Saturday

16th Dec 2017

Opinion

Defending human rights in Georgia

  • Bidzina Ivanishvili (l) with EU council president Herman Van Rompuy (Photo: President of the European Council)

The world was watching Tbilisi on 17 May when a small gathering by LGBTI activists was met with a 20,000-strong protest march, forcing the authorities to evacuate the activists.

While the clashes highlighted resistance within certain sectors of Georgian society to change, they also demonstrated that change is under way in Georgia. The path ahead may not always be smooth, but the government of Georgia will not waver in its commitment to ensuring respect for the rights of all Georgian citizens.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

As Prime Minister of Georgia, I was shocked by what happened. It was a disgrace unworthy of Georgia’s national and Christian traditions of tolerance.

The acts of violence committed by some participants of the demonstrations, including against police and journalists, can never be justified; arrests have been made and investigations are on-going to ensure all perpetrators are brought to justice. Being a clergyman is no alibi. Whoever committed a crime, overstepped the law, incited or participated in violence, will be punished.

In this task, we are grateful of the support of our European friends, including EU special adviser Thomas Hammarberg, who is in Georgia to monitor the human rights situation and advise the new government in its reform efforts.

For my part, I will continue to exercise strong leadership and do everything in my power to implement the necessary reforms in line with EU and international democratic standards.

Indeed, last week’s events are a sign of the changes taking place in Georgia, causing upheaval but also signalling a new Georgia to come. Ahead of the international day against homophobia, I said that I was aware of the opposition coming from some quarters to my government’s explicit support for the equal rights of all minority groups, including sexual minorities. I also said however that society would, in time, accept this new equality. Rather than a setback for our country, these are the growing pains of Georgia’s modern democracy after decades of political repression.

The government of Georgia will not – cannot – yield to requests of curtailment of rights to freedom of peaceful assembly or freedom of expression on the basis of sexual orientation. The Constitution of Georgia grants these rights to all Georgian citizens without discrimination, and the government is committed to upholding equality, democracy and the rule of law.

The government will continue to give its full backing to a legislative bill being put together to tackle discrimination, and, if adopted, do its utmost to ensure its rapid and effective implementation.

Furthermore, last week’s demonstrations were evidence of a young Georgian democracy, of a nation that, since last October’s election, is no longer ruled as a police state but allows free expression and free assembly.

NGOs and international observers have confirmed how the new government’s support for civil society and for the voice of opposition within Parliament and government channels is stronger than ever. We must, however, continue to strengthen these channels and better defend the voices of all minorities.

In addition, the role of the police in protecting the fundamental rights of the people of Georgia is of critical importance, and Georgia can be proud of their bravery, competence and sound judgement in the face of the adversity they were confronted with last week. Far outnumbered as they encountered thousands of violent protesters, the evacuation of the small gathering by LGBTI supporters was deemed a wise action to avoid further injuries.

Democracy in Georgia is not just window-dressing.

The people of Georgia elected our government because they want real democracy. In order to achieve this, many reforms are needed and they will not all be easy, or necessarily popular. We know however that we can count on the support of our European friends and advisers throughout these times of change and, most importantly, I have full faith in the people of Georgia and their commitment to European values and integration.

The writer is Prime Minister of Georgia

Focus

EU ministers urge Reding to do more for gay rights

Fourteen member states have backed a petition urging the European Commission to do more for the rights of sexual minorities, with the last major initiative several years ago.

Interview

Georgia's PM lays out European 'dream'

Georgia's Prime Minister tells EUobserver he wants to transform Georgia into a "typically European" society and into a Dubai-type business hub between Europe and Asia.

LGBT rights at stake in Georgia election

The Georgian Dream party says it is pro-EU, but its demonisation of LGBT people for the sake of a few votes is a retrograde move on Georgia's European path.

Iceland: further from EU membership than ever

With fewer pro-EU MPs in the Iceland parliament than ever before, any plans to resume 'candidate' membership of the bloc are likely to remain on ice, as the country prioritises national sovereignty and a more left-wing path.

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives