SJC: Court’s Decision to Sentence Peaceful Protestors Unjustified

On April 23, the Social Justice Center addressed the imprisonment of a peaceful participant of the rally against the Russian law on the night of April 17-18, noting that the Tbilisi City Court’s decision was unjustified and aimed at intimidating the protesters and repressing the protest in a coercive way.

SJC reports that one of the protesters, Andro Chelidze, was arrested on habitual charges of petty hooliganism and insulting a police officer. After his detention, he was taken to the first division of Old Tbilisi Police Department, where Chelidze was physically abused. Chelidze’s friend, Luka Iremashvili, was also detained for trying to record the abuse on his cell phone. The organization notes: “During the rally, the detainee was swearing only at Russians, which is fully within the framework of freedom of expression and does not constitute a violation of the law.”

The organization stresses that the video footage of Chiladze lying on the ground and being beaten by two policemen while others watched was presented in court and distributed online with the victim’s consent. The SJC notes: “The Special Investigation Service has opened an investigation into the fact of possible violence against Andro Chelidze by individual employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs”.

On April 19, Tbilisi City Court Judge Irakli Chikashua found Chiladze guilty and sentenced him to administrative detention without any neutral arguments presented in court and based solely on the testimony of the police officers. In the course of the trial, the Ministry of Internal Affairs demanded that the harshest punishment be applied to Andro Chelidze, which, according to the SJC, would have a chilling effect on other participants in the rally and demonstrations.

The SJC notes that the Court of Appeals found inadmissible the appeal lodged by the SJC regarding the decision to hold Chiladze in administrative detention.

Social Justice Center emphasizes that according to the established practice of the European Court of Human Rights, administrative detention is unlawful if the court cannot provide clear reasons for detaining a person. “The detention of Andro Chelidze by the Tbilisi City Court violates the right to freedom guaranteed by Article 5 of the European Convention due to its arbitrary and disproportionate nature,” – reads the SJC statement.

“The Social Justice Center considers the malicious practice of arresting activists without cause and imposing harsh administrative penalties on them to be unjustified,” the statement says. SJC stresses that it is important:

  • The Ministry of Internal Affairs to stop the unjustified arrests of the participants of the rally and to ensure the obligation of the police officer to turn on the body-worn video cameras during communications with citizens;
  • Courts of first and second instance in the absence of neutral and objective evidence, to terminate the administrative proceedings;
  • The Special Investigation Service to promptly and effectively investigate cases of disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officers and ensure that the public is informed of the course of the investigation;
  • The Public Defender of Georgia to monitor the protests in the vicinity of the Parliament and proactively provide information to the public about the necessity and proportionality of the use of force by the police, as well as strengthen efforts in the process of determining the number of arrested persons and finding their whereabouts;
  • The Georgian Parliament to withdraw the initiated Russian draft law and instead to implement the reforms identified as priorities on the European integration path.

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