U.S. State Department releases 2011 Human Rights Report
The U.S. Department of State has released the annual 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
Along with other countries, the report also refers to the situation in Georgia. It highlights the progress the country achieved in 2011 as well as the human rights problems reported during the year.
"The constitution of Georgia provides for an executive branch that reports to the president, a unicameral parliament, and an independent judiciary. President Mikheil Saakashvili was reelected in January 2008 in an election that international observers found consistent with most Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) democratic election commitments. However, the OSCE also highlighted significant problems, including widespread allegations of intimidation and pressure, flawed vote-counting and tabulation processes, and shortcomings in the complaints and appeals process. These and other problems were also seen in parliamentary elections in May 2008, which OSCE observers concluded were uneven and incomplete in their adherence to international standards. Despite a large number of opposition parties, the executive and parliament were dominated by a single party. Security forces reported to civilian authorities.
"Although the government took some steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed human rights abuses, investigations into such allegations were frequently terminated or delayed, contributing to an atmosphere of impunity.
De facto authorities in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remained outside the control of the central government. These authorities continued to be supported by several thousand Russian troops and border guards occupying the areas since the 2008 armed conflict between Russia and Georgia. A cease-fire remained in effect in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, although incidents of violence occurred in both areas. Russian border guards restricted the movement of the local populations. De facto authorities continued to restrict the rights, primarily of ethnic Georgians, to vote, otherwise participate in the political process, own property, register businesses, and travel. The de facto South Ossetian authorities refused to permit most ethnic Georgians driven out during and after the 2008 conflict to return to South Ossetia. With the exception of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), international organizations were not allowed regular access to South Ossetia to provide humanitarian assistance." the report says.
U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Bass commented on the report today.
"Because the report itself focuses less on improvements over the previous year, I want highlight some areas where Georgia made important progress in 2011. Those areas include: construction of new prisons that meet international standards; the introduction of jury trials for certain crimes; and the opportunity for minority religions to register as entities of public law in Georgia.
"We also see areas, where more progress is needed and we do so in context of our support for everyone in Georgia (inside and outside government) committed to defending human rights.
"As Secretary Clinton said in her speech on human rights last year "Democracies demonstrate their greatness not by insisting they are perfect but by using their institutions and the principles to make themselves perfect".
"Here in Georgia we remain concerned with reports of abuse of prisoners and detainees and dangerously substandard conditions in some prisons. Shortfalls in a rule of law, including concerns about the judiciaries even handed application of due process protections. The U.S. continues to believe that stronger Georgian democracy requires the most competitive possible environment for the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections", he said.