright © HRIDC 2003 All Rights Reserved


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Editorial Board: Nino Gvedashvili (Editor in Chief), Irma Mamasakhlisi, Ucha Nanuashvili, David Chikashua, Will Bisch.

English Copy Editor: Jeffrey Picknicki Morski
Contact information: Human Rights Information and Documentation Center (HRIDC)

Office address: 89/24, Agmashenebeli Ave., 12th floor, Tbilisi, 0102, Georgia.

Tel: (995 32) 95 10 03; (995 99) 50 80 36; (995 77) 45 96 26; Fax: (995 32) 95 10 03.



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