Georgia: Excessive use of force against demonstrators by law enforcement officials
Geneva, 9 November 2007 – The International Secretariat of the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) strongly condemns the alleged excessive use of force by police when dispersing anti-government demonstrations in Tbilisi on 7 November 2007.
The International Secretariat of OMCT is gravely concerned by reports from the Human Rights Center (HRIDC), a member of OMCT SOS-Torture network, on the alleged excessive use of force by police against anti-government demonstrations on 7 November 2007, demonstrations which had lasted since six days. A 15 day state of emergency was declared in the evening of 7 November 2007 by President Mikhail Saakashvili in response to these events.
According to the information received, law enforcement officials used clubs, water canon, tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the demonstrations. Reports indicate that demonstrators were severally beaten, among them tens of journalists and the Georgian Public Defender (Ombudsman) Mr. Sozar Subari, who was allegedly intentionally beaten while trying to protect a citizen. The injured people (more then 360 people according to our information) were hospitalised. Reports also indicate cases of arbitrary detentions, including of opposition leaders, and even alleged disappearance. The fate of several opposition leaders, including Mr. Konstantine Gamsakhurdia and Mr. Shalva Natelashvili, remains as of now unknown.
On 8 November 2007, police reportedly again violently dispersed another peaceful protest in Batumi city after students gathered at Batumi State University to protest against the police violence against demonstrators in the events in Tbilisi.
OMCT is deeply concerned by the violent repression on the peaceful demonstrations and calls upon the Georgian authorities to put an immediate end to all forms of repression against peaceful demonstrators. Furthermore, OMCT is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of the detained individuals and in particular with regard to the individuals whose whereabouts remain unknown.
OMCT calls on the Georgian authorities to order a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into these events, notably in the allegations of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law. OMCT further urges the authorities to immediately locate the whereabouts of Mr. Konstantine Gamsakhurdia and Mr. Shalva Natelashvili as well as others who remain disappeared and immediately release all the individuals arrested during the demonstrations in the absence of valid legal charges, and if such charges exist, ensure that they are given a prompt and fair trial, in which their procedural rights are guaranteed at all times.
Contact: OMCT 0041 22 809 49 39