UN Calls on Georgia to Shelve Controversial ‘Foreign Influence’ Law

Wed May 15 2024
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GENEVA: UN human rights chief Volker Turk on Wednesday called on Georgia to scrap its controversial “foreign influence” law that has sparked weeks of protests in the former Soviet republic.

The law was widely denounced as mirroring repressive Russian legislation used to silence dissent, with the US and the European Union also urging Georgia to withdraw it.

Turk said that he deeply regrets the adoption of a law which means NGOs or media who get a fifth or more of their funding from abroad have to register as agents of “foreign influence”, AFP reported.

Turk said in a statement that authorities and lawmakers have chosen to disregard the many warnings by civil society organizations and human rights defenders.

He said that the impacts on the rights to freedom of expression and association in the country unfortunately now risk being significant.

Turk said the legislation was over broad and risks stigmatizing NGOs who may face an atmosphere of fear, mistrust, and hostility.

The UN High Commissioner for human rights added that the registration requirement may also have a chilling effect on them, notably curtailing their activities.

He said that stifling diverse voices on issues of serious public interest will only complicate the government’s ability to respond effectively to the many challenges facing Georgia with sound legislative and policy measures.

Skirmishes in Georgia

Demonstrators skirmished with riot police outside the parliament building in the centre of the capital Tbilisi, where protests have raged for the last month.

Weeks of mass rallies against the law in the Caucasus nation culminated on Saturday when up to 100,000 people took to the streets of Tbilisi in the largest anti-government rally in Georgia’s recent history.

The UN Human Rights Office has previously expressed concern about the disproportionate and unnecessary use of force against demonstrators.

Turk said that authorities need to promptly probe allegations of violence and ill-treatment in the context of the demonstrations, including reported assaults on protesters and their families.

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