Georgian rights watchdogs are “extremely concerned” that the opposition rally, scheduled in Telavi on December 16 in parallel to the inauguration, was disrupted as activists were unable to reach the demonstration venue.
In a statement released on December 17, a group of 14 civil society organizations, including GDI, TI Georgia, ISFED and OSGF, said the authorities exceeded their powers and violated the rights to free movement, assembly and manifestation when they stopped the opposition convoy from traveling to Telavi.
“That the authorities offered an alternative and longer route, does not make their decision rightful … at the same time, attacks on [ruling party] lawmakers’ car in retaliation is alarming,” reads the statement.
“This is not the first time police hampered a peaceful rally; unfortunately, a negative tendency has been observed in this regard recently,” the CSOs also noted, adding that “restrictions of the right of protesters go against the democratic values, the Georgian constitution and the commitments undertaken by international agreements.”
The group called on the prosecutor’s office to probe into the issue, as well as to investigate “facts of violence” targeting “protesters, on the one hand, and persons, including lawmakers, attending the inauguration.”
The Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC), another respected rights watchdog, issued a statement as well, saying the incident was triggered by “lack of proper organization and/or preemptive communication” by the police.
“Such incidents will negatively affect public confidence towards police, as well as its work as a politically neutral state institution, which has to be acting without political biases and observing human rights,” reads the statement.
Police offered an alternative route to the protesters, but opposition leaders rejected the proposal saying that road too was blocked. Standoff, interrupted with periodic escalations ensued for several hours until the end of the inauguration ceremony. Police said more than 10 officers were injured in the incidents. Opposition said several of its activists were injured, including two who had to be hospitalized.