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Ombudsman Addresses Violations against Protesters During March 7-9 Protest Rallies

On March 13 newly appointed Obmudsman Levan Ioseliani held the first pressconference addressing the events on March 7-9, when large rallies took place near Parliament building protesting against Russian type “foreign agents” Law. 

The Public Defender of Georgia emphasized that the freedom of peaceful assembly is protected by the Georgian Constitution and that isolated acts of verbal or physical aggression or violence by individuals or a small group of individuals should not undermine the freedom of assembly as such. Any intervention should be aimed at responding to the violent actions of specific individuals, not at breaking up the entire assembly.

According to him, at the time of the warning announcement by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia in the evening hours of March 7, the action was peaceful and there were no grounds for use of force or dispersing the rally.

However, Ioseliani said, contrary to that, the law enforcers started using special means against the participants of the meeting, including the peaceful demonstrators, which contradict the standards of necessary and proportionate interference standards. Ioseliani did not specify which “special means” were used, however, water cannons, pepper spray as well as tear gas, were reportedly.

Similarly, “on March 8 some violent actions on a part of the participants became the basis for the unjustified dispersing of the rally with the use of force by the law-enforcement officers”. As police responded “appropriately to the breaking of windows by some protesters on the side of the back entrance of the Parliament building, “the use of force against peaceful demonstrators in front of the Georgian parliament continued in a completely unlawful manner.”- said Ombudsman.

“It should also be noted that in both cases, and especially after the first use of force during the night of 8 March, the situation became tense on several occasions and special means were repeatedly used against the people gathered in the area, even when there was no need for this.” This included targeting protesters’ facial area. “This is clearly a criminal act”- stressed the Public Defender.

He added: “In addition, several video materials have been distributed through the media, which show the facts of severe physical violence against citizens.”

The Ombudsman also spoke about the facts of injuries to media representatives by the law-enforcers despite the fact that the law provides them with special protection during the action.

At the same time, “the law enforcers actively resorted to the practice of mass arrests of the participants on administrative charges in the course of the rallies.” According to the Ombudsman there were cases when this was not justified and did not meet the necessary requirements, thus interfering with the right to assembly.   

According to the Ombudsman, on March 7-9 he and his staff visited 96 detainees in various departments, divisions and temporary detention centers under the Ministry of Interior.

A number of detainees appealed to investigate the legality of their detention. The detainees reported harsh forms of detention and, in some cases, injuries. In the case of several detainees, the Public Defender’s Office immediately requested the Special Investigation Service to open an investigation, in accordance with their wishes and consent.

Ombudsman stressed that the case of opposition politician Zurab Japaridze of Girchi-More Freedom Party deserves special mention. According to witnesses, several representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs physically assaulted him, beating him with their hands, feet and truncheons, as a result of which Japaridze sustained multiple injuries to his head, neck and wrists.

Also, many individuals have contacted the Public Defender’s Office saying they were not able to locate detained family members or lawyers of the detainees and that the Ministry of Interior had not provided any information about where they are being held.

The Public Defender called on the investigative bodies to conduct an effective investigation into the facts of the disproportionate use of force and other violations.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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