United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Georgia, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa508.html [accessed 13 December 2013]
This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Two years after declaring its independence from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Georgia continued in 1993 to struggle with severe political instability, internal armed conflict, economic ruin, and runaway crime. Symptoms of anarchy appeared, and aspects of Georgia's effort to consolidate democracy were set aside. The national Parliament was elected in nationwide elections in 1992; Eduard Shevardnadze was elected Chairman of that Parliament in the same elections. A November 1992 law established the Chairman of Parliament as Head of State. The Chairman subsequently named a Prime Minister and Cabinet of Ministers. That Cabinet, and other executive branch officials, report to Shevardnadze. Mounting public criticism culminated in a change of government in August-September which led to a confrontation between Shevardnadze and the Parliament over the latter's right to confirm ministerial appointees. Shevardnadze suddenly resigned on September 14 but within 24 hours agreed to return if Parliament declared a state of emergency and suspended its own activities for 2 months, which it agreed to do to avoid further crisis. The state of emergency banned demonstrations and limited freedom of the press. The continuation of the armed conflict in Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia, was a major factor in the general deterioration of the country's political and economic stability. The Russian Government brokered a cease-fire accord in late July but made little apparent effort to hold the separatists to the agreement. The uneven implementation of the cease-fire conditions gave the Abkhaz separatists a clear military advantage, which they used in a major September offensive. This offensive, in which volunteer Russian Federation combatants reportedly participated in far greater numbers than Abkhazians, captured the capital, Sukhumi, and the remaining Georgian-held cities. The separatist forces committed widespread atrocities against the Georgian civilian population, killing many women, children, and elderly, capturing some as hostages and torturing others (see Sections 1.a. and 1.g.). Meanwhile, armed Zviadists, supporters of former president Zviad Gamsakhurdia, continued acts of banditry during the year and succeeded in late summer in seizing control of additional cities and blocking rail lines. The former president himself returned to Georgia in September, and the long-simmering conflict boiled over into civil war. After initial losses, government forces recaptured most of the territory seized, including the key port town of Poti. The Government unsuccessfully tried to eliminate paramilitary forces in favor of establishing a single unified army. The regular army, however, totals only a few thousand men, poorly armed, trained, and equipped. The National Guard, once the largest armed force, was integrated into the Army during 1993. The most prominent and best equipped paramilitary group, the Mkhedrioni, led by Djaba Ioseliani, was the principal armed defender of Shevardnadze's Government during the civil war with Gamsakhurdia. The members of the "Kommandatura," organizations created to enforce the state of emergency, were the principal enforcers and often included members of the Mkhedrioni. All these forces, including the police on a less frequent basis, committed human rights abuses during the year, including using their powers to repress the opposition and rob and intimidate the population. The Intelligence and Information Service, later renamed the Ministry of Security, a successor to the Committee for State Security or KGB, is active in internal security and antiterrorist affairs. It also engaged in abuses, including the intimidation of opposition figures and repression of their viewpoints. Georgia's multiple conflicts helped fuel a continuing downward spiral in the economy. When Russia cut off a supply of cash rubles in the spring, Georgia began printing its own "coupons." Hyperinflation followed, poverty spread dramatically, and bread lines lengthened. Industrial production came to a near standstill, as transport lines ceased functioning and trade with ex-Soviet republics diminished. The armed conflicts with Abkhazians and Zviadists brought forth allegations of human rights violations on all sides, including the killing of prisoners and civilians and looting of villages. Law enforcement officials were credibly reported to have carried out arrests without warrants, physically abused detainees, and exceeded the legal time limits on pretrial detention without filing charges. Freedoms of speech and press, and of assembly and association, were severely curtailed, especially for Zviadists, and the state of emergency imposed censorship not only on military subjects but also on political discourse.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
In the war in Abkhazia, Georgian military or paramilitary units were credibly reported to have killed some prisoners. Abkhazian separatists killed members of the Georgian Government in Sukhumi after capturing that city. They tortured and killed the Georgian Prime Minister of Abkhazia after taking him prisoner in late September and killed many working-level officials. They also killed large numbers of Georgian civilians who remained behind in Abkhaz-seized territory. It is credibly reported that volunteers from the Russian Federation fighting with the separatists carried out many of the killings. Zviadists shot to death a senior officer of the Georgian air force in October in Mengrelia, when he traveled to the area for preagreed negotiations. Zviadist forces also executed a Georgian journalist captured in Mengrelia during the height of the civil war.
Many Georgians caught in Abkhazia when the separatists launched their September offensive are unaccounted for. Over 1,000 people are still reported missing. Many are presumed to have been killed.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Members of the police, paramilitary groups, the intelligence service, and the armed forces have been credibly accused of routinely beating detainees in order to extort information or force confessions. Some senior government officials attempted to reform the practices of these organizations, but stiff resistance limited their effectiveness. No perpetrators of abuses within the official community are known to have been prosecuted or punished for their actions. Law enforcement officials were credibly reported to have frequently beaten detainees, arrested despite an apparent lack of evidence linking them to a specific crime, in order to extort payments from prisoners' families to effect their release. In one case, officials severely beat a man accused of robbery and demanded that he pay them a sum equivalent to the value of the goods stolen, although there was no evidence to substantiate their allegations of criminal activity. They are credibly reported to have tortured the victim by hanging him by his arms for extended periods. Physical abuse directed at political detainees continued in 1993. Several Zviadists arrested in connection with terrorist acts committed or allegedly planned in 1992 claimed they were subjected to physical abuse in 1993. In some instances, the perpetrators of the abuse were already convicted prisoners with whom the detainees had been placed in violation of prison regulations. The Zviadists alleged that these prisoners were acting as proxies for the Government. In one case, a convicted murderer who beat an elderly Zviadist was tried and convicted for the attack. In other instances, detainees told a parliamentary human rights committee that officials had beaten them. According to the committee chairman, their claims were probably valid. After the outbreak of civil war in October in western Georgia, there were widespread arrests of Zviadists. An elderly Zviadist newspaper editor, Irakli Gotsiridze, subjected earlier to intimidation (see Section 2.a.), was arrested without a warrant and held at the Tbilisi Kommandatura. (Normally a military post, the Kommandatura was used to hold political prisoners after the state of emergency was declared.) Members of the paramilitary or armed forces beat him so severely that he suffered damage to his ribs and lungs. Despite repeated requests, the Government delayed access to the editor for over 30 days after the beating and failed to provide him with proper medical care. Paramilitary or armed forces members on October 13 detained another supporter of the ex-president, Tamaz Kaladze, who had earlier headed a petition campaign calling for Shevardnadze's resignation, and severely beat him. Eyewitnesses who saw him soon after his detention reported that he had severe bruising on his neck, blood coming from his ears, swollen face and eyes, and complained of severe pain in his kidneys. Kaladze was also beaten on the balls of his feet, given electrical shocks, and nearly suffocated when guards held a plastic bag over his head. Kaladze was eventually released, after a total of 38 days in jail; Gotsiridze was released after 36 days. It is also credibly reported that members of the Kommandatura staged fake executions to terrorize the prisoners. Prison conditions declined, along with the general economic and political situation. In general, prison administrators did not receive enough money to provide prisoners' meals in accordance with Soviet-era regulations. Meals were often Spartan as a result, although in some places of detention prisoners' relatives were permitted to bring them food. Conditions in many places of detention other than the prisons can be extremely primitive, with no bathing facilities, no place to lie down, and no toilet. Medical care for prisoners also suffered from the shortage of funding and breakdown of governmental operations and authority. At least one prisoner died in custody in 1993 when authorities were unable to move him to a hospital for several days because of gasoline shortages and a lack of police escorts.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Soviet-era legislation and practices with regard to arrest and detention remain largely unreformed, and such legal protections as exist are often ignored in practice. Under existing law, an arrest order issued by a procurator is required for arrests. If a person is caught in the act of committing a crime, he may legally be detained without a warrant. However, the law requires the detaining officer to inform a procurator of the detention immediately and to obtain an arrest order as soon as possible. A person may be legally detained for 72 hours without an arrest order, but the procurator must issue either an arrest order or an order for the prisoner's release upon expiration of that period. If held over for further investigation, a detainee must be formally charged with a crime within 10 days. There is no bail. The normal period of permissible pretrial detention is considered to be 2 months, but that period may be legally extended twice, up to a total of 6 months, by the Deputy Procurator General. The Procurator General may extend pretrial detention up to a maximum of 1 year. A detainee may ask the procurator to determine if his detention is legal. A detainee has the right to demand immediate access to a lawyer and to refuse a statement in the absence of counsel. The detaining officer must inform the detainee of those rights and must notify his family of the detainee's location as soon as possible. A detainee's family may ask to see him, but the investigator handling the case may refuse access if he believes it would hamper the investigation. Once the investigation is finished and the investigative results have been forwarded formally to a court pending trial, family members are allowed to visit their detained relatives only to discuss a possible change of attorneys. The presence of an attorney is mandatory during interrogation of a minor or of an individual accused of a capital crime. The presence of a teacher or a parent is also obligatory during questioning of a minor. In practice, law enforcement personnel and paramilitary groups that often act on behalf of the Government often ignored these legal protections. Authorities frequently detained people arbitrarily and exceeded time limits for detention and filing charges. People do not always have access to a lawyer or do not hire a lawyer because they are not informed of their rights. In a characteristic case, the investigator handling the case of a Zviadist scientist detained and beaten in October said that the case was still being investigated and no formal charges had been filed, so an attorney was not yet needed. Families are often not notified of the whereabouts of their detained relatives. Instances of such abuses involve both politically motivated detentions and those for criminal offenses. The Soviet-era administrative code permits administrative detention without a warrant for several kinds of violations, including participating in an illegal demonstration and curfew violation. The law on the state of emergency passed by the current Parliament is the legal basis for administrative violations and sentencing during the state of emergency. Either a senior Interior Ministry official or an administrative judge must confirm the detention. In the former case, materials must be sent to a judge within 3 hours, who must then decide the case within 24 hours. There is no formal trial in administrative cases. Although the judge should consult with the accused, he is not required to consult with witnesses nor make a lawyer available if the defendant requests one. The maximum sentence is 15 days. Under legislation establishing a state of emergency in September, the Ministry of the Interior retained the right to confirm the validity of detentions, a right shared by the city "kommandants". The kommandants are, under the state of emergency, responsible for law and order in the city, and their authority supersedes that of all other law enforcement bodies. The Government abuses the administrative law system, using it to extend politically motivated detentions. Under the state of emergency in effect from early fall through the end of the year, the kommandants and senior Ministry of Internal Affairs officials in Tbilisi legally assumed authority to confirm administrative law detentions. This has contributed to the abuse of the administrative violation system for politically motivated detentions. Aside from the fact that an independent judge does not review the case, defendants are not always told what they have been charged with and to what term they have been sentenced and are sometimes not released on time even if sentenced. Even when a state of emergency was not in effect, the administrative system was sometimes used as a mechanism for short-term politically motivated detentions. When a number of Zviadist sympathizers were detained in Tbilisi in October after the civil war began, administrative violations were often cited, incredibly, as the reason for those detentions. Arbitrary detentions of Zviadists occurred throughout the year. On one such occasion, all the leaders of the Zviadist "Roundtable" organization were arrested as they held a meeting. They were released hours later. When the civil war broke out, Tbilisi authorities arbitrarily detained a large number of known Zviadist sympathizers. Government paramilitary groups, including the Mkhedrioni, were responsible for serious abuses of the legally established system of protections. The Mkhedrioni appeared to operate with impunity in intimidating and detaining Zviadists or suspected Zviadists without legal sanction, though such actions appeared to lessen throughout the course of the year. When the Mkhedrioni detained persons, they would sometimes bring them to a jail facility belonging to an official agency of the Government. They would sometimes simply bring individuals to their staff headquarters, question them, and release them. At times, those detained would be turned over to regular law enforcement personnel. Police officials also frequently brought Zviadists in for questioning in a practice that appeared to amount to direct intimidation of political activities. This pattern reached its height during the civil war with Gamsakhurdia's supporters. The Mkhedrioni also participated in the increasingly common practice of detaining persons for ransom, and they did so in western Georgia when they were deployed there for the civil war. For their part, Zviadist forces also arbitrarily detained a senior official of the Tbilisi Government when he passed through Mengrelia while fleeing the fall of Sukhumi. He was held for several weeks before being released. The Government states that all detained members of the political opposition were terrorists or had committed specified violations. However, the detentions of many Zviadists after the civil war flared up in late September were often tacitly acknowledged to be preventive detentions. Zviadist forces contend, credibly, that many people were detained in 1993 solely for political reasons, usually for short periods, and some were detained several times. Law enforcement personnel, members of the paramilitary, and kommandatura workers often arbitrarily detained people for the purpose of extorting payments from them or their families. Detainees were usually released after such payments were made. The paramilitary, Kommandatura, army, National Guard members, and, at times, police engaged in robbery, intimidation, and even murder for personal gain.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Political instability and weaknesses in the judicial system sometimes infringed on the right to a fair trial. Georgia's legal structure is a hybrid of laws from Georgia's brief period of pre-Soviet independence, the Soviet era, the Gamsakhurdia presidency, and the State Council period. The court system consists of district courts, a city court for Tbilisi, and the Supreme Court of the Republic. The two autonomous republics within Georgia each have their own supreme court, theoretically subordinate to the Georgia Supreme Court. In theory, Georgian citizens are by law guaranteed the right to a fair public trial at which defendants have the right to be present. They have the right to an attorney immediately after arrest, at public expense if needed. They are entitled to confront prosecution witnesses and present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. There is a presumption of innocence, and defendants have the right to appeal to either the procuracy or the Supreme Court. In practice, the judiciary is vulnerable to political or other forms of influence, particularly at the local level. Certain supervisory rights exercised by the procuracy further limit the independence of the judiciary. As part of the Soviet-era system still in effect in Georgia, the procuracy has the right to suggest that the Supreme Court review one of its own decisions. By contrast, the judiciary has little influence over the procuracy. Some members of the judiciary engage in corrupt practices, including taking bribes and being influenced by instructions received from individuals both inside and ouside the Government. The practice cometimes referred to as "telephone justice," i.e., that an official calls a judge and tells him how to resolve a case, continued in 1993. The societywide fragmentation of authority and collapse of order in 1993 presented judges with an increasing number of power- or weapon-wielding figures outside government who demanded, often successfully, certain outcomes in the cases under their jurisdiction. It is difficult to estimate the number of political prisoners detained during the course of the year, though their numbers probably exceeded 100. By year's end it appeared all had been released. In 1993 the Government brought to trial over 40 persons, all of them Zviadists, accused of terrorist acts or plotting to commit such acts in 1992. One case ended with the conviction of all 20 defendants in the "Kvareli" trial, in which those captured from an armed Zviadist group established in eastern Georgia in 1992 were tried. The court threw out several charges brought by the Government; most defendants were convicted of banditry, and some of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts and diversions. Another trial convicted three persons of banditry, terrorism, and kidnaping for the 1992 kidnaping of government official Sandro Kavsadze. The maximum sentence received by any defendant was 15 years. Another trial just under way as the year closed is examining charges against approximately 20 persons charged in connection with 1992 car bombings targeting Mkhedrioni leaders and with other alleged terrorist plots. Though Zviadists claim that those detained in the above cases are political prisoners, the Government denies that accusation, noting it has solid evidence supporting the charges. The Zviadist claim at this point does not appear to be valid. The Zviadists also claim that some of the defendants were repeatedly pressured to sign statements or confessions. That claim is likely valid.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
A warrant issued by a prosecutor is required legally for a search, but entry into homes without judicial sanction by both paramilitary forces and law enforcement representatives is common. Government intelligence agencies are widely believed to monitor telephone conversations, but it is difficult to determine how general the practice is. It is widely believed that the appointment of a new security minister sympathetic to Moscow signaled the beginning of a closer cooperation between the Committee for State Security (KGB) and Georgian intelligence. By law, there is supposed to be legislative oversight of the intelligence service; however, the oversight is completely ineffective. The jamming of radio and television broadcasts is no longer practiced, and receipt of foreign publications is unimpeded.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts
The armed conflict in Abkhazia wreaked havoc for most of the year. The separatists violated a short-lived cease-fire in March, and fighting between Georgia and the Abkhazians continued until the Russians brokered a cease-fire in July. The Russian Government made little apparent effort to hold the separatists to that agreement, however, and its uneven implementation gave the Abkhaz separatists a clear military advantage. They exploited that in a major September offensive to seize control over all of Abkhazia, with the subsequent human tragedy that unfolded. Even before their offensive, Abkhaz forces had waged a documented campaign of indiscriminate warfare that included repeated heavy shelling and aerial bombardment of civilian-populated areas of Sukhumi in which hundreds of noncombatants were killed. Georgian forces also shelled opposing civilian areas, though on a much more limited scale. Russian military forces are reported also to have shelled Georgian civilian areas in response to Georgian shelling of Abkhaz positions located together with Russian military positions. The separatists launched a reign of terror against the majority Georgian population, although other nationalities also suffered. Chechens and other north Caucasians from the Russian Federation joined local Abkhaz troops in the commission of atrocities. The summary execution of Georgian troops and civilians in the captured areas triggered a massive flight of displaced persons which international relief organizations roughly estimated at 230,000-250,000 people. The Abkhazians shot down four aircraft, two of them civilian flights, during the last days of their successful siege of Sukhumi. They also shot at, and barely missed, an aircraft carrying a team of Georgian officials engaged in formal negotiations with the Abkhazians. The entire Georgian population (47 percent versus 17 percent Abkhazians, prior to the September offensive) and most of the rest of the non-Abkhazians fled from Abkhazia as the result of the activities of the Abkhaz separatists. Those fleeing Abkhazia made highly credible claims of atrocities, including the killing of civilians without regard to age or sex. Corpses recovered from Abkhaz-held territory showed signs of extensive torture. The ethnic Georgian Prime Minister of Abkhazia, Dzhuli Shartava (see Section 1.a.), was one such victim: his body was covered with severe bruising; his arms, legs, hands, and feet had been broken; his nose had been mutilated; his ears cut off; and his kneecaps shot before death reportedly for "refusing to kneel." An elderly Russian woman, resident in Abkhazia for 35 years before fleeing her village on September 16, reported that separatist forces seized nine villagers after they took control of the area and killed them all. She saw the body of her 30-year-old male neighbor, which showed evidence of massive beating; splinters had been inserted under his nails, and his skull had been crushed. The Abkhazians also accused the Georgians of human rights violations, including an "ethnic cleansing" campaign. There is little evidence to support allegations of ethnic cleansing, although it is probable that some ethnic Abkhazians were forced to move from Georgian-held territory in isolated instances. Both sides were charged with occasionally killing injured soldiers captured on the battlefield. One injured Abkhaz soldier disappeared from the Sukhumi hospital where he was being treated; it is likely Georgian forces killed him. While specific incidents are difficult to confirm, these charges are probably accurate. Conflict between Zviadists and the Tbilisi Government erupted into open civil war during the summer. Zviadists seized cities controlling rail and road lines to the port of Poti just before the Abkhazian separatists launched their successful offensive on Sukhumi. They captured Poti after the fall of Sukhumi, as well as a series of other towns, but lost most of their captured territory as a result of a government counteroffensive in October. Both sides in this struggle accused the other of abusing prisoners and engaging in banditry and looting from civilians wherever they were deployed. The accusations are credible. Members of the National Guard and Mkhedrioni engaged in many forms of criminal activity, sometimes stealing cars, robbing homes, and looting the countryside. The Zviadist armed forces, for their part, also stole cars, exacted "customs" fees from those traveling through their territory, hijacked railroad freight, and stole large stores of humanitarian aid after capturing Poti. One government fighter captured by Zviadist forces reported after his release several days later that they had beaten and tortured him and several of his fellow prisoners while in detention. He appeared on television at the time, his face showing obvious signs of severe beating. Georgian officials claim many other prisoners suffered similar treatment. In October the Zviadists executed a captured Georgian journalist covering the war in Mengrelia, along with three government troops captured at the same time. Peacekeeping forces succeeded in separating the combatants in South Ossetia, and the cease-fire was essentially observed. However, isolated killings of both civilians and peacekeeping troops occurred. Many Ossetian displaced persons returned to Tskhinvali, but Georgian displaced persons were still afraid to return, as Georgian authorities and peacekeeping forces in practice had been unable to guarantee their security. Ethnic Ossetians who fled to Ossetia from other regions of Georgia during the height of the conflict also had not been able to return to their homes.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Freedoms of speech and press were curtailed in 1993, particularly for supporters of the former president and especially after the imposition of the state of emergency in September. The emergency legislation called on the various law enforcement organs to "control" media reporting on military activities and antigovernment information. A committee, headed by paramilitary chief Djaba Ioseliani, indicated that formal censorship of military information would be complemented by extensive review of material published and broadcast and "recommendations" to individual journalists on improving their work. As the civil war flared in mid-October, Shevardnadze announced that it would be necessary to close some newspapers and cancel some television programs, and increased restrictions on the media followed. Radio and television access was limited for some non-Zviadist opposition elements. Opposition parties Charter 91 and the National Independent Party (NIP) both claimed they were denied access to television air time formerly given freely. Some opposition politicians credibly claimed the restrictions were aimed at muting public criticism of Shevardnadze's decision to take Georgia into the Commonwealth of Independent States. Following the state of emergency, only three newspapers, all official, continued publishing without interruption. The single government-run printing office prevented all independent newspapers from publishing for a short period for "technical reasons." Restrictions targeted Zviadist publications, although other independent organs also came under attack. The Zviadist newspaper Iberia Specter, after putting up with various restrictions, was closed down by the Government in early fall. Authorities justified the closing by claiming the Specter published calls for the violent overthrow of the Shevardnadze Government. Nevertheless, the Government has not been able to prove its claims as yet. The paper's editor, Irakli Gotsiridze, was also harassed personally. Unidentified assailants twice fired shots through the windows of his apartment. The police have not identified the perpetrators. Gotsiridze was arrested and severely beaten in October when he went to a police station to complain about the arrests of some colleagues (see Section 1.c.). The staff of the Zviadist newspaper Samreklo also claimed that its chief editor was threatened and that shots were fired at his apartment. He fled Tbilisi as a result. Editors of non-Zviadist independent papers Seven Days and Droni asserted they also were subject to severe repression. Seven Days reported that the Mkhedrioni detained one of its journalists for 2 days and seized her notes.in August when she passed through Mengrelia on the way back from Abkhazia. On September 17, 10 armed and masked men ransacked the newspaper's offices, destroying the computers and beating up 4 men. The attack came just after the newspaper criticized the appointment of a National Democratic Party (NDP) leader as a Cabinet member. The Seven Days' staff claimed that NDP members had done the ransacking in retaliation, citing a number of private and public statements by NDP leaders that lent credence to that claim. After the ransacking, Droni published a short story criticizing the incident as inconsistent with democracy. Their chief editor stated that a senior NDP official immediately threatened that bodily harm would come to her if she were not more careful in the future. NDP senior officials refuted the accusations against their party. Another Zviadist newspaper, Free Georgia, continued to struggle in 1993 against a 1992 order that closed it down. The judge who issued the order explained his action as a temporary measure intended to get the paper's editorial staff to come to his chambers to discuss the case so it could come to trial. Though members of the editorial staff eventually met with him to discuss the case, they represented themselves as "individuals" and declined to accept responsibility in the case. The procuracy initiated the case by sending a notification to the Supreme Court suggesting it examine the banning of the paper because of published material that provoked the 1992 coup attempt. The procuracy, however, failed to provide supporting materials to the Court. The judge's actions appear to have been sincere, but the legal reasoning behind the order closing the paper appears questionable. The newspaper's editor continued to push unsuccessfully for its reinstatement. She was subsequently fired from her teaching job at the university. The university's administrators claimed her dismissal was due to her repeated failure to show up for classes. The Zviadists claimed that her dismissal was based on her political views and that she was absent only for a few months when whe was forced to flee to Moscow because of threats against her. Self-censorship continued to be widespread in the Georgian media throughout the year. While some political party newspapers criticized government policies, most avoided open opposition, particularly direct criticism of Shevardnadze, often focusing on the crisis situation instead. Fear of retaliation by paramilitary groups also played a role. The broadcast media are affected by the same kinds of psychological and physical barriers to freedom of expression as the print media. The second television channel nominally, but not fully independent in practice continues to operate since its establishment in 1992. However, efforts to control the media in October included restrictions on the second channel's programming. The official television channel and radio station engaged in self-censorship. Freedom of speech and press were also limited in the autonomous Republic of Ajara, where voices critical of that republic's leadership found little opportunity to voice their opinions in public forums. An opposition newspaper was ransacked and banned.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The right to peaceful assembly was limited in 1993, and, following the state of emergency in September, demonstrations were legally prohibited. The only demonstration attempted in Tbilisi was prevented by government troops. Legislation in effect prior to the state of emergency required that demonstration organizers notify city authorities of an impending demonstration 2 days in advance; permits were not required, but the authorities had the right to determine if the suggested location was acceptable. Zviadists refused to comply with the law's provisions requiring registration in advance. In the first half of the year, the authorities often responded to Zviadist defiance by using extensive manpower to prevent demonstrations in Tbilisi from taking place. When demonstrations occurred, government forces usually dispersed them with force and detained some demonstrators. The dispersals often involved beatings. Zviadists claimed that demonstration participants were also sometimes followed as they left demonstrations and beaten or threatened. A demonstration dispersed on April 5 involved both beatings and threats. A demonstration dispersed on April 14 also allegedly involved some beatings. A massive police and nonuniform presence blocked a May 26 (Independence Day) demonstration from ever getting under way. In Tbilisi, the authorities did permit some unregistered Zviadist demonstrations to take place. On April 9, a day of national mourning for the Georgians commemorating a Soviet armed attack on peaceful demonstrators, the Zviadists were allowed to stage a large rally and march in the center of Tbilisi. In midsummer, the Zviadists were also allowed to stage two rallies in a large Tbilisi park. When government officials were partially in control of parts of Mengrelia, they permitted demonstrations to take place there unimpeded. Demonstrations in Poti also were generally staged without interference. With some exceptions, freedom of association was generally observed in 1993. Organizations are legally required to register with the Government. Several Zviadist organizations did not attempt to register officially but were not forced to disband. The leaders of the non-Zviadist opposition political party, Citizens League, formed originally in 1989, claimed they were harassed and that their members were intimidated from conducting a program of activities. The Communist Party is banned. Some individuals claim that the Government occasionally erects bureaucratic obstacles to the registration of unfavored organizations, but there is no evidence to suggest that any serious impediments exist, although the Zviadist organizations have avoided testing the bounds.
c. Freedom of Religion
Freedom of religion and of worship was widely observed in 1993. The Government abandoned the emphasis given during Gamsakhurdia's rule on the primacy of the Georgian nationality and the Georgian Orthodox religion. However, representatives of the Georgian Catholic Church are still trying to recover possession of churches which they first lost during the Soviet-era repression of religion and which were subsequently given to the Georgian Orthodox Church during the Gamsakhurdia period. The Government's Commission on Inter-Ethnic Relations and Human Rights recommended that two churches be returned to the Catholics; thus far it appears that none has been offically turned over. Local officials have shown some resistance to community efforts to construct new mosques in predominantly Muslim areas, although that resistance appears to be lessening and does not appear to have been based on directives from the authorities. The Jewish community experienced no government interference in practicing its religion. Although religious groups, missionaries, and foreign clergy would be required to register in order to benefit from government benefits and recognition, there appeared to be no requirement for them to do so.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The old Soviet system of registering residency remains in place, although its enforcement is uneven. If a person were arrested and were discovered to be nonresident in an area, that persons might be forced to leave. However, the authorities and law enforcement personnel do not routinely check people's documents to determine who is a legal resident. People can (and do) live for extended periods somewhere other than where they are registered. Both foreign and internal travel, as well as emigration, are unrestricted, although there are practical problems with traveling in the areas of conflict. The Abkhaz separatists' seizure of control over all Abkhazia in late September, as well as the terror and human rights abuses that accompanied that seizure, caused a massive flow of displaced persons, including virtually every ethnic Georgian. There are an estimated 230,000 to 250,000 displaced persons in Georgia, and there has been no sign that the separatists would allow the displaced persons to return to their homes. The Government provided assistance in facilitating the emigration of Jewish Georgians to Israel. There is continuing controversy over the desire of former residents, primarily Muslims, of the Mskheti region deported from Georgia in 1944 by Stalin to return to that area. Over 200,000 Mskhetians now living in central Asian republics and parts of Russia face significant popular opposition to their return, and the Government has been reluctant to take a formal position. Although some very small-scale programs have led to the return of some Mskhetians, the Government is clearly hesitant to permit the return of most of them, possibly fearing additional discord and problems resulting from attempts to resettle them. In south Ossetia, many Ossetian displaced persons returned to Tskhinvali, but Georgian displaced persons remain afraid to return. Ossetian displaced persons from other areas in Georgia for the most part have also not been able to return to their homes.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Georgia's Parliament and Parliament Chairman Eduard Shevardnadze, who is head of the executive branch, were elected in nationwide elections conducted in October 1992. Those elections were judged by international observers to have been free and fair, although widespread technical violations were reported, and some regions not under Tbilisi's control chose not to participate in the polling. Deputies were elected according to a mixture of direct elections in individual districts and party lists voted on in larger regions. According to the election law promulgated before those elections, deputies and the chairman were elected for 3-year terms. Parliament's ability to function was limited in 1993. Tensions with its Chairman, Shevardnadze, increased during the year as the latter became increasingly disdainful of the legislature's ineffectiveness. Tensions between the legislature and the Cabinet of Ministers also grew, with each accusing the other of responsibility for the nation's problems. The tensions between Shevardnadze and Parliament came to a head just before the crises in Abkhazia and Mengrelia peaked in September. Shevardnadze suddenly resigned his post in early September after parliamentary member and Mkhedrioni chief Dzhaba Ioseliani criticized his plan to introduce a state of emergency. Shevardnadze came back into office a day later, buoyed by massive popular demand and on the condition that Parliament approve a nationwide state of emergency and then suspend itself for 2 months. Parliament, enjoying little popular support, agreed to do so. The Abkhaz war prevented the functioning of the elected parliament in that republic. Policies of the leadership of the autonomous Republic of Ajara prevented that republic's parliament from functioning effectively; it did not meet in plenary in 1993. South Ossetian separatists scheduled elections for December, though the Georgian Government does not recognize an autonomous status for that region. The elections did not take place, probably due to internal differences among South Ossetian leaders. Minorities and women are less represented in the new Parliament than they were in the Gamsakhurdia-era parliament or in the Soviet-era supreme soviet. The participation of women in politics is generally limited, partly by longstanding cultural traditions and partly in response to a perception that women were frequently ex-president Gamsakhurdia's most fervent supporters.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Among domestic human rights groups, the All-Georgian Association for Human Rights, founded in 1990, claims about 300 members. The Association has not met with overt official restrictions, but the Government has at times been uncooperative. For instance, the association has not been able to gain permission to visit prisoners. The organization has also not been able to get articles on human rights violations against Zviadists published in the official or non-Zviadist independent press. In October two members of the association were arrested for several days. Members of the pro-Zviad Helsinki Union's Commission on Human Rights were sometimes detained for short periods. These detentions appeared to be for political reasons. A government Commission on Interethnic Relations and Human Rights was formed soon after Shevardnadze's return in 1992. The Commission had limited influence on the behavior of the procuracy, National Guard, Interior Ministry, and paramilitary groups. Commission members do not have any statutory right to demand visits with detainees and are thus dependent on law enforcement officials' goodwill to obtain eyewitness information on alleged abuses. On several occasions, however, Commission members succeeded in gaining access to prisoners and in rectifying abuses in both the detention process and elsewhere in the Government. The Government welcomed the visits of international organizations. A permanent mission of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) to Georgia is still operating after its establishment in late 1992. The CSCE Chairman-in-office, Swedish Foreign Minister Af Ugglas, visited Georgia in October and traveled to south Ossetia. A permanent U.N. Mission to Georgia continues to function and expand. A U.N. special mission to examine human rights violations in the Abkhaz conflict came to Georgia, also in October. The United Nations conducted a seminar for Georgian human rights workers in April. Two Helsinki Watch missions visited Georgia to study human rights problems. The members of the permanent International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) mission in Georgia were permitted by both sides to travel freely throughout the conflict zone in Abkhazia. Both sides generally allowed the ICRC access to prisoners, although it is likely they did not get to meet with all of them.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
There are no legal or constitutional prohibitions against discrimination. Georgia's constitutional situation is extremely vague. A new constitution is being drafted; for now the country operates on a mixture of the Soviet-era constitution and the 1921 constitution.
Government concern about the status of and discrimination against women is minimal. Georgian society generally shares this low-level concern. There is no perceptible women's movement, nor are there academic programs in women's studies. There is a widely accepted stereotype that the majority of Gamsakhurdia's supporters are somewhat irrational women. This image has had a negative impact on the viability of women's involvement in Georgian politics. Women's access to educational resources is unimpeded, but women are found mostly in traditional occupations where their labor is usually low-paid and often part-time. The more traditional women's fields are considered to be the arts, languages, and social sciences. Careers that involve technical skills, applied sciences, or supposedly "more complex" reasoning are heavily male-dominated. This disproportion is generally explained by the students as due to the financial prospects in a field. Men are expected to choose a field in which they can support themselves and their families, women a field that will enrich them personally but not take away too much from family life. Statistics on violence against women are not available. According to sociologists and legal specialists, however, incidents of rape and domestic violence are relatively rare in Georgia. However, the societywide upsurge in all forms of crime, including violent crime, appears to have resulted in an increase of violent crime against women, including rape.
The severe economic crisis that gripped Georgia throughout 1993 meant in essence that government expenditures for the welfare of any group within society were inadequate to meet its needs. Although spending on children's welfare within the context of total government resources reflected, in relative terms, an adequate commitment to that vulnerable group, children, like adults, suffered as a result of the Government's inability to increase spending levels to compensate for hyperinflation. There are no children's rights advocacy groups. Neither are there juvenile or family courts in Georgia.
Government advocacy of the supremacy of the Georgian nationality, language, and religion ceased with Gamsakhurdia's departure from power. The nationalistic feelings that it aroused in the population, however, appear to have lingered and have been compounded by the poor economy. Non-Georgians experience harassment, usually because of competition for scarce resources. As one Georgian human rights activist described it, there are three castes of non-Georgians. Jews are in the highest caste, Russians and Armenians in the second caste, and Azeris in the third. The lower the caste, the more frequent the problems. Local police are sometimes indifferent to requests for assistance from non-Georgians. Local officials sometimes also engage in discrimination against non-Georgians. However, central authorities, when notified of complaints of harassment or other forms of discrimination, usually tried to rectify the situation. The Georgian Government provides funding for ethnic schools, and the teaching of non-Georgian languages is freely permitted. In Azeri-populated areas, where Georgian is not the primary language, the wider availability of Azeri-language schools and the poor quality of Georgian-language instruction have produced graduates who face limited professional opportunities in Georgia because of their poor command of the language.
People with Disabilities
Statistics on the treatment of individuals with disabilities are unavailable. There is no legislative or otherwise mandated provision of accessibility for the disabled. The law on labor does include one section on people with disabilities, which includes the provision of numerous special discounts and favorable social policies for those with disabilities, especially disabled veterans. Severe discrimination against the disabled does not exist, though individual cases of discrimination probably do occur on a limited basis.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Labor Code and other Soviet-era legislation allow workers and employees to freely form unions and associations operating on their own charters. In order to acquire legal status, unions and associations must register with the Ministry of Justice. A single Georgian Confederation of Trade Unions (GCTU) includes about 30 different sectoral unions. There are no legal requirements that a union join the GCTU. However, no significant unions operate outside its framework. Membership in the GCTU is declining rapidly, due to lack of worker interest. Strikes are not legally permitted under the state of emergency; they are permitted at other times. However, at year's end, the Government was considering legislation that would permit them. In practice, the authorities allowed strikes to occur unimpeded. For example, when miners went on strike in the town of Tkibuli, the Government allowed the strikers to receive two-thirds of their regular pay. The draft bill under consideration would also prohibit any type of management retribution against striking workers. In general, the extreme economic crisis gripping the country throughout the year kept Georgian workers away from the picket line. There were only a handful of strikes, and these almost always took place at individual enterprises. Tbilisi's metro workers went on a short "warning strike" in September, demanding higher wages. The resulting public outrage, largely due to the fact that metro workers were earning considerably more than the average Georgian, deterred the employees from carrying out their threat of longer strikes. There are no legal prohibitions against affiliation and participation in international labor bodies. Georgia is not a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO).
b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively
The Soviet-era Labor Code allows for collective bargaining, and it is freely practiced. The Government is becoming less involved in negotiations between management and workers, even in cases concerning state-owned enterprises, and has largely restricted itself to enforcing the minimum wage. The Labor Code prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers against union members. According to the Code, employers may be prosecuted for antiunion discrimination, and, if found guilty, would be required to reinstate the employees and pay them back wages. The Department of Labor Inspections within the Ministry of Labor investigates complaints, although their extremely small staff (about 11 members) did not allow for effective investigations in 1993. There are no export processing zones in Georgia.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Labor Code prohibits forced or compulsory labor and provides for sanctions against violators. Violations are rare, and the Department of Labor Inspection investigates charges.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
According to the Labor Code, the minimum age for employment of children is 14 years. Between 14 and 16 years, total hours worked during the week may not exceed 30 hours. The minimum age is widely respected, and officials know of no sectors where the rule is violated. Because of the inadequate resources of the Department of Labor Inspection, enforcement of this provision is often left up to the unions themselves.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
A nationally mandated minimum wage applies only to the government sector. Private sector employers are free to bargain on any wage, and a private contract specifying a wage lower than the minimum (for government workers) is not prohibited. The minimum wage rate is adjusted every month for inflation, although in practice the hyperinflation of 1993 means the minimum wage met only a fraction of basic consumer needs. In mid-September, the minimum wage was about $0.75 (9,200 coupons) per month. The Labor Code contains provisions for a 41-hour workweek. Before Parliament adjourned in September, it was considering legislation establishing a standard 40-hour workweek. The Department of Labor Inspections investigates complaints of violations. There is a 24-hour rest period in the week. The Government has not addressed the issue of occupational safety and health standards. In general, workers may obtain higher wages for hazardous work, and, according to the Labor Code, may refuse to work when such work might endanger their lives. Nevertheless, labor experts consider these provisions inadequate safeguards for worker well-being.