Experts of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Commend Georgia on Anti-Discrimination Legislation, Ask Questions on Legal Capacity Reform…

OHCHR

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Georgia on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Committee Experts commended the addition of denial of reasonable accommodation as a form of discrimination in legislation, while asking questions on legal capacity reform and access to healthcare services for vulnerable persons in the occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.

Rosemary Kayess, Committee Expert and Vice-Chair, said the Committee warmly welcomed the adoption of the law on the rights of persons with disabilities, and was particularly pleased that the denial of reasonable accommodation was now recognised as a form of discrimination in this law. However, the principle of reasonable accommodation was reportedly not well understood or applied across a range of areas. Could the delegation provide information on how it was providing guidance for State and non-State actors in understanding and applying their obligations?

Markus Schefer, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said legislation strengthening the rights of persons with disabilities that had been passed and enacted during the reporting period was impressive. However, the Committee was eager to hear the delegation’s assessment regarding the legal capacity reform of 2015 and its effectiveness, mindful of parliament’s amendment of the Civil Code last November. A Committee Expert asked why the new model of legal capacity had not been fully implemented and the old model was still being used.

Ms. Kayess said the Committee recognised the difficulties of the State party in implementing the Convention in the occupied regions in the country. What measures were being taken to ensure persons, including internally displaced persons, with disabilities in these territories were provided with essential services, especially protection and rehabilitation measures? How did persons with disabilities in the occupied territories access medical care services provided by the State party?

Ekaterine Skhiladze, Deputy Public Defender of Georgia, said the public defender of Georgia had conducted monitoring of implementation of the legal capacity reform in Georgia. Even though seven years had passed since the beginning of the reform, 37 people still did not have “support receiver” status and about 36 people had not yet had their psychosocial examinations, and authorities did not have detailed information about remaining 301 persons. Caretakers and guardians could not provide proper supervision and monitoring of obligations imposed by the legislation.

The delegation of Georgia said that the legal capacity reform had had a major impact. Full substitute decision making was now imposed on persons with disabilities only in extreme cases, such as on persons with antisocial personality disorder, persons in a coma, and persons with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. In all other cases, decision making was not substituted but supported. Courts determined whether persons should receive support with due diligence.

Introducing the report, Niko Tatulashvili, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Issues and head of the delegation said the Government was committed to utilising all available instruments to address the human rights abuses in the occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. It continued to inform the international community about the grave human rights situation on the ground and to address the problems of conflict-affected people, including women. For instance, Georgia had constructed hospitals very close to the so-called border for people coming from Abkhazia to benefit from healthcare services.

In closing remarks, Mr. Tatulashvili said that the delegation had presented the achievements and numerous important reforms that had been implemented in Georgia in recent years. Georgia has adopted several laws and regulations on persons with disabilities and created various mechanisms for their implementation. Challenges remained; effective implementation of the laws and policies on the rights of persons with disabilities would be a top priority for the Government.

Saowalak Thongkuay, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said the Committee truly appreciated the State party’s efforts to develop its policy and its legal system, and to increasingly incorporate consideration of disability into many areas of life. The State party might consider applying a twin track approach to ensure that women, men and children with all types of disabilities had full access to the protections, safeguards and relief measures that the law allowed. This required the broad removal of attitudinal and environmental barriers in society.

The delegation of Georgia consisted of the Advisor to the Prime Minister of Georgia on Human Rights Issues; the Chairman of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee; the Deputy Chairman of “The Georgian Dream” Faction; Judge of the Civil Affairs Collegium of the Tbilisi City Court; Head of the Department of International Relations of the High Council of Justice of Georgia; Head of the Human Rights Department General Prosecutor’s Office; Assistant to the Member of the Parliament; Specialist at the Human Rights Secretariat of the Administration of the Government; Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs; Ministry of Internal Affairs; Ministry of Education and Science; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs; and the Permanent Mission of Georgia to the United Nations Office and other international organisations in Geneva.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Webcasts of the meetings of the session can be found here, and meetings summaries can be found here.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m., Monday 13 March to begin its consideration of the combined second and third periodic report of Tunisia (CRPD/C/TUN/2-3).

Report

The Committee has before it the initial report of Georgia (CRPD/C/GEO/1).

Presentation of Report

NIKO TATULASHVILI, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Issues and head of the delegation, emphasized Georgia’s commitment to human rights protection and cooperation with the United Nations human rights monitoring mechanisms. Throughout previous years, numerous important reforms had been implemented with the aim to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities.

In 2014, Georgia ratified the Convention. In 2017, the Constitution was amended to align it with the Convention. In 2020, the Parliament adopted a new law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In 2021, the Law on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination was amended and to recognise denial of reasonable accommodation as a form of discrimination. That same year, Georgia ratified the Optional Protocol and recognised the competence of the Committee. In 2022, the Government approved the second National Strategy for the Protection of Human Rights in Georgia for 2022-2030, which had already been submitted to the Parliament and

was expected to be adopted in the coming weeks. As a follow-up to the human rights strategy, in February the Administration of the Government of Georgia organized a kick-off meeting with the involvement of State agencies, international organizations and local non-governmental organizations to discuss the goals and priorities of the new National Human Rights Action Plan.

In November 2021, in close cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Public Defender’s Office and civil society, the Government Administration had established the Interagency Coordination Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. To ensure the active engagement of the persons with disabilities, organisations of persons with disabilities and the organizations representing persons with disabilities, the Committee established the Consultative Council. In the reporting period 58 municipalities out of 64 had established branches of the Council working on the issues of persons with disabilities at the local level. To strengthen coordination between the executive and local government, a memorandum of cooperation had been signed in 2022 between the Government and the National Association of Local Authorities. Ministries had also started to establish consultative councils working on the rights of persons with disabilities. The Government also devoted special attention to awareness raising and training activities. Measures had been taken to foster the accessibility of public services and inclusive education.

The right to health was guaranteed by the Constitution. The Government annually approved the programme on Social Rehabilitation and Child Care, under which a broad range of social programmes were implemented for persons with disabilities, both children and adults. Measures were taken to improve the disability status assessment model to the greatest possible extent. The State Agency for Employment Promotion had been operational since January 2020. The “State Subprogram for Professional Development of Job Seekers” aimed to increase the competitiveness of job seekers. In 2022, 498 persons with disabilities benefited from this programme and were employed.

The Government was committed to utilising all available instruments to address the human rights abuses in the occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. It continued to inform the international community about the grave human rights situation on the ground and to address the problems of conflict-affected people, including women. It spared no efforts to effectively use fora for negotiation, particularly the Geneva International Discussions, which discussed implementation of the Russian Federation’s obligations with the involvement of key international actors, and the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms. The Government was also actively pursuing a reconciliation and engagement policy to facilitate interaction of divided communities across the occupation line and improve the conditions of people living in the occupied territories.

EKATERINE SKHILADZE, Deputy Public Defender of Georgia, said, despite some positive results achieved in recent years, including the development of legislation and institutional mechanisms, there were still many challenges in protecting the rights of persons with disabilities in Georgia. The Public Defender welcomed the adoption of the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; however, the deadlines determined by the Law for the Fulfilment of Certain Obligations were quite long and could not provide timely solutions to the systemic problems faced by persons with disabilities. There had been no transition to a biopsychosocial assessment system across the country. The adoption of a relevant plan for the shift to such a system was also delayed.

Despite the creation of the Inter-Agency Coordination Committee for the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, no additional resources had been mobilised for the purposes of the Committee’s activities. There was a lack of information campaigns that would address the discriminatory attitudes and stigma against persons with disabilities in the country. The low awareness and stereotypical attitudes of professionals working in different fields, including education, the judiciary and the health system, was also problematic. Courts had failed to examine issues of capacity and consider the needs of persons with disabilities, and there was a lack of human resources including social workers. National accessibility standards were not effectively enforced in practice. No national accessibility plan had been developed so far. A lack of access to already existing buildings remained a challenge.

There were insufficient targeted services to meet their needs of children living in poverty. One of the main challenges in the implementation of State programmes for social rehabilitation and childcare was insufficient geographic coverage. There was no State rehabilitation program available for adults with disabilities.

State policies relating to violence against women and domestic violence were often not inclusive and did not consider the needs of women with disabilities. It was especially problematic to detect sexual or other types of violence against women with psychosocial needs and to administer effective justice. Women and girls with disabilities did not have full access to all sexual and reproductive health services and facilities on an equal basis with others. The use of deception, intimidation and pressure to obtain consent from patients after being admitted to a psychiatric institution was a widespread negative practice.

There were many challenges in implementing inclusive education. Problems in public schools had inaccessible external and internal infrastructure, insufficient educational resources, and school staff who did not have appropriate qualifications.

The rate of implementation of relevant recommendations issued by the Public Defender to the State was still not sufficient.

Questions by Committee Experts

MARKUS SCHEFER, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, welcomed the State party’s accession to the Optional Protocol on April 12, 2021. By opening the country to scrutiny in the individual complaints procedure and the inquiry procedure, Georgia had re-emphasised its commitment to fully honour the Convention, which it had acceded to in 2014. Legislation strengthening the rights of persons with disabilities that had been passed and enacted during the reporting period was impressive. He referred, primarily, to the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the recent amendments to the Law of Georgia on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination. These laws accepted the denial of reasonable accommodation as a form of discrimination, recognised Georgian sign language and enshrined universal design, just to name a few of the achievements. The Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also contained a timeframe for its implementation and an obligation to devise action plans to this end. Additional legislative and executive action supported the direction these laws had shown.

However, an ambiguous picture of the success of efforts to implement the new laws had emerged. Legal capacity reform of 2015 did not seem to have achieved its goals. The Committee was eager to hear the delegation’s assessment, mindful of parliament’s amendment of the Civil Code last November. Additional areas in need of clarification included the effectiveness of the participation of persons with disabilities in the State party’s efforts to implement the Convention and in society in general; the reasons for the substantial discrimination of women and girls and the prospects for improvement; the circumstances of persons with disabilities in territories not under Government control and of persons with disabilities who fled from these areas; and the State party’s plans on how to move forward with its many institutions for persons with disabilities.

No funding was available for many organizations of persons with disabilities. The Government reportedly threatened to take over organisations of persons with disabilities should they take unfavourable positions. How would the State party ensure in the future that the interagency implementation body could perform its functions, and was funded properly with human and financial responses? How did Georgia ensure that organizations of persons with disabilities received fundings but remained independent? Was the State party willing to create a legal basis to ensure the views of organizations of persons with disabilities were seriously considered? How were people with intellectual disabilities represented in decision-making processes?

SAOWALAK THONGKUAY, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked if the State party had a comprehensive plan to adopt the Marrakesh Treaty. What measure were taken to ensure the meaningful participation of organizations of persons with disabilities in the board of the Interagency Coordination Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? What steps had been taken to enforce the establishment of the Consultative Council in all 64 municipalities? How was the Government planning to improve the participation of women with disabilities? What measures were taken to eliminate discriminatory language? What mechanisms were established to ensure that reasonable accommodation was provided, and that all persons with disabilities had access to legal aid? What comprehensive mechanism would prohibit all forms of harmful practises, particularly targeting human rights defenders with disabilities?

Another Committee Expert asked about the participation of persons with disabilities in the design and implementation of laws that affected them. Could the delegation inform the Committee on what the State party was doing to support the establishment of organizations of persons with disabilities, including though funding? Did people with intellectual disabilities have their own organisations? What steps had been taken to promote awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities in line with the Convention? Were organizations of persons with disabilities involved in awareness training? The use of expressions like “mental retardation” in legislation was outdated and against the Convention. The Expert recommended urgent change.

ROSEMARY KAYESS, Committee Expert and Vice-Chair, said the Committee warmly welcomed the adoption of the law on the rights of persons with disabilities, and was particularly pleased that the denial of reasonable accommodation was now recognised as a form of discrimination in this law. However, the principle of reasonable accommodation was reportedly not well understood or applied across a range of areas, including health, education, employment and the provision of services. There were also concerns that the legal concept of a disproportionate or excessive burden or obligation was not well understood. Could the delegation provide information on how it was providing information, guidance and support for State and non-State actors in understanding and applying their obligations in relation to the principle of reasonable accommodation? Was there guidance on the concept of an excessive burden or obligation, and was this concept harmonised with the Convention threshold of undue burden? Were there any measures or strategies to address community attitudes and related shame within families?

AMALIA GAMIO RIOS, Committee Expert and Vice-Chair, said she was extremely concerned that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community were reportedly regularly discriminated. What measures were taken to prevent this type of discrimination? How did the State prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities in rural areas? What support did it provide to families with children with disability to prevent abandonment? How did the State party ensure access to existing services for persons with disabilities?

A Committee Expert asked about access for persons with disabilities to transportation in rural and urban areas? How did it identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers to accessibility travelling between cities in Georgia?

A Committee Expert asked the delegation to provide information on measures taken to prevent, investigate and sanction all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities and ensure affordable access to remedies by persons with disabilities? Were organizations of persons with disabilities involved in public awareness-raising campaigns to promote a positive image of persons with disabilities? What assistance was given to persons with disabilities, in regard to information, communication and technology?

Another Committee Expert asked to what degree the Government was willing to align its domestic legislation to the Convention, in particular article 10.

ODELIA FITOUSSI, Committee Expert and Vice-Chair, asked for information about rehabilitation of children with disabilities. To what extent did the State party intend to implement the guidelines on deinstitutionalization, and provide children with disabilities and their families with services and tools to promote independent living in the community?

GERTRUDE OFORIWA FEFOAME, Committee Chair, said the gender equality council of the parliament of Georgia had recently carried out an inquiry on women’s economic empowerment. How was the Government ensuring that adequate national budget was allocated across ministries to ensure mainstreaming of wages for women with disabilities? What measures were in place to promote the meaningful participation of women with disabilities and to strengthen their organisations?

Responses by the Delegation

NIKO TATULASHVILI, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Issues and head of the delegation, said the Coordination Committee was created in 2021. It consisted of high-level officials. The Consultative Council was open for all organizations of persons with disabilities. Ministries worked on issues identified as problematic. A memorandum of understanding with municipalities had been signed to make sure that Governmental policies were well implemented at a national level. Out of 64 municipalities, 58 had already established councils of persons with disabilities. After the law on the persons with disabilities was adopted, all state agencies, all municipalities, had the obligation to adopt action plans on persons with disabilities. The State party would try to cover all the municipalities and all the state agencies by 2030.

The Marrakesh Treaty was in the process of ratification, and hopefully in the coming months would be ratified. The strategy for meaningful participation would be passed very soon. Georgia had already started working on an action plan for the strategy. The work of the Public Defender Officers was key. This work was usually done together with State agencies. The national accessibility standard adopted in 2021 was created through this process.

The issue of the rights of women with disability was of high importance. There were two separate action plans on the rights of women: one focusing on women, peace and security and the other on domestic violence and violence against women. The importance of the protection of women with disabilities was emphasised. These action plans had been approved since 2011. The rights of women with disabilities were also enshrined in new action plans.

Regulations, policies and programmes were in place to ensure full access for persons with disabilities to information, communication and technology. Media services providers were required to ensure that consumers with disabilities were able to view the terms of services on service providers’ websites. Following amendments on the law on broadcasting, the Communications Commission had the obligation to determine the rules on the continuous and progressive availability of audio-visual media services for persons with disabilities.

In 2023, within the framework of the “Login Georgia” digital inclusion project, the Communications Commission would carry out a study analysing the digital divide. Based on the assessment, a digital inclusion strategy would be developed to improve skills and access to digital technology. Media service providers were required to make their services accessible to persons with disabilities by implementing progressive measures. Providers should submit a report once every three years.

The delegation said legal capacity reform had been implemented in 2015. Within two years, 5,587 people had received support based on court decisions, out of which 2,240 people had received temporary support. The guardianship and care authority had an obligation to protect and empower support recipients. Tools for social workers to monitor and respond to violence against persons with disabilities had been approved in 2020. The social work law approved in 2020 regulated how social work protects the legal rights of persons with disabilities.

Deinstitutionalisation of large-scale institutions for children and persons with disabilities had been on top of the Government’s agenda since 2005. Since then, over 80 institutions had been closed. All children’s institutions had been closed and alternative services had been elaborated, particularly for foster care. Innovative services had been elaborated and would be started in 2023 to ensure there was no need for large scale institutions. Work was ongoing and more needed to be done on deinstitutionalisation of adults with disabilities. In this regard, alternative care mechanisms were under discussion.

Regarding disability assessment, the legislation of Georgia obliged the Government to introduce a biopsychosocial model of assessment and elaborate an action plan. Last week, a three-year action plan had been approved that shifted the State from a medical to a biopsychosocial assessment model. Two successful pilots of the methodology had been conducted. A methodology for assessment of children had been standardised. Within three years, different Government entities would take specific measures to ensure that the biopsychosocial model would be in place.

A disability council had been established in 2022. Over the last year, it had worked in four sub-committees. These had worked or were working on the biopsychosocial model of disability; deinstitutionalisation; improvement of the quality and accessibility of services; decentralisation of centralised services; and widening of the geographic availability of services in all regions. Two more subcommittees would be developed and added to the Council in April 2023, focusing on employment of persons with disabilities, health and accessibility to healthcare services. A standard operating procedure for family planning and for inter-natal supervision for women with disabilities was approved in 2020.

One of the most targeted programmes for children with disabilities was a social rehabilitation and childcare programme, which envisioned a flexible type of intervention supporting individual needs of families as identified by social workers. The Government supported day care centres for children, specifically for children with disability. Foster care and other alternative forms of care were also funded. There had been a close to 20 per cent increase in this funding in 2023.

Targeted social assistance programmes were in place to provide appropriate cash benefits to persons in need. The methodology of these programmes was designed with the support of World Bank and international experts. The presence of persons with disabilities in the household, including children, increased the probability of receiving targeted social assistance. A pension was available for persons with disabilities. In December 2022, approximately 40,000 children received social assistance. To address legislation that used language that was not in line with the Convention, the Government, in 2022, initiated a package of 21 legislative acts encompassing updating terminology to bring legislation in line with the Convention.

Professionals from several fields underwent training on the rights of persons with disabilities that focused on the issue of informed consent. If persons with disabilities were unable to give voluntary consent, the decision was made by a family member or legal representative. This rule concerned all forms of health care. Involuntary care was provided in psychiatric hospitals when the patient lacked capacity to make a conscious decision due to mental disabilities, and when delaying care would cause harm to the patient or others.

The fight against discrimination was a State priority. Committing a crime on discriminatory grounds constituted an aggravating circumstance. Special investigators had been trained regarding crimes involving discrimination. In 2022, more than 2,000 officers had been trained.

Measures had been taken to ensure effective investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. 115 prosecutors had undergone special training on hate crimes. The human rights protection department of the prosecution service had not recorded any hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons with disabilities between 2016 and 2022. In this period, 25 persons were prosecuted for crimes against persons with disabilities, and 27 persons with disabilities were granted victim status. As for intersectional discrimination, 2021 was the first year when such a case was registered. Three persons were prosecuted for crimes committed with intersectional discrimination motives, namely gender and disability intolerance.

Mainstreaming the rights of women and girls and combating violence against them was a priority. In 2021 and 2022, 83 women and girls with disabilities were granted victim status in cases of crimes of violence. In the same period, 73 persons were prosecuted for crimes against women and girls with disabilities.

In 2022, the State standard of early and preschool education were revised. The recommendations of experts were considered related to inclusive education. Every kindergarten had to meet mandatory standards to be authorised. Preschool education was free and provided by the local government. Updated standards would be approved soon.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert asked about the State party’s deinstitutionalization action plans. Could the delegation provide information on measures taken to promote the deinstitutionalisation of children with disabilities based on State guidelines?

ROSEMARY KAYESS, Committee Expert and Vice-Chair, said the Committee recognised the difficulties of the State party in implementing the Convention in the occupied territories in the country. What measures were Georgia taking to ensure persons, including internally displaced persons, with disabilities in these territories were provided with essential services, especially protection and rehabilitation measures?

Could the delegation provide information on the threshold and defence tests used to determine the provision or denial of reasonable accommodation. She asked the Public Defender’s Office for information on programmes addressing stigma against persons with disabilities. If available, were they developed in collaboration with organizations of persons with disabilities?

SAOWALAK THONGKUAY, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked about measures being taken to ensure all persons with disabilities access to health, education and social benefits during crises? What mechanisms were in place to protect women and children and prohibit all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse?

A Committee Expert asked why the new model of legal capacity had not been fully implemented and the old model was still being used. Could the delegation inform the Committee about measures to ensure that there was accessible housing?

MARKUS SCHEFER, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked the Public Defenders’ Office to provide its assessment of the effectiveness of legal capacity reforms that had led to 5,000 persons with disabilities receiving support measures. Was the Government informing possible recipients of its impressive financial support programmes? How were these measures implemented and did children and persons with disabilities profit from them?

A Committee Expert asked about access to justice. What measure were taken to raise awareness and to provide accessible information among persons with disabilities in all living arrangements about their right to access justice, including legal aid, remedies, redress in the judicial system, alternative dispute resolution and restorative justice?

A Committee Expert asked the delegation to explain the extent to which sexual and reproductive health programmes were available for women with disabilities.

Clear limitations to access to credit, bank services and entrepreneurial programmes for persons with disabilities had been recorded. What measures had been taken to make access to such services accessible? To what extent were detention facilities physically accessible? On forced hospitalisation, could the delegation provide more information on form 1013?

AMALIA GAMIO RIOS, Committee Expert and Vice-Chair, asked if the State party was willing to review laws to prevent forced treatment of those who suffered from psychosocial conditions. In October 2022, the Georgia Prosecutor’s Officer undertook a campaign against feminicide. Did the State party include in that campaign specific items for the prevention of violence against women and girls with disabilities? Did the State Council for equality for women include women and girls with disabilities? What programmes was it undertaking? Was there an independent mechanism monitoring and assessing that the provision against forced sterilisation was upheld? Was restorative justice promoted?

GERTRUDE OFORIWA FEFOAME, Committee Chair, asked about efforts that had been made to ensure the economic empowerment of women with disabilities. Could the State party provide information on the measures in place to guarantee that all persons with disabilities, including asylum seekers and refugees, had access to disability-inclusive humanitarian assistance?

Responses by the Delegation

EKATERINE SKHILADZE, Deputy Public Defender of Georgia, said the public defender of Georgia had conducted monitoring of implementation of the legal capacity reform in Georgia. Even though seven years had passed since the beginning of the reform, 37 people still did not had “support receiver” status and about 36 people had not yet had their psychosocial examinations, and authorities did not have detailed information about remaining 301 persons. Caretakers and guardians could not provide proper supervision and monitoring of obligations imposed by the legislation. There were cases where social workers could not communicate with the representatives of support receivers. The Public Defender’s main concern about the legal capacity reform was about the quality and effectiveness of reform and how it was implemented, not about legal barriers. Awareness raising campaigns and measures to address stigma against persons with disabilities were insufficient.

The participation of persons with disabilities and their organizations in the development of annual plans approved by local governments and administrative bodies had not also been properly ensured. Only 28 municipalities out of 64 had considered legal requirements to ensure the participation of organisations of persons with disabilities in the process of elaborating action plans. Overall participation of organisations of persons with disabilities remained a challenge.

The delegation said in 2019, the parliament conducted an inquiry into women and girls with disabilities’ access to health services. Parliamentary controls on implementation were ongoing. The Government was also considering measures to promote the empowerment of women, including women with disabilities. The Government planned to collect feedback on reform of legal capacity. Discriminatory terminology in legislation would be corrected.

In 2020 and in 2021, out of all cases of hate crimes only one case per each year was perpetrated on the ground of disability intolerance. In 2022, four such cases were identified. The judiciary of Georgia was committed to implementing necessary measures to ensure effective access to courts for persons with disabilities. Annual action plans had been developed. Capacity building of judges and court staff working with persons with disabilities was a priority.

Legal capacity reform had had a major impact. Full substitute decision making was now imposed on persons with disabilities only in extreme cases, such as on persons with antisocial personality disorder, persons in a coma, and persons with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. In all other cases, decision making was not substituted but supported. Courts determined whether persons should receive support with due diligence. In 2022, 29 applications were rejected. Administrative and criminal procedures courts allowed for appeals in cases of involuntary hospitalisation. All persons who made claims regarding persons with disabilities and their rights were exempt from paying court fees.

The Government had decided to create new “Mobile Houses of Justice” to provide public services to people not reached through public service halls, including people living in rural areas and highland villages. Some recipients, including persons with disabilities, received these services in their homes. On the issue of the indication of the transgender sex on identity cards, Georgian authorities would work together with the Committee of Ministers to effectively enforce the decision by the Strasbourg Court to clarify domestic legislation. Combating trafficking of human beings for labour or sex exploitation remained a priority for Georgia. No persons with disabilities had been identified as victims thus far.

In the occupied regions, people, especially the most vulnerable groups, were deprived of their fundamental rights and freedoms, due to various kinds of restrictions imposed by Russia’s illegal regimes. Georgia remained committed to its peaceful conflict resolution policy and continued to implement the Peace Initiative. Providing medical services for the conflict-affected population, including persons with the disabilities, was among the highest priorities of Georgia’s reconciliation and engagement policy. Georgia ensured free and unhindered access to quality healthcare services for the people living in the occupied regions, including persons with disabilities. Measures had been taken to promote quality education.

Measures had also been taken to ensure persons with disabilities had equal access to justice, including legal guarantees, procedural accommodation, capacity building and awareness raising activities. The Ministry of Internal Affairs had developed recommendations on effectively involving children and adults with disabilities in the investigation stage. In addition, the prosecution service developed and implemented guidelines on investigating crimes involving persons with disabilities and standards and methodologies for working with witnesses, victims and defendants with disabilities. The Government paid special attention to improving access to justice for women with disabilities. Work was ongoing to increase accessibility in terms of infrastructures, including police buildings, and websites. Actions had been taken to make it easier for victims of domestic violence to contact authorities as well as to facilitate the participation of witnesses and victims with disabilities in legal procedures. Informative meetings on the rights of persons with disabilities had been conducted.

Last year, 28 persons with disabilities had applied for asylum. Emergency management plans promoted the inclusion of persons with disabilities in disaster risk reduction schemes covering prevention, preparedness and response. To identify the need of persons with disabilities in emergency situations, an international expert was elected and an advisor group launched, which included persons with disabilities and other non-governmental organizations working in the field. Up to now, six plans had been developed at a local level in six municipalities. 37 plans had been developed in educational institutions. Services in sign language were provided in several regions.

Prosecutors applied alternative measures of prosecution and diversion programmes for minors and individual aged 18 to 21. A public information campaign against feminicide had been launched. In 2021, the Prosecution Service implemented guidelines recognizing women and girls with disabilities as being especially vulnerable to gender-based violence.

Promoting independent living lied at the core of the strategy on deinstitutionalization. The State was focusing on improving accessibility to a variety of alternative services, such as community-based houses, home care and personal assistance, and day centres. Building the capacity of municipal social workers and family members was key. Stigma and discrimination were still prevalent in communities, and social workers played a key role in addressing such issues. In 2022, the specialisation of social workers was pursued. They now specialised on specific persons with disabilities in need of State care and guardianship. Information on services such as cash benefits for persons with disabilities and children with disabilities was provided at the community level through service providers. Clinics and hospitals were also informed of services provided by the Government. Information campaigns were also conducted through media. All forms of forced medical procedures were criminalised in Georgia. The medical and pharmaceutical regulatory agency, which was responsible for the oversight of medical institutions, adhered to State legislation. Georgia had ratified the Istanbul Convention in 2017. Prevention mechanisms were currently being implemented to ensure doctors were aware of their responsibilities. Measures like mobile banking promoted accessibility. The parliament would be doing an assessment to identify gaps in legal capacity reform to respond in timely manner and build a human-right based monitoring mechanism.

Questions by Committee Experts

VIVIAN FERNÁNDEZ DE TORRIJOS, Committee Rapporteur, asked about accessibility to the physical environment, infrastructure and transportation, which continued to be a problem for persons with disabilities in Georgia. What services were provided to people with hearing impairments? How many children were receiving rehabilitation services?

A Committee Expert asked about measures in place to increase the number of sign language interpreters? Were there plans in place to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty? What affirmative measures were in place to enable persons with disabilities to secure employment both in private and public settings?

A Committee Expert congratulated the delegation for the provisions taken to provide aid to persons with disabilities to ensure the full respect of the right to mobility. To what extent did the State provide training on mobility skills for persons with disabilities? What measures had been taken by the State party to address persons and institutions that violated the personal secrecy of persons with disabilities? Could the delegation provide a list of rulings handed down by the judiciary? What measures had been taken to ensure the autonomy of persons living with autism spectrum disorder, and to provide such persons with life companions? What happened when organisations of persons with disabilities were deemed to be foreign agencies? What percentage of the annual budget was allocated to implementing the Convention?

MARKUS SCHEFER, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, welcomed that a proposed law regarding foreign ownership of organisations had been withdrawn, and asked the delegation to confirm that two proposals for the law – the “Russian model” and the “American model” – were rescinded and would not proposed in the foreseeable future. Could the delegation provide the Committee with the curriculum for capacity building training and the background of the persons teaching?

AMALIA GAMIO RIOS, Committee Expert and Vice-Chair, asked about measures being adopted to ensure that persons with psychosocial disabilities were not separated from small children in institutions? What was being done to stop the practice in cases of divorces of automatically providing custody to the father if the mother suffered from psychosocial disabilities? Were general medicine services and medical specialty services available to persons with disabilities, for instance women in a wheelchair in need of a preventative mammography? What measures had been taken to address private and health care insurance companies that failed to provide their services to persons with disabilities?

A Committee Expert asked about measures adopted to allocate funds and trained professionals necessary to include persons with psychosocial and other disabilities in ongoing and continuing education. What measures had been taken to promote employment in the civil service and in the private sector for persons with disabilities? Did training measures for employment include persons with disabilities?

ODELIA FITOUSSI, Committee Expert and Vice-Chair, asked what measure were in place to help families raise children at home and to include children with disabilities in kindergarten, especially children with autism or cognitive disabilities? How did the State intend to prevent discrimination? How many teachers with disabilities worked in schools?

A Committee Expert asked about measures to promote inclusive education and to allocate more adequate resource to ensure inclusivity? Did the State adopt specific policy with clear targets, timeline and budgets for inclusive education? What measures were taken to ensure the full accessibility of election campaigns and the secrecy of the vote of persons with impairments? How were the political rights of persons with disabilities guaranteed? What measures had been taken to achieve de facto equality, support persons with disabilities to run in elections, and increase their participation in decision-making processes and representation in political bodies?

A Committee Expert expressed concerns over the underreporting and low rate of prosecution for violence cases, particularly sexual violence. Was disaggregate data on women victims with disabilities available? How was accessibility ensured in shelters? Could the delegation elaborate on reported cases of violence in psychiatric facilities?

Another Committee Expert appreciated that the State party was serious about deinstitutionalization, but recommended the delegation examined the Committee’s deinstitutionalization guidelines carefully.

MARKUS SCHEFER, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked about the methodology used in data collection on persons with disabilities, in particular the use of the Washington Short Set of Questions, and its disaggregation by fields such as age, sex, race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation. Were border crossings open to allow persons with disabilities living in occupied territories to access medical care? How did persons with disabilities in the occupied territories access medical care services provided by the State party?

Responses by the Delegation

NIKO TATULASHVILI, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Issues and head of the delegation, said the Marrakesh Treaty was going to be ratified soon. Data protection measures had been enacted since 2014, which also applied to the data of persons with disabilities. The lawfulness of data processing had been examined. All national institutions had their own budget and a chapter for activities reaching persons with disabilities. In addition, the action plan on human rights would have its own chapter on disabilities.

The delegation said in August 2022, a unified national strategy for education and science of Georgia for 2022-2030 had been adopted. The strategy focused on ensuring quality education, equality and good governance. Work to develop targeted supportive service for children with disabilities and strengthen quality education was ongoing. The national curriculum recognised individual and alternative forms of education. A team of 47 specialists assessed disability applications of children. Around 1,000 persons were working as special education teachers. The parliament would not return to the discussion of the draft law on foreign ownership of organisations.

Given that sexual violence against women and girls with disabilities were particularly challenging, specific guidelines had been developed for prosecutors that included recommendations on handling cases involving women with disabilities. In 2018 to 2022, 1,090 persons were prosecuted for sexual crimes and 1,097 women were granted victim status. This data could not be considered as low rate of prosecution. From 2021 to 2022, 19 perpetrators were prosecuted and 22 women with disabilities were granted victim status for sexual crimes.

NIKO TATULASHVILI, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Issues and head of the delegation, said that in 2018, Georgia constructed hospitals very close to the so-called border for people coming from Abkhazia to benefit from these services. A video produced on domestic violence and child marriage included sign language. The national action plan on employment had specific goals to support employment of persons with disabilities. From 2020 to 2022, 538 persons with disabilities were employed in the labour market with the support of the Public Employment Services. Other measures had been taken to promote the employment of persons with disabilities, including through job fairs, and to address discrimination in the workplace.

Closing Statements

EKATERINE SKHILADZE, Deputy Public Defender of Georgia, said the State party had developed legislation and institutional mechanisms for persons with disabilities but cultural transformation needed to follow. Discriminatory practices hindered active engagement. Effective implementation of new regulations and poor coordination between different State agencies as well as with local self-government bodies remained an issue. Other challenges included ensuring the participation of persons with disabilities in municipalities, the quality and continuity of inclusive education, access to reproductive and sexual health and the rights of women with disabilities.

NIKO TATULASHVILI, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Issues and head of the delegation, reiterated his country’s commitment to human rights protection and cooperation with the United Nations human rights monitoring mechanisms. The period in which Georgia was controlled by the Soviet Union was a dark, undemocratic time. In just 30 years, Georgia had managed to build a State where elections were held in a free and competitive environment, where media could be critical, where civil society organizations were strong and performed their watchdog functions effectively, where judges could deliver judgments against high officials, where critical voices were not silenced and where the highest standards of human rights were discussed and implemented.

During the two-day dialogue, the delegation had presented the achievements and numerous important reforms that had been implemented in Georgia in recent years. Georgia has adopted several laws and regulations on persons with disabilities and created various mechanisms for their implementation. Challenges remained; effective implementation of the laws and policies on the rights of persons with disabilities would be a top priority for the Government. It was of utmost importance to cooperate with persons with disabilities.

SAOWALAK THONGKUAY, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said the Committee truly appreciated the State party’s efforts to develop its policy and its legal system, and to increasingly incorporate consideration of disability into many areas of life. However, the disability assessment system had not yet moved away from the medical model and still largely disregarded individual functioning and environmental factors. Changes should be made, taking note of the preamble and article one of the Convention and the social model of disability.

The inclusion of the rights and needs of persons with disabilities in all areas of law and of practice was indispensable. A universal design approach to accessibility should be taken regarding investment in infrastructure, facilities and services at State and municipal levels. Without accessibility, the gap between promises and practices would remain an abyss. The State party might consider applying a twin track approach to ensure that women, men and children with all types of disabilities had full access to the protections, safeguards and relief measures that the law allowed. This required the broad removal of attitudinal and environmental barriers in society. The State party might consider improving its coordination mechanism and cooperate with different focal points to ensure that the Convention was implemented uniformly in all areas of life on national as well as municipal levels.


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