This report by International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) which was prepared in collaboration with Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (“EMC”) examines the impacts on human rights of the measures imposed by the Government of Georgia in response to the COVD-19 pandemic through a human rights lens of international, regional human rights treaties of core and soft law (non-binding) standards.
The study focuses mainly on the response of the Georgian authorities in the territory under its effective control. In addition, the report addresses the response of de facto authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both under the control of and dependent on the Russian Federation.
In total as of 30 September in Georgia there have been 6 192 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 3 120 recoveries and 37 deaths.
Through the monitoring, IPHR and EMC have identified number of human rights concerns around the Georgian authorities’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic between January and 24 July 2020:
- Amendments to the Law on Public Health (adopted following the end of the state of emergency) granted overly broad powers to the government to impose quarantine measures with no parliamentary oversight. Lawyers and human rights organisations have raised concerns about the constitutionality and legality of these new legislative amendments as well as to the Code of Administrative Offenses of Georgia and the Criminal Code of Georgia.
- The government has been criticised by civil society organisations for applying excessive fines as compared to the country’s average wage and in an inconsistent manner.
- Restrictions on freedom of movement have had a disproportionate effect on vulnerable groups. For instance, a total ban on public transport has impacted heavily on individuals requiring ongoing medical treatment at hospitals or clinics.
- The transition to ‘remote justice’ has been efficiently managed but has been hampered by limited resources and poor infrastructure.
- The Special Preventive Group has commended the Special Penitentiary Services’ management of the pandemic within prisons but has identified a number of concerns including lack of access to medical services and overcrowded cells.
- Ethnic minority groups have not been adequately provided with COVID-19 public health information in local languages.
- The right to freedom of assembly has been applied in a discriminatory fashion vis-à-vis religious groups; in particular, the authorities have waived certain restrictions in favour of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
- The health services have, to date, managed the public health crisis well. However, the infection rates remain high among health workers (amounting to 13 per cent of confirmed cases) and concerns remain about protections afforded to this community. Nurses, in particular, remain at serious risk.
- The Georgian authorities have failed to meet the needs of homeless people during the pandemic.
- The authorities have not taken into account the impact of the transition to online learning on those children without regular access to the internet and other technology. There are no reliable government statistics available quantifying the ‘digital divide’ and the Ministry of Education has not provided a meaningful policy response to address this issue.
- The emergency legislation and restrictive measures resulted in indirect discrimination and unequal treatment of women, people living with disabilities, ethnic minorities and the LGBTQI community.