Georgia: Summary of Opposition and Media Freedom in 2021
There were many human rights violations in Georgia during 2021, which was characterized by a deep political impasse between the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) and opposition parties.
The Georgian police force was under scrutiny for a number of reasons during the year and politically motivated actions against people from the opposition were reported throughout the year.
The key areas of concern were as follows:
- Protests are disrupted by police
- Attacks on journalists and the free press by the ruling Government
- Institutionalization of children
- Violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people
Here is a summary of the most concerning events of last year in Georgia.
Law Enforcement Abuse and Lack of Accountability
Lack of accountability from law enforcement for their abuses has been a problem that persists. 133 complaints of ill-treatment by prison staff or police were given to the Ombudswoman's Office by September 2021. The office also petitioned the State Inspectorate Office, an independent body investigating abuses of law enforcement, to launch investigations in all cases. Further, freedom of assembly was restricted when Police interfered with protesters installing tents on the premises of the parliament building in Tbilisi. In February, police arrested over 20 protesters on misdemeanor disobedience charges after officers seized a tent, leading to clashes with the gathered activists.
Lawsuits Against David Kezerashvili and Politicians from the Opposition
There were a number of serious attacks by the ruling government on former politicians from the opposition.
David Kezerashvili, the former Minister of Defence in Georgia and current owner of the private television station FormulaTV, was sentenced to 5 years in prison due to charges of embezzling from his position from 2006-2008. The event occurred in relation to FormulaTV broadcasting a public opinion survey two days before the municipal elections, suggesting that Georgian Dream might not get enough votes. It is reminiscent of the situation in 2011 when the government took over Rustavi 2 from its private owners. There are strong reasons to question the legal acions against Mr. Kezerashvili. Both France and the UK have in the past refused to extradite Mr. Kezerashvili on similar accusations due to the belief of political motives against former politicians from the opposition.
The case against David Kezerashvili that occurred two days prior to the 2021 local government elections was mentioned in “Georgia 2021 Human Rights Report”, section” Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media” published by the US State Department.
In another event, on October 1, a day before the polls, police detained ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili after his return to Georgia following an eight-year absence. In 2018, a court convicted him in absentia on two counts of abuse of office and sentenced him to six years. The Interior Ministry launched an investigation into illegal border crossing in addition to two other pending charges.
Both Mr. Kezerashvili and Mr. Saakashvili have denied all charges and said they were politically motivated. Both Mr. Kezerashvili and Mr. Saakashvili have denied all charges and said they were politically motivated. A number of foreign political experts have spoken out in recent months with concerns over the current situation and called for the intervention of western countries. They believe the government is using its power to imprison opposition and in order to silence private media and journalists who criticize them.