GYLA: Events of July 5-6, 2021 Not Yet Properly Investigated

Two years have passed since the events of July 5-6, 2021, but not all episodes of possible crimes have been properly investigated, reports the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA).

GYLA’s Statement

GYLA represents the victims, including 19 individuals (including 17 media representatives) who were physically attacked on July 5-6 by violent groups because of their association with the LGBT+.

Over the past two years, GYLA has communicated with investigating authorities and filed more than ten complaints, most of which have not been promptly responded to.

Over the past two years, the Tbilisi City Court has issued several guilty verdicts. In the case of Lekso Lashkarava and Miranda Baghaturia, six defendants were convicted of organized crime and sentenced to five years each. The Tbilisi Court of Appeal overturned the first instance verdict and acquitted them of participation in organized group violence. The Supreme Court is currently reviewing the cases.

GYLA states: “It is clear that, despite the punishment of certain perpetrators, the auhority in charge of criminal proceedings does not have the necessary will to punish the organizer of violence actions, the leader or the persons who publicly incited to violent acts.” Regarding the investigation, GYLA states: “It is not all-round, objective and properly effective, due to the focus of the investigation and not bringing charges to specific persons.” GYLA believes that the victims have been “artificially restricted in their access to the materials obtained by the investigation in the respect of organizers, leaders or the persons who publicly incited to the violent acts.”

Furthermore, GYLA says that the question of the responsibility of the state, which on 5 July 2021 was obliged to fully protect journalists so that they could carry out their professional activities without interference, has remained unanswered.

The Inspectorate notes that in most cases the persons who committed criminal acts against the complainants have not been identified, and in some cases the identification is incomplete. Despite its request, GYLA has not yet received any information on the progress of the investigations.

Two years on, GYLA reports that no summary decision has been made on Lashkarava’s death, that the investigation has not yielded any answers and that the family is still waiting for results.

On November 4, 2022, GYLA filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of representatives of media organizations (journalists, cameramen, photographers) who were victims of attacks by hate groups on July 5, 2021. The complaint alleges that the official authorities failed to prevent the violence on 5 July 2021 and failed to respond adequately to the events that followed. The effectiveness of the operation planned by the Ministry of Interior on 5 July 2021 and the subsequent investigation, in particular in determining the responsibility of the leaders/organizers of hate groups, is questionable. In addition, the complaint focuses on the fact that the statements made by high-ranking officials practically encouraged the events that took place on July 5.

The European Court has asked the state a question on all the disputed articles of the European Convention, for which a deadline of May 9, 2023, was set extended to June 23. The case is currently at the stage of substantive examination and the submission of counter-arguments and evidence between the parties is underway.

GYLA emphasizes that both the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament have called on the state authorities to effectively investigate mentioned events. Moreover, the resolution of the European Parliament of June 9, 2002 states that the impunity of the perpetrators of such acts cannot be tolerated under any circumstances, as it violates the national legislation of Georgia and the international obligations of the state.

Deputy Minister of Interior Comments on Events of July 5-6

“A sad event took place on July 5. An attack on journalists happened completely unplanned, suddenly”- said Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandre Darakhvelidze today commenting on the events of July 5-6. Darakhvelidze stressed that the attacks on journalists were an unexpected event and not something they had anticipated, noting that in the six years prior to July 5, the Interior Ministry had dealt with 50 cases of interference in the activities of journalists.

“We immediately began to react, investigated 12 different criminal cases, conducted thousands of investigative actions, questioned more than 200 witnesses, examined lots of video evidence and electronic data… In the end, 31 people were arrested, some of whom are still serving their sentences, some of whom have already served their sentences,” stated Darakhvelidze.

GD Chair Comments on July 5 Events

According to the ruling party’s chairman, Irakli Kobakhidze, the violent events of July 5 had no organizers; they were “spontaneous violence, and therefore it was difficult for the Interior Ministry to react.”

According to Irakli Kobakhidze, the demand to punish the organizers for the crime of July 5-6 is a low legal standard: “For example, if we follow such a low standard as you demand, then Giorgi Vashadze will be arrested for the March 7-8 rallies, and other opposition leaders will be arrested. They also called on the demonstrators to surround the Parliament, which led to violence. This is a low standard, and it is a very risky low standard from a legal point of view”.

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