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Urgent Call to Uphold Democracy and Human Rights in Georgia

13 May 2024

The Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC) is deeply concerned about the recent and troubling developments in Georgia, particularly regarding the proposed law on “Transparency of Foreign Influence” (the so-called “foreign agent” law). This legislative effort, which has led to significant unrest and violence, represents a serious threat to the democratic principles and human rights that are fundamental to the European Union, of which Georgia is a candidate member state as of December 2023.

Since the re-introduction of this draft law in the Parliament of Georgia, there has been a notable increase in violence and repression against civil society actors, journalists, and human rights defenders. The law enforcement’s response to the mass protests has been disproportionately violent and often illegal, employing tear gas, stun grenades, pepper spray, water cannons, rubber bullets, and beatings. Such actions are not only in violation of international human rights norms, but also contravene the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which Georgia is a party to.

Furthermore, the proposed online public database for government critics, as announced by the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, and the targeted attacks and intimidation against human rights defenders and their families are alarming developments that further complicate the situation. These actions appear to be directly influenced by the divisive and repressive “foreign agents” law adopted in other countries, which have been widely condemned for undermining civil liberties and democratic engagement.

The NHC urges the Georgian authorities to:

  • Immediately cease the persecution of independent voices and end the campaign of intimidation against human rights defenders, journalists, and the broader civil society.
  • Withdraw the draft law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence” and any related legislation that threatens civic freedoms and human rights.
  • Publicly condemn all forms of violence and ensure the respect and protection of civic space.
  • Promptly bring those responsible for illegal or excessive use of force to justice, in accordance with national and international legal standards.
  • Review and ensure the legality of the detention of individuals safeguarding their fundamental rights including liberty and security.

We also call on the European Union, Council of Europe, United Nations bodies, and international partners to:

  • Strongly condemn the ongoing repression against civil society in Georgia.
  • Leverage all available diplomatic and legal means to advocate for the protection of human rights and democratic principles in Georgia.

As Georgia aspires to join the European Union, it is imperative that it aligns its actions with the democratic values and human rights standards that the EU upholds. The current developments are not only a setback for Georgia’s European aspirations but also a breach of the trust and commitment expected from a candidate country.

The Netherlands Helsinki Committee remains steadfast in its support for the people of Georgia and their right to live in a society where human rights, democracy, and the rule of law are respected and protected. We will continue to provide support through our various programmes, empowering citizens and institutions to stand up against backsliding and to ensure the respect for and protection of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.