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Georgia’s human rights record still of concern, despite progress – top UN official

Georgia’s human rights record still of concern, despite progress – top UN official

Louise Arbour, UN  High Commissioner for Human Rights
The United Nations’ top human rights official today wrapped up a visit to Georgia with a warning that while the country has made some recent progress, it must take action on areas ranging from its treatment of detainees to restoring trust in its judicial system to boosting the living conditions of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

“Some positive steps have been taken to improve conditions in the country’s detention facilities,” said Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in comments at the end of her three-day visit.

“But further work needs to be done, including with regard to access of persons detained to adequate health service and to find sustainable solutions to overcrowding – such as the development of a probation and parole system,” she noted, expressing her appreciation for the Government’s commitment to consider alternatives to detention.

At the same time, she was concerned about the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility to the age of 12, and hoped that issue will be reconsidered in accordance with international standards.

While recognizing the important steps the Government has taken towards establishing a modern judicial system, the High Commissioner was concerned about the lack of public trust in the system, and the reluctance to seek redress through the courts. “Only by ensuring a truly independent functioning of the judiciary, can public trust in the judicial system be fully restored,” she said.

Ms. Arbour also welcomed the Government’s new strategy on IDPs, and encouraged Georgia to ratify a number of international human rights treaties related to migrants, persons with disabilities and protection against enforced disappearances.

During her visit, Ms. Arbour met with President Mikheil Saakashvili, key ministers, the Ombudsman, representatives of civil society and with the local leadership and civil society in the Abkhazia region.

In meetings in Sukhumi and Gali, the High Commissioner urged the Abkhaz leadership to continue working towards sustainable rights-based solutions for IDPs, including protection of property rights.

She also stressed the need to provide education in relevant mother tongues, and for all local residents to be able to exercise their right to freedom of movement, including access to essential services and employment opportunities.