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PRESS RELEASE: EU's Hammarberg publishes report on human rights developments in Georgia

TBILISI, Georgia, 23 September 2013 - The Georgian Government on Monday welcomed the publication of an eagerly awaited report by Thomas Hammarberg, European Union Special Adviser on Constitutional and Legal Reform and Human Rights in Georgia.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, and European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Füle, in early 2013 assigned the former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human to advise Georgia on its democratic reforms.

The report recognises significant progress in Georgia, while providing concrete recommendations for further action to address remaining gaps. It commends steps by the government to encourage independence of the judiciary, improve human rights across the population, develop progressive labour reforms, increase transparency and stakeholder consultation, and work to correct the "elite corruption" and impunity of the past.

According to Hammarberg, Georgia has managed "in recent months to tackle quite a number of outstanding and deep-rooted problems, including those relating to the functioning of the system of justice." He concludes his assessment with a call to the international community, and the EU in particular, to continue to play a role in the democratic development of the country, as it is "in Europe's obvious interest that Georgia's democracy is developed and further strengthened." Georgia and the EU are set to initialise an Association Agreement in November.

Tamar Chugoshvili, Assistant to the Prime Minister of Georgia on Human Rights and Gender Equality Issues, stated: "The Georgian Government welcomes this report and expresses its deep thanks for the important and diligent work of Mr. Hammarberg. The Government will fully implement the recommendations of Mr. Hammarberg and launch a Human Rights Action Plan for this purpose. Through continued reform and cooperation with the European Union and its other international partners, Georgia will soon be able to achieve full European and Euro-Atlantic integration."

The report addresses the breadth of the reforms underway in Georgia following the October 2012 elections, calling the period "the second transition process since [Georgia's] independence" in 1991. It touches upon also some of the most sensitive issues, including the government's efforts to restore justice. "It is important to fight impunity not least in relation to crimes committed by public officials." This process, says Hammarberg, should "set[...] an example for the future in the sense of justice, fairness and transparency."

With regards to the Presidential elections due on 27 October, which Hammarberg points to as "a test for everyone involved", the report notes that "the general environment is calmer than in previous elections," that there is a "comparatively free and pluralistic media environment" and that "the right to freedom of assembly appears now to be better observed."

Georgia in Transition, Report by Thomas Hammarberg (Full Report)