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Georgia: UN experts condemn adoption of Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence

15 May 2024

GENEVA (15 May 2024) – Adoption of the controversial ‘Foreign Agents’ law by the Georgian Parliament will have a chilling effect on civil society, journalists and human rights defenders and sends an extremely negative signal about the country’s commitment to human rights, UN experts* said today.

The experts said that despite the withdrawal of an identical draft law in March 2023, following large-scale protests, the Georgian Parliament in April 2024 considered a new draft of the Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence in three expedited readings and proceeded with its adoption on 14 May. The move follows assurances provided by high-ranking government officials and MPs to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders during her country visit in November 2023 that the draft law would not be reintroduced.

“We are shocked that even in light of clear opposition by a significant segment of Georgia’s people, the law was expedited through Parliament with media and civil society representatives denied access to the proceedings,” the experts said.

“We are seriously concerned at the speed of deliberations in Parliament, which appear to have taken place without inclusive, transparent and genuine consultations with civil society, society at large and opposition parties,” said Mary Lawlor, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

The Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence, more commonly known as the ‘foreign agents bill’ requires media and nongovernmental organisations and other nonprofits to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad. Georgia’s opposition has denounced the legislation as an effort to crackdown on independent media, civil society, human rights activists and government critics.

The experts said they had communicated their concerns to the government about the draft law and its expected destructive effect on civil society in Georgia.

“If signed into law by the President, the law will place Georgia in contravention of its human rights obligations, notably on freedom of association,” they warned.

The violent crackdown by security forces and riot police on people protesting peacefully against the proposed draft law escalated in April 2024. Riot police used water cannons, teargas, and stun grenades to disperse protesters. Several human rights defenders monitoring the protests have been assaulted, while others have received threatening phone messages and calls and targeted in intimidatory poster campaigns.

“For Georgia, this is a step in the wrong direction,” the experts said. “Human rights defenders, young people and peaceful protestors are not enemies of the state.”

*The experts: Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Gina Romero, Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression ;and Cecilia M BaillietIndependent Expert on human rights and international solidarity.

Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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