Elections, Covid-19, freedom of media and Mikheil Saakashvili in focus of Ombudsman's 2021 report
Public Defender of Georgia Nino Lomjaria discussed the state of human rights in Georgia in 2021 amid the International Human Rights Day.
The ombudsman criticized the government’s decisions made during the fight against the pandemic, spoke about the self-government elections and noted that the country’s current socio-political environment is hostile to the media. According to Lomjaria, ex-president Saakashvili’s right to a fair trial was also violated.
According to Nino Lomjaria, decisions that the Georgian government made during the pandemic endangered people’s lives. The ombudsman believes that the vaccination information campaign and some of the regulations were ineffective because some decisions made were not based on scientific evidence and were politically motivated. Among them is the introduction of permanent green passports:
“The best example of this is the introduction of permanent green passports, the abolition of the obligation to wear a mask for a certain period of time, and so on. This leaves the impression that the regulations were not based on scientific, medical or epidemiological considerations, but on political or other expediency”.
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According to the ombudsman, the 2021 self-government elections, which were held in an extremely polarized environment, were problematic. Lomjaria also noted that 69 people were fired and discriminated against on political grounds during the elections:
“According to the information available to the Public Defender, 69 people were allegedly fired and discriminated against for their political views, while 59 opposition candidates were allegedly pressured and intimidated into opting out of the elections. As a result, with a few exceptions, most of them withdrew their candidacies”.
Lomjaria also notes that she shares the assessment of local and international observer organizations, which found that the alleged voter pressure and the intimidating environment might have affected the free expression of the political will of the electorate.
Freedom of media
“In 2021, the threatening and hostile environment for journalists in recent years was particularly troubling”, the ombudsman said.
According to her, the ombudsman’s office recorded dozens of cases of violence against media representatives. Nino Lomjaria also notes that the cynical attitude towards journalists by government officials is unequivocal.
Speaking about the events of July 5, Nino Lomjaria stressed that the government not only failed to protect the wellbeing of citizens, but also incited violence. According to the ombudsman, 45 journalists and cameramen have been granted victim status in the July 5 case.
Regarding Georgia’s incarcerated third president, Mikheil Saakashvili, Lomjaria said his right to a fair trial had been violated.
“The Public Defender assessed the case of Mikheil Saakashvili as a violation of the right to a fair trial since he was not allowed to appear in court during the first three trials due to unsubstantiated and illegal arguments”, the Public Defender said.
Lomjaria also noted that the video of Saakashvili’s transfer to Gldani facility N18 violated the former president’s rights. According to her, the position of the ombudsman coincides with the assessment of the State Inspector’s Office.