Analytics and Interview

On 16 January 2015 late in the evening the website of the Ministry of Justice published a statement that the NGO Committee Against Torture had been added to the register of non-profit organizations designated as ‘foreign agents’.
Tanya Lokshina is the Russia program director at Human Rights Watch and Honorary Participant of International Youth Human Rights Movement: As the crisis in Ukraine escalated this spring, the Kremlin’s vicious crackdown on civil society also escalated. Space for independent civic activity in Russia is shrinking dramatically, but international policymakers and the media have been understandably too distracted to do much about it. Since early spring, it seems as though every week brings a new pernicious law or legislative proposal.
Earlier this year, the correspondent of Youth Human Rights Movement from Germany Jakob Stürmann interviewed Konstantin Baranov, member of the Coordination Council of the International Youth Human Rights Movement. They discussed so called “law against homosexual propaganda” and the overall situation of LGBT in Russia.  

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Oleg Sentsov, Olexander Kolchenko, Hennadiy Afanasiev and Oleksiy Chyrniy have been held in Russian jails for two years already under fabricated charges of ‘terrorism’. We consider it being necessary to express solidarity with those who are persecuted due to their pro-Ukrainian views, civic stand and desire for freedom in Russia-annexed Crimea.
Helsinki Committee of Armenia has published “Human Rights in Armenia 2014” Annual Report. The report reflects on the Right to Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, Political Persecutions, Freedom of Conscience and Religion, The Rights of the Child, Protection of Labor Rights.
«We have a few questions for you,» a border guard told Sinaver Kadyrov, a Crimean Tatar activist, at the Armyansk checkpoint in northern Crimea on Jan. 23. Kadyrov was on his way to Kherson, in southern Ukraine, to fly to Turkey for medical treatment. It was the beginning of an ordeal that ended with a local court expelling him from Crimea, his home of almost 25 years.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority It is time to sit back and reflect.

Mark Twain


Youth Human Rights Movement

An emerging trend in Georgia - shrinking the scope of rights and freedoms guaranteed under the national legislation


Liberal legislation guaranteeing fundamental rights and freedoms has been one of the most important achievements of Georgia throughout its transition to democracy. However, what remained problematic was implementation of those laws in practice.
Impunity for violating human rights and freedoms was a long-established practice in Georgia.1 Human Rights Defenders have documented dozens of such cases in recent years and continuously called upon the relevant authorities to eliminate these trends, undermining the very foundations of society.
What followed, however, are not the actions to address the systemic problems, but amending the laws and shrinking the scope of rights and freedoms guaranteed by the national legal system. Legalizing what once was considered as a severe violation of human rights, has become a new trend threatening human rights and democracy in Georgia.

July 2009

Apparently in response to the thousands-strong protests throughout spring and summer 2009 in Tbilisi, demanding resignation of the President, in July the parliament adopted regressive amendments seriously undermining legal environment conducive of peaceful public protests. The amendments were adopted in a rush, on an extraordinary session of the Parliament, despite the call from human rights groups to wait for the legal opinion from the Venice Commission.

Limiting the Right to Assembly and Manifestation - July amendments to the Law on Assemblies and Manifestations imposed a blanket ban on assemblies in certain public areas (within 20 meters of the government buildings); the law also banned full or partial blocking of roads during rallies unless the rally cannot be held elsewhere due to the number of participants.
The law was passed despite the call from human rights groups to wait for the legal opinion from the Venice Commission.

Increasing police powers – Police received the right to use special means (including plastic and rubber bullets, pepper gas, etc.), which were legally prohibited before. (It needs to be further noted here, that Georgian legislation does not expressly require that use of force in all circumstances must be proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued.) Moreover, legitimate grounds for the use of force listed in the law go beyond the list provided in article 2 of the ECHR. e.g., unlike ECHR, Georgian legislation authorizes use of force solely for the purposes of protection of property.

Harshening the sanctions – The term of administrative detention was increased from 30 to up-to 90 days. This sanction can be applied for minor hooliganism and defying police orders, as well as violating the rule of holding a public assembly. The measure appears excessive given that pretrial detention for criminal charges is only 60 days.

Furthermore, these amendments were introduced against the background of continuous impunity for previous instances when peaceful assembly and manifestation was severely dispersed by police.2

The July 2009 amendments are used to silence the dissent, particularly youth groups who use peaceful street actions for condemning cases of corruption, mismanagement, human rights abuses, etc.

July 2010

Limiting Access to Public Information - A new amendment to Georgia’s freedom of information law introduced strict limits on “third-party” access to information about cases involving the Georgian government in international courts. The amendment marked the first time the government has restricted the country’s FOI legislation since the 2003 Rose Revolution.

Law on Reserve Troops - Amendments increased term of compulsory service in the reserve forces. According to the law, male citizens before the age of 40 may be called for compulsory service for several times per year, but the total days of service per year should not exceed 45. The law does not however provide any other limitation on the powers to call a citizen in the reserve, and does not clarify whether and in which situations a citizen is entitled to ask for postponement of the service. Such gaps in the law create disproportionately high risk of abuse of power and arbitrariness.

September 2010

Increasing Police powers – Police received the power to stop any person at street for a search – (called “surface examination”, which can easily be followed by a full search, as formulated in the law). This procedure can be conducted based on a “reasonable suspicion” – a notion undefined further - that one might have committed a crime. The law does not specify the amount of time limit for conducting such a procedure, does not grant the person in question any legal status and procedural rights to protect oneself from illegal intrusion and abuse. The law further eliminates the need to draw up a search protocol, and to obtain a prior authorization of a judge, or a prosecutor - in emergency situations (as specifically mandated by the previous law).

Limiting protection of personal data (draft law pending before the parliament) – pending amendments to the “Law on the Protection of Personal Data” initiated by the parliamentary majority. The amendments, if adopted, will oblige any public or private body to collect the data about its employees, process it and send it to the inspector of the personal data, a new position the draft law also envisages. While the need for introducing such a law remains vague vis-à-vis declared democratic goals, the law does not provide proper guarantees for ensuring that information, such as e.g., one’s religious or political beliefs or sexual orientation will be protected appropriately.3

Limiting transparency in criminal justice (New Criminal Procedure Code) – [in force since October 1, 2010] – Although the new Code has many commendable provisions, their effectiveness in practice to facilitate justice has yet to be tested. One of the most problematic parts is that the new Code eliminates the notion of a victim as a part to the proceedings, and consequently, leaves the latter without any procedural rights or mechanisms to be involved in the investigation and exercise scrutiny on its effectiveness. That, in itself, leads to elimination of the legal mechanisms for the broader public to exercise such a scrutiny over investigations, which are of critical importance, especially when public interest is at stake.

Although, the Georgian government has several times showed openness to hear legal expertise and recommendations from the European bodies on these amendments, i.e. Venice Commission, in the end, the amendments were adopted before the Venice Commission provided its opinion.
In addition, control over the legislative process is weak in Georgia, owing to misbalance of political forces inside the Parliament.4 Constitutional Court has also failed to establish itself as a strong guarantor of human rights through law.

We consider that erosion of strong guarantees for the protection and promotion of human rights in the national legislation is a clear step back. They jeopardize current achievements and future of democracy in Georgia.

We call upon Council of Europe and the European Union, and their appropriate agencies, to:

  • Strengthen their monitoring over the legislative process in Georgia.
  • Use their mandate and political leverage to ensure that laws are kept strictly in line with the ECHR standards and European values of human rights and freedoms.
  • Continue support for civil society groups working on monitoring legislative process and implementation of laws in practice.

Source: Human Rights Centre (HRIDC)