Lawyers: Rights Violated for Protesters Detained at anti-Foreign Agents Law Rally

At the April 15 rally against the reintroduced Foreign Agents Law, the police groundlessly arrested some protesters and obstructed their right to legal defense after detention, lawyers claim in comments to the opposition-leaning Mtavari Arkhi.

Police detained 14 people during the mass rally on the night of April 15 against the Foreign Agents Law for “violating public order, resisting law enforcement, and verbally abusing them.”

“The police’s warning to the peaceful demonstrators to disperse was itself illegal, as there was no reason for the demonstration to disperse at that time, and freedom of assembly cannot be restricted without a reason,” said Giorgi Tabatadze, a lawyer with the Georgian Democracy Initiative, adding that “then several people were arrested without any reason, and their rights were violated, as we are practically looking for the detainees throughout the night, trying to meet with them, and their right to have a lawyer is violated.” According to him, the whereabouts of all the detainees have still not been determined.

Another lawyer, Lasha Tkesheladze also confirmed that the Ministry of Internal Affairs violated the detainees’ right to legal defense. “Of course, we have also appealed to the Public Defender, but so far he has not publicly stated his position, and has not said that the lawyers’ right to [provide] defense is being violated.” According to Tkesheladze, the detentions point to the possible abuse of power by the police.

“The bad tradition of the Ministry of Interior continues, that during the whole night we had almost no information about the detainees’ whereabouts. We didn’t get a chance to see them in the police stations,” Teo Zakarashvili, a lawyer at the Transparency International-Georgia said. “They were participants of a peaceful protest and, as far as we know, they have not committed any administrative violations.”

UPDATE: Detainees have been allegedly beaten by the police including upon detention. Vazha Siradze, director of the Patrol Police Department has allegedly been involved in the beatings.

“All the detainees say that they were subjected to violence. Some of them note that they were subjected to violence upon detention, while others say that [police] were beating them when they were taken into the so-called corridor,” lawyer Lasha Tkesheladze said.

Public Defender’s Statement

Public Defender’s Office said its representatives visited ten detainees. “One of the detainees referred to the ill-treatment by police officers and expressed a desire for a response to the above; In addition, the Public Defender’s representatives observed injuries on his body. Accordingly, the Public Defender’s Office has already applied to the Special Investigation Service with a request to investigate the incident.”

This article was updated on 16.04.2024 at 18:25 to reflect the Public Defender’s statement.

The Georgian Dream reintroduced the Foreign Agents Law after it was withdrawn last year following the massive March protests. This time again the ruling party has come under under heavy criticism from Georgia’s international partners, as well as the political spectrum and civil society, for reintroducing the law, arguing that it jeopardizes Georgia’s European prospects and undermines democracy in Georgia.

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