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Title:  Georgia Human Rights Practices, 1995 
Author:  U.S. Department of State  
Date:  March 1996  
 
 
 
 
                             GEORGIA 
 
 
Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union in April 1991.  In 
January 1992, a military state council seized power from the elected 
Government of Zviad Gamsakhurdia.  Following multiparty parliamentary 
elections in October 1992, Parliament chose Eduard Shevardnadze as its 
Chairman in an uncontested election and named him Head of State.  On 
August 24, 1995 Parliament adopted a Constitution that provides for a 
unicameral legislature, an independent judiciary, and an executive 
branch which reports to the President.  On November 5, Eduard 
Shevardnadze was elected President and a new Parliament was selected in 
elections described by international observers as "consistent with 
democratic norms."  The President appoints ministers with the consent of 
the Parliament.  The Constitution entered into force on November 18 at 
the first session of the newly elected Parliament.   
 
The internal conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain unresolved.  
In 1993 Abkhaz separatists forcibly took control of Abkhazia.  In the 
summer of 1994, Russian peacekeepers representing the Commonwealth of 
Independent States (CIS) were deployed in the conflict area with the 
agreement of the Georgians and the Abkhaz.  Skirmishes and atrocities 
against civilians continue despite a cease-fire and the presence of the 
peacekeepers.  A Russian peacekeeping force has been in South Ossetia 
since June 1992.  While there were no armed hostilities there in 1995, 
the Government has no effective control over the territory. 
 
The Ministry of Interior (MVD) has primary responsibility for internal 
security, but in times of internal disorder the Government may call on 
the army and the state security service (SGB, formerly KGB) to provide 
security.  The civilian authorities maintain effective control of the 
police and security forces.  The MVD, SGB, and the former governmental 
Mkhedrioni paramilitary forces ("the Rescue Corps") committed serious 
human rights abuses.  The Rescue Corps was disbanded by decree of the 
Head of State on October 1.  The Government and the MVD accused senior 
figures in the SGB and the Mkhedrioni of carrying out the assassination 
attempt against then Chairman Shevardnadze on August 29. 
 
The decline in some sectors of the economy halted, and growth occurred 
in the small but dynamic trade and services sector.  The economy remains 
primarily agricultural; industry operates at less than 20 percent of 
capacity.  Economic policies discriminate against exports, and they were 
meager, mostly fertilizers, citrus, tea, and ferrous metals.  Foreign 
aid represents nearly 50 percent of government income.  The United 
Nations estimates per capita gross domestic product at between $350 and 
$500.  The most vulnerable groups are 250,000 displaced persons from 
Abkhazia, pensioners, the handicapped, and orphans. 
 
The Government instituted a number of reforms reflecting its serious 
commitment to improve its human rights record, but significant problems 
remain.  Continuing abuses include police and security force torture and 
beating of detainees, inhuman prison conditions, judicial corruption, 
denial of fair and expeditious trial, and arbitrary interference with 
privacy and home.  Progress on human rights included adoption of a new 
Constitution by the Parliament; restructuring of the state human rights 
protection body, including the establishment of a human rights 
ombudsman; the Government's rebuke of an effort by local officials to 
censor a television station; arrest of two MVD officers on charges of 
abusing prisoners; and partial resumption of access by international 
monitors to prisons and detainees.   
 
Abkhaz separatists tortured and killed dozens of civilians in the area 
that they control.  The actual number of Abkhaz abuses is likely much 
higher.  Georgian partisans committed killings in reprisal. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person Including Freedom 
from: 
 
  a.  Political and other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
A series of assassination attempts against political figures culminated 
with the unsuccessful attempt on Head of State Shevardnadze on August 
29.  Shevardnadze sustained only slight injuries when a car bomb 
exploded outside Parliament. 
 
Unidentified assailants wounded former Defense Minister Giorgi 
Karkarashvili and killed his deputy, Major General Paata Datoashvili, on 
January 25 in Moscow.  Masked men killed Shevardnadze's close political 
ally Soliko Khabeishvili in front of his home on June 20.  On December 
3, 1994, unknown assassins killed head of the National Democratic Party 
Giorgi Chanturia and seriously wounded his wife, member of Parliament 
Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia. 
 
The Government and the MVD have charged senior members of the SGB and 
the Mkhedrioni with involvement in the assassination of Chanturia and 
Khabeishvili and the attempted assassination of President Shevardnadze.  
Deputy Security Minister Temur Khachishvili was arrested on September 2 
and accused of involvement in the attempt to kill Shevardnadze.  A 
warrant was also issued for the arrest of former Security Minister Igor 
Giorgadze. 
 
According to the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe 
(OSCE) mission in Georgia, "the Abkhaz authorities continue to implement 
violent ethnic cleansing designed to prevent significant repatriation to 
Gali district and elsewhere in Abkhazia."  On March 12-14, Abkhaz 
militia tortured and summarily executed 28 Georgians in the Gali 
district of southern Abkhazia.  In retaliation, Georgian partisan groups 
assassinated seven Abkhaz officials on April 1. 
 
Prison officials report that 40 persons died in pretrial detention.  
Officials admit that poor conditions contribute to the high mortality 
rate, but physical abuse and torture are also likely factors (see 
Section 1.c.).  The Government plans to build a new pretrial detention 
facility but as yet construction has not begun. 
 
  b.  Disappearance 
 
The fate of many Georgians and Abkhaz who have disappeared since 1992 as 
a result of the Abkhaz conflict is still unknown.  Over 1,000 Georgians 
are still reported missing, according to the State Committee on Human 
Rights. 
 
The Government officially has no Abkhaz prisoners.  Georgian partisan 
groups, which are condoned but not controlled by the Government, hold 
two Abkhaz prisoners.  Other detentions by Georgian partisan groups have 
been reported but cannot be confirmed.  The Abkhaz authorities released 
30 persons in 1995 in prisoner exchanges and captured an additional 25 
persons. 
 
  c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
While torture in prisons is not always systematic or organized, 
government officials admit that the lack of training and supervision 
often results in cases of abuse.  The most serious incidents of torture 
occurred in the investigative stage of pretrial detention when suspects 
were interrogated by police.  In March President Shevardnadze reported 
that more than 350 policemen had been arrested for various crimes, 
including the abuse of human rights.  In accordance with the new 
Constitution, the Government has created the Office of Human Rights 
Defender to address cases of torture and abuse. 
 
After the July 9 arrest of five suspects in an attempted bridge bombing 
in Tbilisi, MVD police tortured the suspects.  One suspect, Gia 
Korbesashvili, was beaten so severely that he could not stand after his 
interrogation.  Human rights monitors visited Korbesashvili in the 
hospital after he slit his wrists, reportedly because he could no longer 
endure the torture. 
 
On March 25, police arrested Tamriko Khidasheli, her husband and her 
father, and two other men on suspicion of murder.  On August 7, 
following reports of beatings during interrogation, police arrested MVD 
narcotics chief Colonel Gela Kavtelishvili and police officer Giga 
Kigacheishvili.  At year's end, the two were awaiting trial on charges 
of violating the procedural code on interrogation.  The five suspects 
were released. 
 
Between March 12 and 14, Abkhaz militia detained 300 Georgians in Gali 
District and tortured many of them.  In the village of Kvemo Bargebi, 
the Ochamchira unit of the Abkhaz militia beat prisoners with rods, 
burned them with hot knives and bayonets, stabbed them, and set their 
bodies on fire.  The Abkhaz militia killed 28 persons, most of whom were 
tortured to death (see Section 1.a.). Despite the claims of Abkhaz 
authorities, there is no evidence that the perpetrators have been 
punished for these atrocities. 
 
According to the OSCE mission to Georgia, during this period Russian CIS 
peacekeepers maintained fixed checkpoints only and were not on the scene 
at the time of the murders.  The OSCE mission reported that as a result 
of the clearly "unsatisfactory posture from the standpoint of resident 
security, certain changes have since been adopted" including mobile 
patrols.  However, the OSCE mission considered these changes as "still 
insufficient to provide the guarantees of personal security essential to 
any progress on repatriation.  In a March report, Human Rights 
Watch/Helsinki noted that "perpetrators of war crimes on both sides of 
the conflict are not, by and large, being prosecuted and punished, and 
there is a near certainty that individuals accused of war crimes will 
not receive fair trials."  In an effort to hold such perpetrators 
accountable, Head of State Eduard Shevardnadze proposed that the United 
Nations create a body to investigate and punish those guilty of crimes 
against humanity in Abkhazia.  In May the U.N. Security Council 
requested that the Secretary General consider means to improve the human 
rights situation in Abkhazia.  This led to enhanced coordination between 
the U.N. and the OSCE on human rights issues in the region.   
 
Prison authorities admit that conditions are inhuman in many facilities.  
They blame inadequate cells, medicine, and food on a lack of resources.  
In the pretrial detention facility in Tbilisi, 2,050 inmates are housed 
in a prison designed for fewer than 1,000.  Cells contain as many as 36 
inmates with so few beds that they must sleep in shifts.  Lack of 
sanitation, medical care, and food poses a serious threat to life and 
health. 
 
In 1995 Amnesty International reported that improper medical care 
resulted in the amputation of the leg of detainee Badri Zarandia in 
Zugdidi on October 30, 1994.  Zarandia's relatives believe that the 
amputation was unnecessary and preceded by severe beatings by Zugdidi 
police, which resulted in Zarandia's loss of consciousness and damage to 
an artery in his leg. 
 
The Government permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross 
(ICRC) to visit some prisoners but restricted access to others (see 
Section 4).  Tours of prisons and pretrial detention facilities 
conducted for foreign embassy and OSCE representatives are closely 
monitored by prison officials preventing uninhibited conversations with 
inmates.  Despite assurances provided by the office of the President, 
officials from the office of the prosecutor prevented international 
monitors from meeting several of the detainees arrested in connection 
with the Shevardnadze assassination attempt.  Among the detainees whom 
monitors have not been able to visit is Guram Papukashvili, a former 
state security service officer.  There are continuing credible reports 
that Papukashvili has been abused since being detained.   
 
  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The Constitution adopted on August 24 provides for a 9-month period of 
maximum pretrial detention, mandated court approval of detention after 
72 hours, and restrictions on the role of the prosecutor (see Section 
l.e.).  Many of these provisions, although embodied in Soviet law, were 
ignored prior to the entering into force of the new Constitution on 
November 18.  No significant change in arrest patterns occurred after 
November, but public awareness of citizen's legal rights noticeably 
improved.   
 
During most of 1995, former Soviet law continued to be enforced.  Under 
Soviet law, prosecutors issued warrants for arrests and searches without 
court approval.  Persons could be legally detained for up to 72 hours 
without charge.  After 72 hours, the prosecutor was required to approve 
the detention.  This approval, however, was often a formality as the 
prosecutor had initiated the arrest.  The law allowed for a maximum of 
18 months of detention before trial, although this limit was often 
exceeded. 
 
Amnesty International notes that the police have held Nikolay Ploshkin 
for 3 years since October 28, 1992, without trial.  A court ruled on 
June 28 that the evidence against Ploshkin did not support the 
prosecutor's charge of narcotics production, but Ploshkin continues to 
be held under investigation and without charge. 
 
The Government resisted a call to declare a state of emergency following 
the August 29 attempt to assassinate the Head of State.  Dozens of 
supporters of ousted President Gamsakhurdia were, however, briefly 
detained and released following the incident.  Dozens of Gamsakhurdia 
supporters were also detained on May 26 when police broke up an 
unsanctioned assembly of protesters (see Section 2.b.). 
 
In a Shevardnadze-initiated crackdown against the then official but 
heavily criminal Mkhedrioni (Rescue Corps), MVD police arrested a number 
of Mkhedrioni in August and September on criminal charges, some as old 
as 3 years. 
 
There were no cases of forced exile. 
 
  e.  Denial of Fair Trial 
 
The new Constitution provides for an independent judiciary.  Prior to 
the adoption of the new Constitution, the courts were often influenced 
by the pressure from the executive branch.  By year's end, the courts 
displayed no greater independence from the executive branch's 
prosecutor's office.   
 
The Constitution delineates the authorities of individual courts.  
Courts of general jurisdiction are undifferentiated as to function; 
judges may hear criminal, civil, and juvenile cases.  Military courts 
are allowed to operate only during wartime.  The Constitution provides 
for a new Constitutional Court made up of three appointees from each 
branch of government--executive, legislative, and judicial.  Parliament 
has yet to adopt specific legislation to determine the powers, duties, 
and operating procedures of the Constitutional Court.   
 
Under former Soviet law which governed for most of 1995, prosecutors 
were vested with powers greater than those of judges or defense 
attorneys.  Prosecutors directed criminal investigations, supervised 
some judicial functions, and represented the State in trials.  The 
judiciary had little control over the activities of prosecutors.  The 
new Constitution limits the role of prosecutors by placing them under 
the supervision of the courts. 
 
Under the law a detainee is presumed innocent and has the right to a 
public trial.  Trials, however, are not conducted in an adversarial 
manner.  A detainee has the right to demand immediate access to a lawyer 
and to refuse to make a statement in the absence of counsel.  The State 
must provide legal counsel if the defendant is unable to afford one.  
The detaining officer must inform the detainee of these rights and must 
notify the detainee's family of his or her location as soon as possible.  
In practice, these rights are frequently violated.  Human rights 
observers report widespread judicial incompetence and corruption, 
including the payment of bribes to prosecutors and judges. 
 
In the trial of 19 persons implicated in the June 1992 attempt on the 
life of parliamentary deputy and Mkhedrioni leader Jaba Ioseliani, the 
Supreme Court sentenced two of the suspects to death on March 6 and the 
rest to jail terms of up to 15 years.  The Government consistently 
violated due process during the investigation and trial.  Acts of 
torture, use of forced confessions, denial of legal counsel, and 
expulsion of defendants from the courtroom took place.  One of the 
condemned men, Petre Gelbakhiani, had been denied access to legal 
counsel and trial records to prepare his appeal.  Access to his lawyer 
and legal records was restored in May after intervention by the State 
Committee on Human Rights.  On July 8, the presiding judge expelled from 
the courtroom two other suspects in the same case, Zurab Barzimashvili 
and Omar Kochlamazashvili, when they objected to being denied access to 
case materials.  After a 7-month appeal process, the Supreme Court 
denied the appeal and declared the trial to have been legal and valid.  
The defendants plan a second appeal directly to the Supreme Court 
Chairman.   
 
There are no known political prisoners, although detained Gamsakhurdia 
supporters, organized crime figures, and SGB personnel have claimed that 
they are political prisoners. 
 
  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
Credible reports indicate that both the SGB and MVD monitor private 
telephone conversations without court order.  SGB and MVD officials also 
enter homes without legal sanction.  The frequency and seriousness of 
such violations, however, are diminishing. 
 
Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The Constitution and the 1991 press law provide for freedom of the 
press.  The Government improved its respect of this right in practice, 
although some problems remained.  Press freedom for private media was 
almost universal in 1995, with the exception of an unsuccessful attempt 
by certain officials to censor a private television station.  Observers 
noted that police harassment of journalists had declined.  Dozens of 
opposition newspapers with wide circulation operate without interference 
throughout Georgia.   
 
The Government finances and controls many newspapers and most television 
stations, and they reflect principally official viewpoints.  The 
government-financed newspapers Sarkartvelos Respublic and Svobodnya 
Gruzya, do not publish opposition viewpoints.  The State also owns and 
operates the major publishing house.  Opposition spokesmen complain they 
do not have equal access to government-operated national television 
stations nor the resources to print large numbers of their newspapers.  
The government-operated stations have introduced some programs designed 
to air opposition viewpoints.  During the campaigns prior to the 
November 5 elections, all political parties were given equal time on 
government television with rotating time slots. 
 
On June 16, the Ministry of Communications rescinded the license of a 
local television station "Rustavi TV" after the station refused to 
submit to censorship by municipal authorities.  The Ministry closed 
"Rustavi TV" under the pretense that it was engaging in illegal 
commercial activity.  After media and diplomatic protests to the Head of 
State's office, the Ministry of Communications restored the license on 
July 18. 
 
  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Government generally observes the right of peaceful assembly and 
association.  The Government permits unannounced assembly in three 
locations in Tbilisi and requires 24-hour advanced notice for assemblies 
in other areas.  The Government grants permits for assembly and 
registration for associations without arbitrary restriction or 
discrimination. 
 
On May 26, police in riot gear broke up an unsanctioned assembly of 
2,000 protesters (mostly supporters of ousted President Gamsakhurdia) in 
the Tbilisi city center.  The protesters complained that some of them, 
particularly women, were handled roughly by police.  Dozens of 
protesters were detained. 
 
  c.  Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
respects this right in practice. 
 
  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The 1993 law on migration provides for these rights, and the Government 
generally respects them in practice.  The Government Office of 
Passports, Visas, and Foreign Registration (OVIR) often illegally 
restricts foreign travel by demanding bribes and requiring long delays 
for passport issuance.  The registration of residence is no longer 
required in Georgia.  Georgian citizens are free to live anywhere in the 
country.  The Government generally respects the right of repatriation, 
although approximately 270,000 Meskhetian Turk (primarily Muslim) 
refugees still face public opposition to their return.  Stalin exiled 
the Meskhetian Turks from Georgia in the 1940's.  The Government is 
attempting to return 35 to 40 Meskhetian refugee families from 
Azerbaijan to Marneuli, eastern Georgia, as part of a pilot resettlement 
program.  Larger repatriation programs continue to face strong local 
resistance. 
 
International law and the 1994 Quadripartite Agreement (Russia, Georgia, 
Abkhazia, and U.N. High Commissioer for Refugees) on repatriation in 
Abkhazia provide for the free, safe, and dignified return of internally 
displace persons (IDP's) to their homes.  Since 1994, when only 311 
IDP's were allowed to repatriate, there has been no official 
repatriation.  Approximately 30,000 of the 250,000 displaced persons 
from Abkhazia have returned spontaneously, most all to the southern part 
of Gali District where Abkhaz separatist forces operate only 
sporadically.  The returnees continue to face security threats from 
Abkhaz authorities. 
 
South Ossetian separatists also continue to defy attempts to repatriate 
IDP's. 
 
Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change their Government 
 
The Constitution and 1995 Election Law provide citizens with the right 
to peacefully change their government, and citizens exercised this right 
in the last two elections in October 1992 and November 1995.  A 
democratically elected President and Parliament governs most of Georgia.  
The separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are ruled by 
unelected leaders, and national balloting is not conducted in these 
areas. 
 
The 223-member Parliament and President Eduard Shevardnadze were elected 
in multiparty elections in 1992 and 1995.  International observers 
judged these elections to meet international standards, despite 
technical violations.  In the 1995 election, opposition parties actively 
participated in preelection planning and election monitoring.  The most 
serious election violations occurred in the regions of Adjaria and 
Southern Georgia but were not sufficiently large to upset the national 
election outcome.  Local elections are planned in 1996. 
 
Women and minorities are less well represented in Parliament than they 
were in the Soviet or Gamsakhurdia governments.  Only 16 women (7 
percent) were elected to Parliament in 1995, and one woman (6 percent) 
has been named to a ministerial post. 
 
Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
The Government generally respects the right of domestic and 
international organizations to monitor human rights, but has limited the 
access of such organizations in specific cases. 
 
The ICRC has visited 80 prisoners in Georgian custody and 55 prisoners 
in Abkhaz custody without the presence of third-party observers.  The 
Government has denied access by ICRC to 27 prisoners, most of whom are 
supporters of ousted President Gamsakhurdia. 
 
Following the attempted assassination of the Head of State on August 29, 
the Ministry of Interior arrested dozens of members of the Rescue Corps 
and the Security Service (see Section 1.d.).  There are continuing 
credible reports of abuse of one of the detained security service 
officers, Guram Papukashvili.  By year's end, the Government granted the 
OSCE and diplomatic representatives access to some of the detained 
persons in this case, but not to Papukashvili.   
 
Domestic human rights monitoring is politicized.  Local human rights 
groups complain that the State Committee on Human Rights is biased and 
promotes the interests of the Government.  The Committee counters that 
most local human rights groups are extensions of partisan political 
groups.  The new Constitution provides for a human rights public 
defender who will be independent from the executive branch.  The public 
defender will be elected and funded by Parliament but will be 
accountable to neither the Parliament nor the executive.  The position 
will be filled after the Parliament adopts legislation defining its 
specific duties and authority. 
 
Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Constitution recognizes the equality of all citizens without regard 
to race, language, sex, religion, skin color, political views, national, 
ethnic, or social affiliation, origin, social status, landownership, or 
place of residence.  The Constitution provides for Georgian as the state 
language, except in Abkhazia where both Abkhazian and Georgian are state 
languages.  The State Committee on Human Rights and Interethnic 
Relations is responsible for combating discrimination but lacks the 
resources to monitor discrimination effectively. 
 
  Women 
 
Women's nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) report that family 
violence and rape is not common in most of Georgia, although there have 
been incidents of spousal abuse and sexual harassment.  They indicate 
that spousal abuse usually goes unreported, and police are reluctant to 
investigate complaints.  They also note that sexual harassment is 
becoming a growing problem in the workplace as increasing numbers of 
women are employed outside the home.  The Government has no support 
services for abused women, although police reportedly do investigate 
reports of rape. 
 
Human rights monitors in Abkhazia noted dozens of reports of rape of 
non-Abkhaz women by young Abkhaz men, often in paramilitary dress.  In 
many cases, these rapes were reported to be of elderly women with the 
clear intent of humiliating the victim and her family. 
 
Women's access to the labor market continues to be confined mostly to 
low-paying and low-skill positions despite frequent high professional 
and academic qualifications.  There are only a relatively few women 
working in industry and professional fields.  Despite their small 
numbers, prominent women including opposition leader Irina Chanturia-
Sarishvili play important roles in politics and business. 
 
Five new political collectives have been formed to promote women's 
rights, including Georgian Women's Choice and the Party for the Defense 
of Women's Rights. 
 
  Children 
 
Government services for children are extremely limited.  The Health 
Reform Act of August 10 withdrew the right of children over the age of 1 
year to free medical care.  While education is officially free, many 
parents are unable to afford books and school supplies, effectively 
excluding their children from participation in school. 
 
The Georgian private voluntary organization (PVO), "Child and 
Environment," notes a dramatic rise in homeless children since the 
collapse of the Soviet Union.  It estimates that there are as many as 
1,000 street children in Tbilisi because of the inability of orphanages 
and the Ministry of Education to provide support services.  "Child and 
Environment" also reports a growing trend towards child involvement in 
criminal activity, narcotics, and prostitution despite the cultural 
tradition of protecting children. 
 
  People with Disabilities 
 
There is no legislative or otherwise mandated provision requiring 
accessibility for the disabled.  The Law on Labor has a section which 
includes the provision of special discounts and favorable social 
policies for those with disabilities, especially disabled veterans. 
 
Many of the state facilities for the disabled which operated in the 
Soviet period have been closed because of lack of government funding.  
Most disabled persons are supported by family members. 
 
  Religious Minorities 
 
Freedom of religion is widely respected in Georgia.  The Patriarch of 
the Georgian Orthodox Church, however, is wary of proselytism and has 
exhibited an intolerant attitude towards Baptist missionaries and the 
Salvation Army.  The Catholic  
 
Church has also complained of the delay in the return of churches closed 
during the Soviet period and later given to the Georgian Orthodox 
Church. 
 
Organizations promoting the rights of Jewish persons and Jewish 
emigration continue to report that the Government provides exceptional 
cooperation and support.  This year, during the transition to a new 
passport regime, the Government expedited the cases of Jewish emigrants 
while delaying all other cases.  Georgia has a tradition of tolerance 
towards religious minorities. 
 
  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
The Government generally respects the rights of ethnic minorities in 
nonconflict areas.  Local government has encouraged the repatriation and 
reintegration of ethnic Ossetians into Georgian communities.  The 
Government provides funds for ethnic schools, and the teaching of non-
Georgian languages is permitted.  Both pro-Georgian and Abkhaz 
separatist violence against civilians in Abkhazia reflects historical 
ethnic conflicts as does the refusal of South Ossetian authorities to 
allow ethnic Georgians to return to South Ossetia. 
 
Section 6  Worker Rights 
 
  a.  The Right of Association 
 
The Constitution provides for the right of citizens to form and join 
unions.  The Soviet Labor Code, still in effect, specifies that these 
unions must be registered with the Ministry of Justice. 
 
A single Confederation of Trade Unions, made up of about 30 sectoral 
unions, operates in Georgia.  Current trade unions, however, are 
remnants of the Soviet period where unions were administrative bodies 
concerned with property and finance but not with workers' rights. 
 
There are no legal prohibitions against affiliation and participation in 
international organizations.  The right to form unions is protected 
under the new Constitution. 
 
  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
The Constitution and the Soviet Labor Code allow workers to organize and 
bargain collectively, and this right is respected.  The Labor Code also 
prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers against union members.  
Employers may be prosecuted for antiunion discrimination and be made to 
reinstate employees and pay back wages.  The Ministry of Labor 
investigates complaints but is not staffed to conduct effective 
investigations. 
 
There are no export processing zones. 
 
  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
The Labor Code prohibits forced or compulsory labor and provides for 
sanctions against violators; violations are rare.  The Ministry of Labor 
enforces this law. 
 
  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
According to the Labor Code, the minimum age for employment of children 
is 14 years.  Children between 14 and 16 years may not work more than 30 
hours per week.  Reportedly, the minimum age is widely respected. 
 
  e.  Acceptable Conditions for Work 
 
The nationally mandated minimum wage was abolished on July 1 and 
replaced by a wage scale which sets the lowest salary grade at $4.31 
(3.5 lari) per month.  There is no state-mandated minimum wage for 
private sector workers.  A recent government report concluded that $77 
per month was required to maintain the basic needs of a single elderly 
male in Georgia.  Pensions are undifferentiated, except for World War II 
veterans, and are set at $4.55 (3.7 lari) per month.  Pensions for World 
War II veterans are set at $7.38 (6 lari) per month. 
 
The law provides for a 41-hour workweek, including a 24-hour rest 
period, although the Government workweek was shortened during the winter 
due to the energy crisis.  The Labor Code permits higher wages for 
hazardous work and permits a worker in such fields to refuse duties that 
could endanger his life. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

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