Batumi International Conference July 19, 2021
H.E. Charles Michel, President of the European Council
Dear President Michel,
We are grateful for your engagement and continuous efforts that you personally and the European Union Ambassador have provided in support of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms in Georgia.
As we wholeheartedly welcome the spirit of Batumi International Conference of deepening and enhancing existing relations between the EU and Eastern Partnership countries of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, we, the undersigned civil society organizations and media outlets see your efforts even more important against the backdrop of recent developments in Georgia.
The ruling party’s failure to implement the EU and the US-mediated April 19 agreement is likely to further undermine the public’s confidence in the judiciary and has already led to harsh criticism by Georgia’s international partners. Despite repeated calls to pause nominations until the adoption of meaningful judicial reforms, the ruling Georgian Dream party approved six Supreme Court judges, ignoring the criticism of local civil society groups, but also that of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
The lack of political will to undertake meaningful changes is also true for electoral reforms in the country. Despite the resignation of the Central Election Commission Chair, independence of the election administration remains problematic. Because of high significance of the upcoming municipal elections, and likelihood of serious flaws in them, intense scrutiny by international and domestic stakeholders is warranted.
The unchecked homophobic violence earlier this month was a major setback, undermining fundamental freedoms in the country and questioning Georgia’s democratic aspirations. The Georgian government failed to protect or condoned violence against its citizens by far-right groups, tacitly or openly supported by representatives of the Orthodox Church. The Tbilisi Pride march was cancelled after participants and journalists were violently attacked by far-right mobs, amidst inadequate police protection. The pogroms on the media and LGBTQI community have led to physical injuries of dozens of journalists and media workers, death of a cameraman Lekso Lashkarava, and deep societal trauma. However, it should also be noted that the Georgian media and civil society demonstrated unprecedented solidarity, and a commitment to the freedom of expression and equality in the country. Although police arrested several perpetrators, the organizers of the pogroms remain at large. The ruling party continues attacks on the media and boycotts critical media outlets, flouting Georgia’s obligations on freedom of expression and information.
Now more than ever, Georgia’s international partners should stand united in support of democracy and fundamental freedoms in the country. We urge you to continue your close engagement with Georgia’s leadership and speak publicly against democratic setbacks, and work with Georgia’s civil society to ensure the country’s progress on the path to the Euro-Atlantic integration.
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