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Blocking the road to Telavi for the United Opposition Restricted Freedom of Assembly

17.12.2018

The under-signatory organizations express extreme concern over hindering the manifestation of the United Opposition in Telavi in parallel to the inauguration ceremony of the president-elect. 

According to the spread information, the United Opposition and their supporters planned to organize a peaceful demonstration in Telavi on December 16, 2018 in parallel to the scheduled inauguration ceremony of the president-elect. However, the police officers created artificial obstacles for them in several areas – on Gombori Pass and in Gurjaani municipality. Finally, the opposition was not able to conduct the protest demonstration in Telavi. 

Article 25 of the Constitution of Georgia guarantees everybody’s right to public assembly either indoors or outdoors without prior permission. The Constitution also guarantees liberty of movement within the entire territory of Georgia. These rights are not absolute, they may be limited based on legitimate goals of the state and shall be necessary and proportional for the achievement of the goal. Consequently, when the State hinders these rights, it shall act in accordance to the balance between private and public interests. 

The developments in Kakheti on December 16, 2018 revealed that the state bodies exceeded their power and restricted liberty of movement and right to assembly and manifestation of people – officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs forbade the United Opposition members not only to hold protest demonstration nearby the venue of the inauguration ceremony but even to enter the city of Telavi. The fact that the State representatives offered the protesters to take roundabouts as an alternative way to Telavi, does not make the action of the State lawful. The opposition protested the inauguration ceremony and purposeful hindering of their movement made the action unreasonable. At the same time, attack on the cars of the Members of Parliament from the side of the opposition supporters was alarming fact. 

It is worth to note that it is not first fact when police hinders peaceful demonstration and unfortunately, recently, we observe negative tendency in this direction (prohibition installment of tents during the action of the fathers of the killed boys, raid in the night club Bassiani and follow up protest demonstration, etc). 

We believe the action of the State and restriction of the protesters’ rights come in conflict with the democratic values, the Constitution of Georgia and the obligations under the international agreements. The situation is worsened with the fact that in this concrete case the excessive force was used not by regular public servants but it was institutionalized step taken by the state to prohibit the members of the opposition to enter Telavi, to restrict liberty of movement and to disable them to hold protest rally. It must be mentioned that similar decisions harm the reputation of the police that causes conflicts between citizens and the police. 

Considering the abovementioned, we call on the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia to investigate legality of the restricted freedom of movement and assembly from the side of MIA representatives. The CPO shall also study the violence facts committed against the demonstrators and the people, including MPs, who were going to participate in the inauguration. It is also important to inform the society about the investigation results. We call on the opposition and their supporters to demonstrate more responsibility and act in accordance to the law. 
  • Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
  • International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
  • Georgian Reforms Association (GRASS)
  • Equality Movement
  • Initiative for the Rehabilitation of Vulnerable Groups
  • Article 42 of the Constitution
  • Human Rights Center (HRC)
  • Institute of Democracy and Safe Development (IDSD)
  • Media Development Fond (MDF)
  • Safari
  • Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
  • Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF)
  • Partnership for Human Rights (PHR)

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