The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions
In 1999 BHHRG urged caution when it became clear that Georgia was on course to join the Council of Europe as there were no signs that the shortcomings in Georgia’s human rights record had been addressed. Apologists claimed that membership of the organization would provide much-needed oversight of institutions, like the prison service. In 2002/3 the CoE did conduct an investigation into Georgia’s prisons although its report was ‘sat on’ by the Georgian authorities and only appeared in July, 2005. Although its criticisms of the system are harsh, the medicine prescribed is always tame, namely, more ‘human rights education’ and ‘training’. Nevertheless, many ‘political’ prisoners now in custody in Georgia are pinning their hopes on the outcome of their appeals to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). As well as Molashvili, former Minister of Energy, David Mirtskhulava who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in March 2005 for abuse of power, has launched an appeal to Strasbourg, as has Zurab Chankotadze. The CoE’s legal arm, the Venice Commission, has also criticized Georgia over the government’s unilateral reduction of Adjara’s autonomous status as well as the decision not to allow direct election of local mayors, including the powerful post of mayor of Tbilisi. It has also raised the issue of the high (7%) threshold for parties to enter parliament. But, Saakashvili has always treated the CoE with contempt, ever since its previous director-general, Walter Schwimmer, tried to diffuse the row over Adjara’s status and the best way to handle Aslan Abashidze in 2004. BHHRG reported at the time...