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FIDH Calls for an Immediate End to All Harassment Against Opponents

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Elections must be free and transparent.
FIDH calls for an immediate end to all harassment against opponents

Paris-Tbilisi, December 7th 2007 - FIDH is deeply concerned about the use of force against protesters who were calling for the resignation of President Saakashvili in Tibilisi on the 7th of November 2007, and the national state of emergency that followed the dispersal and only ended on the 17th of November.

According to reports from local journalists, the Georgian riot police dispersed the protesters with truncheons, water cannons and tear gas. Police representatives pursued and violently beat people throughout the day. The Public Defender of Georgia, Sozar Subari, was severely beaten whilst trying to stop three policemen from beating a prostrate man. Some witnesses reported that the law enforcement units also used a special acoustic system for dispersing the protesters.

The Ministry of Health declared on November 7th that about 600 people sought medical assistance. Some victims were suffering from tear gas poisoning; others were hospitalized with injuries caused by rubber truncheons and rubber bullets. Scores of people were detained, including M. Giorgi Khaindrava, one of the leaders of the opposition.

FIDH strongly protests against the closure of Imedi TV and radio station following a violent assault on the premises on November 7th. According to journalists, the police seized all the equipment from the journalists who were filming the events and several cameramen were severely beaten. Reportedly, the only camera that subsequently filmed the events was that of the representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. President Saakashvili declared that the independent television station Imedi, whose broadcasting license was later suspended for three months, was temporary closed because it had been inciting civil unrest during the demonstrations in Tbilisi. He further called the owners of the station to guarantee that it will abide by "certain principles" and not serve as "a weapon" in the hands of exiled Georgian oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili who intends to run in the presidential ballot.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour condemned the disproportionate use of force  and expressed concern on the situation of Imedi TV and other independent media. 

Following these events, on November 25th, the Georgian parliament endorsed Saakashivili's decree setting preterm presidential elections for January 5th 2008. As required by the Georgian constitution, Mikheil Saakashvili resigned as president on November 25. The presidential powers were given to parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze.

In the highlight of the coming presidential elections, FIDH is deeply concerned by the election campaign which has started in the context of violence and grave human rights violations perpetrated on November 7th and the silencing of the independent media.

The harassments of the opposition continue. FIDH has been informed that M. Merab Khurtsidze, a member of the group supporting the presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili, was severely beaten by unknown persons on November 26th. According to reports, the police were confiscating the driving licenses of people from the provinces in order to prevent them from going to the peaceful meeting in Tbilisi on the 25th of November. 

FIDH urges the Georgian authorities :

  • to respect the Georgian Election Code ;
  • to put an end to any harassment directed against the opposition political parties and independent candidates;
  • to release immediately and unconditionally all prisoners being kept for political reasons;
  • to bring all violations of freedom of expression and  the right of peaceful assembly to an immediate end;
  • to ensure that the elections are held in full compliance with international standards.

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