Internet Press Conference with Lia Mukhashavria

The Situation with Human Rights in Georgia after the Change of Regime in 2012, the Legislative Amendments for the Improvement of the Conditions for Human Rights Advocacy in Georgia. 

Joint Internet press conferences with leading experts from different countries on the topical issues of the modern times are organized within the framework of the project, entitled "Enhancing knowledge and understanding of ‘the other side’ by Armenians and Azerbaijani through Alternative and First-Hand Information". This project, implemented by Region Research Center (Armenia) and the Institute for Peace and Democracy (Azerbaijan), is supported by the British Embassies in Armenia and Azerbaijan. 



Tarana Kyazimova, "Turan" news (Azerbaijan)

1.Is the activity of human rights advocates hindered in your country?

-Certainly, they hinder the work of human rights activists in Georgia, too, and this is something absolutely normal. But, of course, there is some difference. For example, I was accused of disorderly conduct and paid a fine of 100 GEL (about 60 USD). And this was in 2010. We are being eavesdropped; there are cases of cyber attacks, and so on. Luckily, things do not aggravate more, and I hope that these cases will become fewer and fewer in the future.

2.How closely do Georgian human rights activists cooperate with colleagues in Azerbaijan?

-We cooperate very closely, especially over appeals in the European Court for Human Rights. We help each other and maintain collegial relations.

3.How free are Georgian human rights advocates to go to prisons to meet political prisoners, if there are such in your country?

-I think you are aware of the decree, passed by the Georgian Parliament on political prisoners in December 2012, when 190 people were adjudged as political prisoners and 25 people became political refugees. Coming from this, we can state that they were visited by human rights activists in the prisons, in the capacity of their lawyers or representatives in the European Court. With the status of a lawyer, I am a representative in the European Court and act as an independent monitor. Certainly, there is some room for improvement with us in this respect. In Georgia, there is a system of national preventive mechanisms under the Ombudsman’s office, the representatives of which are free to visit the inmates human rights activists cannot. That is to say, if ever problems have emerged with visiting, they can always be addressed and they immediately visit the prisoner.    

David Stepanyan, "ArmInfo" news (Armenia)

1.Recently, Bidzina Ivanishvili mentioned the reinforcement of democratic values and human rights advocacy in Georgia as a priority task for his Government. Do you think the degree of human rights activity in Georgia has increased after the change of power?

-Certainly the situation has changed for the better, tortures in prisons have stopped, the number of prisoners has been reduced by over 60%. All the problems, related to overcrowded institutions, are done with. These were the more painful problems. The period of so-called procedural agreements is over, when people would buy their freedom for money in the form of a procedural agreement with the prosecutor. Mass arrests, aiming not to punish the guilty, but to fill in the budget at the expense of procedural agreements, have stopped.

2.A number of Georgian NGOs consider that the May 17 action, organized by Identity NGO, was provocative, an attempt to forcefully introduce values that are not acceptable for the Georgian society, thus causing the harsh reaction of the public and clergy, that brought about the spontaneous development of the events. Who, do you think, is currently interested in such provocations?

-I do not agree that Identity NGO’s action was provocative. They were only celebrating the international day against homophobia. Simply, the situation came out of the clergy’s control which, in my opinion, did not expect such a large number of anti-demonstrators and so much aggression on their part. And the provocation, certainly, worked for the benefit of the former political power National Movement, which is currently acting and presents itself as opposition.

3.Do you currently see any difference in the protection of ethnic minority rights in Georgia and that of Georgians. Has the situation changed with the new Ivanishvili government? Do you think that today the rights of Armenians in Javakheti continue to be infringed upon?

-I think that so far there is no fundamental difference in the protection of minority rights, including ethnic minorities, and I would not single out any such group.

Aydin Kerimov, "Novoye Vremya" (Azerbaijan)

1.What is the situation like with human rights advocacy in Georgia after the takeover by the new government?

-Please see my answer to the first question, asked by David Stepanyan.

2.How accurate is the information that the Georgian government has launched a political hunt for the supporters of the President, to leave office soon?

-I am categorically against such an evaluation. I have already mentioned that a decree was passed by the Georgian Parliament on political prisoners. The decree has listed 190 political prisoners and 25 political refugees. They became political refugees due to some investigators who started the investigation of forged cases and the prosecutor who supported the inexistent accusation, as well as the judge, who passed the illegal sentence and brought the innocent people to court. If we multiply 190 by at least 3, we will have at least 570 people who should be arrested, as the least measure, only for these cases of political prisoners. I am not going to mention other violations and even murders which happened in the last 9 years of National Movement rule. If there were a hunt for the supporters of the leaving President, I assure you that the number of our inmates would not be reduced by 60%, but would remain the same or would even increase. But since this is not taking place, this means there is no hunt and, on the contrary, the society is demanding the restoration of justice, the society thinks that nothing has been done in this direction.       

3.Are you familiar with the real situation with human rights advocacy in Azerbaijan and could you evaluate the situation?

-Unfortunately, I am not an expert in this issue and I apologize for my ignorance and inability to evaluate.

4.Did the elections held in Armenia comply with democratic norms?

-Unfortunately, much still needs to be done in our countries for us to have really democratic elections.

Armen Minasyan, (Armenia)

1.What changes, do you think, happened in Georgia in human rights advocacy after the takeover by Bidzina Ivanishvili’s team? What is the situation like in Samtskhe-Javakheti?

-I think I have already answered all these questions above. Please see the answers above.

2.What projects are currently being implemented by the legislative and executive authorities in Georgia in the field of human rights advocacy?

-Serious work is being done in both legislative and executive power bodies for the improvement of the situation with human rights. But I think that the most important reform is the judicial reform, which will guarantee the restoration of violated rights in the country. We are very hopeful that we will manage to reform the judicial system without serious losses and troubles.

3.According to media reports, the situation in Georgian prisons has not improved after the loud scandal. There are facts of protest actions of prisoners. How would you comment on the situation in the field of human rights advocacy in the prisons in Georgia?

-At least, the reduction in the number of inmates qualitatively changes the situation in the system. In my opinion, the situation, of course, leaves a lot to be desired, but objectively I think that there are serious improvements, and there will be even more.

4.How would you comment on the statement of the Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance Sozar Subari that it is impossible to manage large prisons without applying the methods of the former Minister of Defense and Internal Affairs Bacho Akhalay?

-Unfortunately, I am not familiar with this statement.

Natig Javadli, "Bizim Yol" (Azerbaijan)

1.Do any human rights infringements take place in the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad?

-I do not think so.

2.Are Georgian human rights activists interested in human rights violations in Armenia and Azerbaijan?

-Yes, of course.

3.How would you evaluate the attitude of Ivanishvili’s government to separatists Javakheti, Abkhazia and Ossetia?

-I think highly of the work done by Minister Paata Zakaraeishvili, who I think acts correctly in this respect.

Rashad Rustamov, "Zerkalo" (Azerbaijan)

1.Do human rights activists in Georgia cooperate with human rights activists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia? If yes, is this cooperation yielding any fruit?

-Unfortunately, there is very little cooperation at the moment. I wish I could cooperate closer with colleagues in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. I mean in terms of trials in the European Court of Human Rights. I have offered my help and collegial support a few times. I am ready to do this in the future, too, and I hope that this will work, since human rights is a universal and global value without borders. 

2.What are the interrelations of human rights advocates and state structures in Georgia? Are they opposing each other or do they cooperate?

-It should be mentioned that the interaction has radically changed. Our Prosecutor General finds time to meet human rights activists and the representatives of the civil society. We could not even dream of such a thing this time last year.

3.Do Georgian human rights activists protect the rights of captive Abkhazians and Ossetians, if there are such?

-I can say for sure – yes, they are protected.

Gagik Baghdasaryan, "News Armenia" news (Armenia)

1.Do you think the Western countries and human rights activists turned a blind eye to the infringements of human rights in Georgia (if there were such) in the times of Saakashvili’s rule, due to the special relations of these countries with the Georgian authorities?

-I would not say that they would turn a blind eye to the facts of human rights violations in Georgia. All the facts were objectively published in the reports. I think the evaluations were subjective.

2.How would you characterize the current political situation in Georgia? As democratic, half-authoritarian, authoritarian?

-For now I am convinced that we live in a democratic country.

Emil Babayan, correspondent of "Regnum" news agency in

1.Georgia was the first South Caucasian country that allowed a gay-parade. Moreover, the attempts of the opponents of the event to disrupt it came into the strict attention of the law-enforcement bodies. Can we say that in this aspect Tbilisi is a role model for its two neighbors in the region?

-I do not agree to your evaluation of the events of May 17, this was not a gay-parade. And I do not think that Tbilisi is a role model for the neighboring countries.

2.The NGO you manage is called Human Rights Priority, that is to say, in essence, it promotes liberalism. It is well-known that in South Caucasus, in Central Asia, and other post-Soviet states this ideology does not seem to survive and is perceived quite negatively by the public. Do you think this is a problem, and if yes, what do you think the solution will be?

-Maybe you are partially right, regarding the unacceptability of liberal values in some parts in Central Asia, but not in South Caucasus, because our organization and its name  - Human Rights Priority – is truly trying to make human rights a priority in Georgia. And our society shares this opinion and unites around the activities of the organization. I think we do not have any problems with this in Georgia. But in places where this is a problem, a lot of effort and work and, of course, vivid examples of work done by human rights activists as well as large precedent cases will be required to change the attitude. We need examples that can change people’s views. 

Thank you very much for the interesting questions and the possibility to communicate with you.


30 January, 2014
Right after the New Year, the citizens of Armenia were shocked by the gas and electricity bills for December.

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