Urgent Interventions

Concern for continued disrespect of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and use of violence against demonstrators

Mikheil Saakashvili

President of Georgia

1 M.Abdushelishvili Street

Tbilisi,Georgia 0103

Fax: +995 32 282665

Copy to:

Ivane Merabishvili

Minister of Internal Affairs

Kakheti Highway 38 km

Tbilisi, Georgia, 0190

Fax: +995 32 746267

7 June 2011

Concern for continued disrespect of the right to freedomof peaceful assembly and use of violenceagainst demonstrators

The Human Rights HouseFoundation (HRHF), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), theWorld Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) condemn theexcessive use of force by the police againstpeaceful anti-government protest in Tbilisi on the night of 26 May 2011. Ourorganisations are concerned that this is yet another example of the lack of respect of the right to freedom ofpeaceful assembly by the Georgian authorities. Previous peaceful protestsheld on 3 January and 25 March 2011were alsoviolently dispersed by police.

The undersigned organisations have during thelast few years received documentation on violent dispersal of peaceful proteststhat demonstrate that Georgia does not respect its international commitmentsnor the Constitutional provision on the right to freedom of peaceful assemblyand freedom of expression.

Amendments to the Georgian Law on Assembly andManifestations introduced in July 2009 restrict the right to assemble in frontof official buildings and set a more burdensome procedure to receive anauthorisation. Since then, several cases have demonstrated a negative impact ofthe amendments on the right to freedom of assembly.

Most recently, on 25 and 26 May 2011, hundreds of opposition supportersgathered in front of the Parliament building at Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi andwere violently dispersed when their rally permit expired at midnight. Accordingto the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, 8 policemen, one journalist and27 civilians were injured while 105 persons were arrested. According to the human rights organization,Human Rights Center (HRIDC), leading the OSCE Freedom of Assembly MonitoringProject in Georgia, 17 journalists were injured and several detained. ThePublic Defender Office of Georgia reported that 152 persons were arrested andthat “the police used disproportionate force (…), the law-enforcement officialsdamaged the equipments of journalists and verbally and physically assaultedthem”. Furthermore, some of thosedetained were reportedly beaten in custody and not given the possibility tocommunicate with their relatives and lawyers. Many were transferred severaltimes to different temporary detentions without further notice to theirrespective families or lawyers raising fears about their safety. According tothe Georgian human rights organization Union “Article 42 of the Constitution”,dozens of protesters are still missing.

Our organisations are deeply concerned about the aforementioned events andurges Georgia to immediately disclose the whereabouts of the dozens protesterswho are still missing and to fully implement the recommendations formulated bythe Council of Europe ´ Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) after itsvisit in February 2010. CPT called upon the Georgian authorities to to ensure that the right to have access to a lawyer is fullyeffective for all detained persons, and that the right to be examined by anindependent doctor is guaranteed[1].

These incidents illustrate that Georgia,as a member of the Council of Europe, does not comply with its international,as well as national human rights obligations. It committed itself toprotect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rightsto freedom of expression and to freedom of peaceful assembly and association,established in Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention for the Protectionof Human Rights and Fundamental Rights (ECHR). The same rights are protected byArticle 7 of the Georgian Constitution.

Georgia has yet to accept the recommendation106.52 of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) made by the Czech Republic at the17th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in June2011, (to “review the July 2009 Law on Assemblies andManifestations imposing several restrictions on the right to assembly and todemonstrate in order to ensure free and unhampered enjoyment of thisright.”),In light of the recent events, the necessity to accept, this particular recommendations in order to fightviolent repression of demonstrations by police agents in Georgia, is urgent.

Concerned about the situation, we call upon the Georgian authorities:

· To ensure and respect the rights to freedom ofpeaceful assembly and freedom of expression, provided in the ECHR and the Georgian Constitution;

· To issue clearinstructions to the security forces to refrain from using excessive forceagainst the protestors in accordance with international standards, includingthe Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms and the Code of Conductfor Law Enforcement Officials ;

· To immediately release the detainedand imprisoned peaceful demonstrators and to cancel all administrative chargesand fines against those who participated in the peaceful assembly on 25 and 26May 2011;

· To launch an immediate, thorough, and impartialinvestigation into the excessive use of force, alleged ill-treatment of protestersin custody and bring those found responsible for these violations to justice ;

· To providethe victims with adequate compensation, reparation andrehabilitation; According to contravention of the ECHR (Article 5§ 5 ), the state of Georgia is obliged to provide compensation to everydetainee for the ungrounded arrest or detention;

· To take effective measures to prevent ill-treatment, including byensuring that any individual arrested is promptly brought before a judge, hasimmediate access upon arrest to (1) a lawyer of his/her choosing, (2) anindependent medical doctor and (3) visits by the family; any arrested personsshould also at all times have the right to inform third parties about thedetention;

· To amend the Law on Assembly andManifestations to make it comply with their international human rightsobligations.

Copies sent to:

· UNSpecial Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly andassociation, Geneva

· UNSpecial Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom ofopinion and expression, Geneva

· UNSpecial Rapporteur on torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degradingtreatment or punishment

· UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

· DirectorateGeneral of Human Rights and Legal Affairs of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg

· Officeof the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg

· TheOffice for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation forSecurity and Cooperation in Europe, Warsaw

· Missionof the Czech Republic to the United Nations at Geneva

· Missionof the United Kingdom to the United Nations at Geneva

· Membersof the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

· Delegationof the European Union in Georgia

· TheSubcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament

· The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

· The Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs ofthe Norwegian Parliament

· ThePublic Defender´s Office in Georgia

· Membersof the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg

[1] Report to the Georgian Government on the visit toGeorgia carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture andInhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 5 to 15 February 2010, 21 September 2010, CPT/Inf (2010) 27

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