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Urgent Interventions

Georgia: Arbitrary detention of several members of the Egalitarian Institute

New information
GEO 004 / 0606 / OBS 085.1
Arbitrary detention

September 29, 2006

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Georgia.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Human Rights Information and Documentation Centre (HRIDC) of new cases of arbitrary arrest and detention of four members of the “Egalitarian Institute”, a newly-established Georgian NGO composed of human rights defenders, writers and intellectuals.

According to the information received, in the evening of September 27, 2006, Mr. Irakli Kakabadze, Mr. Jaba Jishkarinani, Mr. David Dalakishvili and Mr. Levan Gogichaishvili, all members of the Egalitarian Institute, were arrested by patrol policemen in the Drug Centre Building in Tbilisi. They were demonstrating against the recurrent detention of some Institute members, as well as the lack of independence of the judiciary, in particular of the Court of Appeal. They also called for an impartial investigation into the murder of Mr. Sandro Gorgvliani, a young banker whose death is allegedly linked to high-ranking officials in the Ministry of the Interior.

Mr. Kakabadze was originally detained for expressing verbal protest against the government, whereas the others were arrested for writing anti-violence slogans on the asphalt. They were held at a pre-trial detention centre in Tbilisi until their appearance before the Administrative Chamber of the Tbilisi City Court on September 29, 2006. They were all released after paying a fine of 15 laris each (about 7 euros).

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern regarding this new wave of arbitrary arrests, which only aims to sanction human rights defenders and restrict their freedom of peaceful assembly.

Background information:

On June 29, 2006, five members of the Egalitarian Institute were arbitrarily arrested and subsequently detained while they were demonstrating outside the Court of Appeal of Tbilisi. Indeed, Mr. Irakli Kakabadze, Mr. Zurab Rtveliashvili, Mr. Lasha Chkhartishvili, Mr. Jaba Jishkariani and Mr. David Dalakishvili were arrested upon order of the Head of the Appellate Court of Tbilisi, while they were calling for the release of Mr. Shalva Ramishvili and Mr. David Kokhreidze, co-founders and shareholders of the independent TV company TV 202, which, in particular, broadcasts a programme called “Debatebi” (debates), dealing with issues like government corruption or lack of reform in favour of democracy. The two men were respectively sentenced to four and three years of prison for “extortion” on March 29, 2006, on the basis of fabricated charges. 1 They had been arrested on August 27, 2005.

The five men were immediately sentenced to 30 days of administrative imprisonment, without any Court hearing, by Ms. Eka Tkeshelashvili, the Head of the Court of Appeals, for “staging disorders in a court”(Article 208 of the Criminal Procedural Code), and brought to the pre-trial detention centre of the Ministry of Interior. They were all released at an unknown date.

In its appeal, the Observatory pointed out that Article 208 of the Criminal Procedure Code only envisages responsibility for disorders in the Court building, though the demonstrators were staying outside. In addition, this sentence blatantly contradicts the Constitution of Georgia as well as the European Convention on Human Rights as, pursuant to Article 208 of Criminal Code Procedure of Georgia, it was taken without any oral hearing and cannot be appealed.

1The authorities accused them of having blackmailed Mr. Koba Bekaouri, a member of Parliament (MP) in the ruling party, during an interview, extracting 150,000 dollars from him. According to the charges against them, the two journalists tried to sell their silence because they had compromising information about the MP relating to the acquisition of a private customs clearance company in dubious circumstances. They allegedly told the MP that they were preparing their next investigative programme on official corruption.
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