22 June 2024,   20:54
Georgian authorities should reconsider legislation impacting civil society, international human rights office ODIHR says

During a visit to Georgia today, Matteo Mecacci, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), highlighted his deep concern about the draft law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence” and stressed ODIHR’s readiness to support Georgia in providing legislative assistance and expertise.

“The work of civil society is a cornerstone of any democracy, and the right to freedom of association underpins a vast range of other human rights,” he said. “Any new requirements on civil society organizations, including independent citizen election observers, must be justifiable from a human rights perspective. Blanket legislation that labels all civil society organisations receiving financial support from abroad as representing the interests of foreign powers undermines the right to freedom of association”.

During his visit, Director Mecacci held meetings with President Salome Zourabichvili, Parliamentary Speaker Shalva Papuashvili, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, and Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili, as well as parliamentarians from the ruling party and the opposition. He also met representatives of civil society, who expressed their grave concern about the proposed law and the overall environment in which they are working. He repeated ODIHR’s readiness to work with the authorities and other stakeholders to ensure that freedom of association is respected and the work of civil society is neither limited nor stigmatized. Additionally, he mentioned that ODIHR is currently working on a legal analysis of the draft law at the request of two parliamentary committee deputy heads, and offered further discussion at expert level once it is published.

In all his meetings, Director Mecacci also emphasized the importance of upholding the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and expressed his concern about the excessive use of force by police against peaceful demonstrators recently as well as reports of intimidation.

All 57 states of the OSCE have committed to ensuring that everyone is able to exercise the right to association, including the right to form, join and participate effectively in non-governmental organizations that seek the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.