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აქციის მონაწილეების საყურადღებოდ!

RIGHT TO HOUSING / Statement

The Social Justice Center responds to the forced eviction on Kekelidze Street and urges the state to promptly cease the planned evictions for this week

Today, on January 23rd, the enforcement police, assisted by the patrol police and emergency services, carried out the eviction of the Khatiashvili family from their residence at #1 Kekelidze Street.

This eviction has been marked by an unprecedented level of brutality and the excessive use of force by law enforcement in recent years. Special tools were employed during the eviction process, and the door of the welded house was forcibly opened. Furthermore, several citizens, journalists, and detained activists sustained injuries.

The eviction was accompanied by arrests of activists and the use of force by the police. Twenty activists have reportedly been arrested and transferred to the pre-trial detention center thus far. The interests of 12 people are protected by the Social Justice Center, and the whereabouts of a portion of them remain unclear. Thus far, lawyers have encountered difficulties in establishing communication with this subset of detainees.

It is important to note that during the eviction process, there was a disruption of journalistic activities. Based on the available information, law enforcement officers forcefully removed the journalist of "Mautskebeli" from his vehicle. Furthermore, Gela Mtivlishvili, the editor and journalist of "Mtis Ambebi," was also arrested.

In the near future, we plan to release a comprehensive evaluation of the individuals detained and the ongoing legal proceedings related to their cases. Prior to that, it is essential to note that the visibly repressive and aggressive approach employed by the police during the eviction of the Khatiashvili family has, on one hand, compromised the efforts of this family, the local community, and activist groups in their resistance against private money lenders. On the other hand, it appears to be an attempt to "streamline" the process of planned forced evictions in other locations.

The act of forcibly evicting a family during the winter season, without providing them with suitable housing alternatives, is a clear violation of several fundamental human rights, most notably the right to adequate housing.[1] The state has a duty to utilize all available means to guarantee the important legal and social repercussions of forced eviction. This entails the regulation of banking and financial institutions as well as eviction procedures, with the aim of safeguarding individuals from arbitrary actions and oppression in imbalanced economic relationships. Additionally, it involves the establishment of a housing policy that ensures the provision of shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness. However, in Georgia, we observe a scenario where individuals forfeit their property and frequently their final residence due to clandestine loan agreements.

Based on the research conducted by the Social Justice Center, private individuals and legal entities, known as private money lenders, play an active role in the process of selling real estate through auctions, in addition to banks and microfinance institutions. Research indicates that over 50% of real estate that was sold through forced auction in recent years was sold by private money lenders, including individuals and other legal entities.[2] The economically disadvantaged segment of the population, lacking a favorable financial track record and resources, faces restricted access to bank credit and resorts to borrowing from private individuals under even more burdensome conditions. Frequently, this arrangement does not involve a loan, but rather a "right to redeem contract" that affords the borrower even more limited legal safeguards. Private lenders have consistently enforced excessive annual interest rates on loans, along with arbitrary penalty calculations, the transfer of loans to multiple creditors, and the imposition of substantial fees for intermediaries.[3] According to the research findings, moneylenders are primarily focused on obtaining the property that has been used as collateral, rather than collecting the outstanding debt. Occasionally, the borrower ends up paying the moneylender a significantly higher amount than the initial loan amount.

Therefore, besides the borrower enduring a perpetual financial shortfall and destitution while repaying exorbitant and predatory debt, ultimately, they forfeit their property through a low-value auction and confront the perils of homelessness with their family. During the foreclosure process, the value of the property typically declines significantly, resulting in a potential sale price as low as 5% of its initial value. Regrettably, the current legal framework fails to safeguard citizens from both exploitative relationships (by inadequately regulating matters such as conflicts of interest, profit margins, or auction protocols) and the most severe societal perils, such as homelessness. These risks pose a significant threat to families with many members, children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities. Frequently, the deprivation of housing results in migration, a decline in health, and the disintegration of families.

It is noteworthy that all three families facing eviction this week have agreed to repay their outstanding debts. Nevertheless, their attempts are impeded by the reluctance of moneylenders and pertinent financial institutions. During this process, the state lacks a mechanism to safeguard the crucial social interests of its citizens, resulting in it becoming a direct conduit for the desires of influential economic institutions and lenders.

Overall, excessive indebtedness poses a significant obstacle for our nation, and borrowing frequently becomes the sole means for impoverished families to acquire essential funds and overcome crises. Evidence from various years indicates that a significant proportion of the population in Georgia allocates over 50% of their monthly income towards debt repayment. Based on the 2015 data, the bank debt rate in our country was 676 per 1000 individuals. It is crucial to comprehend that the country's overindebtedness is a direct consequence of poverty, taking on a specific manifestation. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the country's problem loan volume is significantly elevated, with households in distress bearing the largest burden of this issue. Consequently, the most vulnerable individuals in this process experience a further decline in their financial status, rendering them even more impoverished and vulnerable.

We call on:

Georgian government

  • To demonstrate political will and promptly halt the scheduled evictions from residential premises both this week and throughout the ongoing winter season;
  • Enact a moratorium on the practice of eviction from one's last place of residence, utilizing this period to align Georgia's legislation with international standards. Establish a legal and institutional framework during the moratorium to safeguard the right to residence.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia and the Special Investigation Service

  • Release the individuals who have been allegedly detained without justification at the location of the assembly, while initiating an inquiry into the allegations of police and enforcement personnel using excessive force and infringing upon the dignity of the protesters.

Footnote and Bibliography

[1] See, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 7: The right to adequate housing (Art.11.1): forced evictions, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/TreatyBodyExternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=INT/CESCR/GEC/6430&Lang=en.

[2] Population Facing Usury: Predatory Lending and Its Social Consequences, Social Justice Center, 2020, https://socialjustice.org.ge/ka/products/mosakhleoba-mevakhsheobis-pirispir-mtatsebluri-dakrediteba-da-misi-sotsialuri-shedegebi.

[3] Ibid.

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