Amnesty Int’l on Georgia’s Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

Amnesty International, London-based human rights watchdog, released a report on April 29 assessing Eastern European and Central Asian states’ responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

The watchdog stated that state of emergency measures introduced by the Georgian government on March 21 were “necessary, proportionate, and motivated by legitimate public health objectives.”

The Presidential decree included an “exhaustive” list of derogated rights, and specific circumstances when such derogation was possible, instead of authorizing a broader scope of emergency measures, reads the report.

The adopted measures were tailored for the COVID-19 response, such as quarantine regulations, limitations on international and domestic travel, prison visits, and restricted access to public services, Amnesty International noted. It added that the decree allowed the use of private property for public health needs and authorized price regulations for basic products.

The watchdog raised concerns over the fact that certain measures had been applied “in a discriminatory fashion.”

“Contrary to medical advice, religious gatherings have not been restricted by law largely to ensure that the Georgian Orthodox Church could conduct liturgies for Orthodox Easter. During Palm Sunday and Easter celebrations on 12 April and 19 April in Georgia, several Orthodox churches hosted dozens of worshipers,” reads the report.

Amnesty International remarked that all other religious groups have voluntarily agreed to close houses of worship to the public.

As stated in the report, on April 15, Mirtagi Asadov, head of the Muslim community in Georgia, declared that when Ramadan begins, they would also open mosques and expect the government would treat them with the same understanding as they have shown to the Orthodox Church. However, the watchdog noted, two days after that statement Asadov was summoned by Security authorities for questioning in connection with an alleged attempt to sabotage the state.

Amnesty International highlighted Government’s measures aimed at protecting “the most vulnerable” groups of the population. It mentioned that the Government planned to dispense unemployment benefits to those who lost jobs due to the pandemic and ensuing restrictions. The watchdog further noted that utility expenses of households consuming less than 200 kw of electricity and 200 cubic meters of gas will be covered from the state budget during the state of emergency months.

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