Two leading Georgian civil society organizations – the Georgian Young Lawyers Association and the Human Rights Monitoring Center – issued an assessment of May 12 police raids at Tbilisi’s top music clubs – Bassiani and Cafe Gallery – as well as the legality of dispersing the rally that followed the police operation.
The assessment report, released today and based on interviews with protesters, as well as the official information retrieved from state agencies, says that involvement of large amount of armed officers and riot police in the operation “created an impression of state authorities demonstrating repressive force.”
According to the report, the reason behind the Interior Ministry’s decision to enter the night clubs is “obscure,” since the law enforcement agencies had apprehended drug trade suspects well before the police operation.
The document also notes that police officers were aggressive towards the protesters, who spontaneously gathered outside Bassiani to rally against the authorities’ heavy-handed tactic. “Mass arrests by the police created an impression that they acted arbitrarily and that they intended to defuse the protest mood.”
The two CSOs then called on the prosecutor’s office to investigate the cases of protester detentions and reports of excessive force application by the police, as well as on the Interior Ministry to reject the practice of “unjustified administrative detentions.”
Commenting the report, Beka Dochviri of the Interior Ministry, said the decision to enter the two clubs “had an appropriate legal ground,” and that the police used proportionate force. He also said “the police mobilized as many officers as it was necessary for protecting the safety of people on the ground considering the club size.”
Police officers raided two clubs – Bassiani and Cafe Gallery – on May 12, allegedly following the leads regarding the dealing and use of club drugs that triggered three-day public protests. The protesters ceased the rally after Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia pledged on May 14 to investigate the case and renew the work on drug policy reform.