Civil Society Organizations on Protest Rallies in Tbilisi

11 Jun, 2018

We would like to respond to the June 11 developments in the capital related to a protest rally “Do not Kill Me.” Let us once again express our solidarity with Zaza Saralidze, Malkhaz Machalikashvili, and their families. We underline that timely investigation of these cases, as well as identification and punishment of all perpetrators, remain among major demands and the government has to assume full responsibility for it.

We would also like to respond to the incidents that took place during the rally or were related to the ongoing protests. It is important that the Interior Ministry secure the right to peaceful manifestation and enable protesters to feel free in expressing their own opinions. It is also important that the Interior Ministry provide additional explanations of police actions targeting MP Nika Melia. A lawmaker can be detained only upon the Parliament’s consent if he/she has not been caught in the act of committing an offense. The Interior Ministry explained that police “detached” Melia from the area, but media footages show that police restricted his freedom of movement, put him in a police car and took him away from the area that may be equated with the detention of a person.

As for the issue of removing protesters’ tents, according to the law, it is permitted to block traffic movement if an assembly or a manifestation cannot be held otherwise due to the number of people participating in it. The law says nothing about the right to artificially block traffic with tents or other constructions. Considering these legal requirements, as well as the number of people participating in the rally in the first half of the day, we suppose that moving the tents of the Rustaveli Avenue to the sidewalks by police was in compliance with the law as well as with the essence of the right to manifestation.

However, the dismantling of the tents placed on the sidewalks by police officers represented an unjustified interference with the exercise of freedom of assembly and expression. Unlike traffic routes, the law does not prohibit protesters to erect tents on sidewalks. In this particular case, the tents were placed on the sidewalk of the Rustaveli Avenue that did not either hamper pedestrian movement or obstruct the Parliament’s normal functioning. Taking this into consideration, we believe that dismantling of tents by police was illegal and created yet another risk of escalation.

To ensure that victims and their supporters express fair and legitimate protest, we call on the organizers of the rally to give due consideration to legal requirements and make sure that the rally maintains its peaceful and legal nature.

We also call on the government to observe the principles of assembly and manifestation, to carry out, if needed, negotiations with the organizers and participants of the rally and not to allow the use of unjustified and disproportionate police force against protesters.

Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)

Transparency International Georgia

Open Society Georgia Foundation

Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)

Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)

Human Rights Center