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Georgia seeks its European and Euro-Atlantic integration

GEORGIA

Rule of the law by building democratic institutions

Georgia seeks its European
and Euro-Atlantic integration

Charge d’Affaires Minister- Counselor George Khabelashvili Embassy of the Republic of Georgia and Minister-Counsellor David Bakanidze had a press meeting at the Embassy of Georgia in Itaewon, Seoul on July 26, 2013 to introduce the political, economic, social and various other aspects of Georgia.--Ed.

Ambassador Nikoloz Apkhazava of Georgia

Main points:

In its recent statement, the Government of Georgia confirmed its unequivocal and adamant will to ensure the country’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration and introduction of the rule of law by means of building democratic institutions.

Pointing to the differences between the current and ex-governments of Georgia, it was mentioned that the previous government intended to attain the civilized world using uncivilized methods, such as a judiciary under total control, controlled media, powerless opposition, total control over business, singlehanded decisions, etc., while the new authorities intend to take a difficult and yet proper path leading to the West, ensuring the rule of law, building democratic institutions, and creating a competitive and fair environment to this end.

In such a short time, the government's actions have proved more than once that it intends to address the challenges facing the country exclusively based on democratic values:

Keeping Constitutional balance by limiting the immense power concentrated in the hands of the executive branch and transferring it to the parliament is a key issue.

Some constitutional amendments adopted in 2010 by the previous parliament, limit the rights of the president but empower the prime minister tremendously, allowing him/her to interfere with legislative functions and singlehandedly appoint the government.

These amendments, tailored for a particular person (President Saakashvili) are about to come into effect in October.

However, the Prime Minister, the Chairperson of the Parliament, and the opposition leader saw an agreement on the joint development of fundamental constitutional amendments, which will limit the Prime Minister? powers and ensure constitutional balance that will serve as the foundation for true democracy in the country.

Throughout the reforms Government managed to achieve a truly Independent judiciary: In the past nine years, statistics have been alarming. Acquittals constituted only 0.01 percent of all court decisions. The positions of the prosecution and judges were in full harmony.

Due to the government's reform, the first time in the history of Georgia, the judges were enabled to democratically elect their representatives in the High Council of Justice. Courtrooms, closed to the media since 2007, were opened again making the trials transparent to the public and media.

Eradicating selective justice serves as a cornerstone to the rule of law: Georgia witnessed selective justice and impunity of senior officials for years, while zero tolerance policy applied to average citizens.

Immediately upon the change of government following the October 1, 2012 parliamentary election, thousands of citizens whose rights had been violated turned to the investigation agencies, demanding investigation of various crimes, such as torture, inhuman treatment, unlawful property expropriation, privacy infringement, blackmail, intimidation, etc.

The current Georgian Government is obligated to put an end to the widespread disease of impunity. There cannot be any dividing line. This is why in the recent past charges were brought not only against former senior officials but also against acting senior officials. Since the coming into power of the new government, thirty-three current officials have been charged with various crimes.

Ensuring freedom of the press ensures transparency and democracy.

One of the main achievements by the current Georgian Government involves freeing the media from governmental pressure. Before the election, the main media outlets were controlled by the government, while the remaining media had their sources of income limited. There was frequent interference in the activities of journalists, including acts of beating/physical intimidation. A selective approach was deployed and artificial obstacles were created for such media outlets.

Immediately upon the change of government, governmental pressure was removed fully, and pluralistic information became available; commercial income opportunities are now made available to media outlets, automatically resulting from the act of freeing business from governmental pressure.

The parliament adopted a law aimed to ensure a more democratic way to compose the board of Public Broadcaster, while also furthering the transparency of financing of television companies; the must-carry and must-offer regulations are now mandatory;

Charge d’Affaires Minister-Counselor George Khabelashvili (left) and Minister-Counsellor David Bakanidze (right)

Electoral environment:
As mentioned in a statement, Georgia has spent many years in a shackling and unfair electoral environment. The change of government through the October 2012 parliamentary elections should not be credited to the previous Georgian Government as a successful accomplishment.
Prior to the elections 150 of Georgian Dream (currently ruling party) supporters were unlawfully detained; the property of 60 of the contributors of the party was levied; hundreds of its members and activists were fined and subjected to humiliating interrogation.

New government does not intend to treat the opposition the same way. It will rather make an all-out effort to ensure a fair and free electoral environment for all political forces. International observers have been invited five months prior to the election.

Human rights:
Penitentiary System and Fight against Inhuman Treatment - Torture and inhuman treatment in penitentiaries posed a serious and deep-rooted systemic problem. Overcrowded penitentiaries and poor healthcare were also integral parts of this system. Inmate mortality rate was unimaginably high (about 150 deaths per year).

After the election, the situation in penitentiaries underwent drastic changes. Torture and inhuman treatment by prison administration are no longer reported; the national prevention mechanism has been empowered; Effective healthcare reform in penitentiaries is underway; and re-socialization programs have been launched.

Privacy Rights:
After the change of government, the authorities discovered vast amounts of unlawfully obtained recordings depicting the private lives of various public figures. In addition, the detrimental practice of tapping telephones and other means of communication without a warrant was also widespread.

Protection of privacy rights is considered an important value by the government. This is why it is planned to destroy the archive of all illegally obtained recordings under public supervision; works on the improvement of the legislation are underway, so that similar violations do not occur in the future; the office of Inspector of Personal Information Protection was established.

Labor Rights:As requested by the European Union, the United States of America and International Labor Organization, we introduced substantial amendments to the Labor Code.

Protection of Minority Rights - An antidiscrimination law has already been drafted. This draft law will be reviewed by international experts; strong political statements are being made by senior officials on a regular basis, aimed to protect equality and protection of minority rights (among them are my Statements, and maybe they are as bold and strong as ever made by senior political figures in Georgia).

Further the statement stresses the necessity of having a strong opposition in the Country, pointing that there are many prudent people in the opposition who never took part in violence or corruption. However it is not wise to identify opposition with one or two people or leaders. Even now, some opposition members are rather constructive and cooperate with the ruling party for the interests of the country. The government would be glad to see a strong and healthy opposition force capable to play constructive role in the country's life. k

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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