Oral update by High Commissioner for Human Rights on follow-up to Human Rights Council resolution 49/33 on “Cooperation

OHCHR

On behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, I am pleased to update the Council regarding the implementation of resolution 49/33 on “Cooperation with Georgia”, adopted on 1 April 2022.

We thank the Government of Georgia, the Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia, regional organizations, civil society, and United Nations entities which responded to our call for submissions and provided valuable information.

Distinguished delegates,

As in previous years, OHCHR’s Senior Human Rights Adviser for the South Caucasus, based in Tbilisi, has continued to provide technical assistance to the Government and institutions of Georgia, civil society organizations and other actors, to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.

The High Commissioner’s report to be presented at the next session of the Council, will outline the activities of the Senior Human Rights Adviser, and highlight developments on the administration of justice, combatting torture and discrimination, and promoting gender equality during the period from 1 June 2021 to 31 May 2022.

It will also report on human rights issues and challenges in and around Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia, as requested by Human Rights Council resolution 49/33.

Excellencies,

We welcome the launch at the end of 2021 of the Interagency Coordination Committee for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, consistent with the requirements under the Convention.

We welcome the work of the Legal Committee of the Parliament on replacing the outdated Code on Administrative Offences adopted in 1984, in order to bring it in line with international standards on the right to a fair trial.

We call on the authorities in Georgia to adopt the National Human Rights Strategy and National Human Rights Action Plan. It is essential to maintain the level of the functional independence of institutions dealing with torture prevention and privacy protection while ensuring transparency and public debate.

We invite Georgia to fully investigate violence by homophobic groups in Tbilisi in July 2021, which resulted in injuries to dozens of journalists and prevented members of the LGBTQI community from exercising their rights to peaceful assembly.

Excellencies,

We regret having to report again this year that OHCHR’s request for immediate and unimpeded access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as requested by Human Rights Council resolution 49/33, has not been accommodated.

OHCHR reiterates the need for a baseline human rights assessment of the situation in South Ossetia and for relevant updates of the existing assessment in Abkhazia. We remain available to assist and offer technical advice to support such processes.

The lack of political solutions to address security and humanitarian related risks for the enjoyment of human rights has been compounded by the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

The absence of regular monitoring and availability of effective remedies is exacerbated by the lack of access, in some instances, for international human rights organizations and mechanisms, especially in the context of South Ossetia. In addition, the closure, since September 2019, of the main crossing point from Tbilisi-controlled territory to South Ossetia continues to hinder human rights protection.

These features, combined, also contribute to deepening of the existing vulnerabilities and socio-economic isolation of the affected populations.

Excellencies,

We continue receiving allegations of human rights violations in and around Abkhazia and South Ossetia, including discriminatory restrictions of ethnic Georgians from access to education in their mother tongue and access to personal documents necessary for the enjoyment of human rights. These concerns also include adverse effects of restrictions on freedom of movement, access to livelihoods and an adequate standard of living, pensions, markets, healthcare, the rights to liberty and security, family life and property.

We welcome the lifting of restrictions at two crossing points between Abkhazia and Tbilisi-controlled territory in July 2021. We reiterate our calls for the lifting of all prolonged crossings’ closures and movement restrictions at the South Ossetian Administrative boundary line, without further delay. This is instrumental in addressing negative consequences of movement restrictions that continued to adversely impact the humanitarian situation and human rights of the affected people.

We call on all relevant parties to ensure prompt, impartial and thorough investigation into the cases of alleged violations of the right to life that occurred since 2014 in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, including those mentioned in previous OHCHR reports to this Council. OHCHR continued to receive reports about arbitrary deprivations of liberty. We call on all relevant parties to build on some positive examples from 2021 and conduct a thorough and transparent review of all alleged cases of arbitrary and prolonged deprivations of liberty in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This includes Mr. Mamuka Chkhikvadze, who was detained in South Ossetia on 10 December 2021 and on 12 May 2022. His deprivation of liberty, considered by the Government of Georgia as arbitrary, was prolonged for 5 years and 6 months.

Mr. Vice-President, in conclusion, OHCHR calls on all those concerned to put human rights sensitive approaches at the centre of efforts to address outstanding issues and individual cases with a view to minimizing tensions and building trust.

I thank you

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