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Georgian journalist and actress Tatia Samkharadze (file photo)
Georgian journalist and actress Tatia Samkharadze (file photo)

An appeals court in Georgia has upheld a landmark decision in what was billed as the Caucasus country’s first court case of sexual harassment.

Journalist and actress Tatia Samkharadze brought sexual harassment charges against her former boss at Imedi TV back in 2016, bringing the global #MeToo movement to this conservative Caucasus country.

A Tbilisi court ruled in her favor in January 2018, prompting the accused Shalva Ramishvili, who denied any wrongdoing, to appeal the ruling.

An appeals court in Tbilisi on December 12 ruled in favor of Samkharadze.

Women's rights activists welcomed the appeals court decision as a huge victory, describing it as a "landmark case on workplace sexual harassment in Georgia."

Samakharadze said her career essentially came to an end when she sued Ramishvili in 2016. She told the BBC that she became the victim of cyberbullying.

During court proceedings, Samkharadze’s lawyers presented audio recordings of conversations between the reporter and Ramishvili.

Samakharadze said she decided to record the talks as the sexual harassment showed no signs of stopping.

In its January ruling, the court ordered Ramishvili to pay court expenses, but dropped any monetary penalties.

Nevertheless, Georgian activists welcomed the court's willingness to consider the sexual harassment case as a breakthrough.

Baia Pataraia, a leading women's rights advocate and the executive director of the Sapari union at the time expressed hope that "this case will set a precedent for other victims of sexual harassment so that they won’t be afraid of filing lawsuits against their abusers."

"The most important part was that the court confirmed the fact of sexual harassment and imposed compensation for non-pecuniary damages…I think it’s important for any person who has ever faced such a problem,” Samkharadze said after the January ruling.

Under Georgian law, sexual harassment is not defined as a criminal act.

In October 2017, women’s rights activists registered a petition in the country's parliament to recognize sexual harassment as a form of discrimination.

Meanwhile, efforts are under way in the Georgian society to raise awareness on the issue.

The UN office in Georgia released an antiharassment TV spot earlier this year, encouraging women to speak out against harassment in the workplace.

Nasrin Sotoudeh in 2013
Nasrin Sotoudeh in 2013

BRUSSELS – The European Parliament has overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for the Iranian government to “immediately and unconditionally” release jailed human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.

The lawmakers made the call on December 13, six months after Sotoudeh was arrested after she represented several of the women detained for removing their head scarves in public to protest against the country’s Islamic dress code.

She is facing several charges, including for her efforts to represent women who protested compulsory hijab laws and her public support of Step By Step To Stop The Death Penalty, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to reducing executions in Iran.

Sotoudeh -- the co-winner of the European Parliament's 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought -- has denied all charges against her.

In their resolution, the European lawmakers expressed their “sympathy for and solidarity with the campaign against the country’s mandatory dress code” and condemned the detention of women who had removed their head scarves in public.

The text also called on EU institutions and European Union member states to raise human rights concerns with the Iranian authorities and to provide “all appropriate support” to Sotoudeh and other human rights defenders, including "prison visits, trial monitoring, and the provision of legal or any other form of assistance that they might require.”

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch raised alarm over Iran’s “escalated” crackdown on lawyers, saying that revolutionary courts had sentenced at least three lawyers to long prison terms for their human rights activism over the past month.

Security forces have arrested another lawyer, the New York-based watchdog added.

“Now Iran is not only arresting dissidents, human rights defenders, and labor leaders, but their lawyers as well, criminalizing their fundamental freedoms,” Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW, said in a statement.

Iran’s authorities are “incinerating what remains of fundamental freedoms to cover up their manifold abuses against their own citizens,” Page also said.

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