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Amnesty International: Georgian Government Greenlights Violence Against its Critics

Reacting to the latest case of repression against government critics, in which Zuka Berdzenishvili, a civic activist, former member of the “Shame” movement and son of Davit Berdzenishvili, one of the leaders of the opposition Republican Party, was severely beaten just hours after the Speaker of Parliament accused him of a “terror campaign” against MPs, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Denis Krivosheev said: “Such actions by government officials can easily be interpreted as a green light to commit violence against government critics with impunity,” noting that the very fact that he was attacked following the Parliament Speaker’s post “raises serious concerns.”

“We are deeply troubled by the Georgian government’s false pretence that the criticism they face is a violent anti-establishment plot,” reads the Amnesty International’s statement, apparently referring to Speaker Shalva Papuashvili’s claim, repeated by other GD officials, that citizens verbally but peacefully confronting MPs who voted in favor of the foreign agents law are waging “politically motivated terror” against the MPs.

Referring to the officials, the Amnesty International continues: “Their mounting crackdown on dissent is not a form of defence, it is an assault on human rights and a breach of Georgia’s international human rights obligations.” It reminds them of the fact that “criticism of the authorities, however harsh, is protected speech, and all public officials have an obligation to endure high levels of criticism and scrutiny.”

“The Georgian authorities must put an end to the cycle of violence, immediately investigate all violent attacks and ensure that the perpetrators, whoever they are, are brought to justice in fair trial proceedings,” the statement concludes.

The Amnesty International also cites some recent reports of intimidation, arbitrary arrests, and violence against protesters and the government critics, including the recent attacks on the opposition Girchi-More Freedom party leader Zurab Japaridze on June 10 and on his brother; the daylight assault on student Niko Managadze on June 7, and the controversial arrest of activist Ioseb Babaevi on June 4. The watchdog also recalls cases in which citizens are facing trial on petty hooliganism punitive charges for confronting and publicly criticizing the MPs.

In May, as the infamous foreign agents law was being debated in Parliament against the backdrop of massive protests, Shalva Papuashvili announced that the GD’s Political Council planned to create a database containing information on opponents, or as he put it on anyone “involved in violence, blackmail, threats and other illegal actions” or “who publicly supports these actions.”

Over the past two months, dozens of government critics, civil society members, activists, and opposition politicians have been regularly attacked and intimidated by government-paid “titushky,” and cases of repression are reported daily as the October elections approach.

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


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