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Human rights organizations respond to the developments of June 14 and June 16

18.06.2019

 
Human rights organizations are responding to the developments that took place on June 14 and June 16 and call on the State to put an end to the calls for violence by anti-democratic groups and to pursue equal and inclusive policies.

In the recent days, our society has witnessed grave cases of mobilization of violent and anti-democratic groups in public areas. On June 14, supporters of Tbilisi Pride, which brings together a certain part of LGBTI activists, held a rally in front of the Government Chancellery, demanding that the authorities guarantee their right to assembly. The participants of the assembly were confronted by the ultra-conservative political and clerical groups. The leaders and members of these groups openly expressed violent intentions and manifestly disregarded the foundational principles of the constitutional order.

It should be noted that the rally of June 14 was preceded by an official statement of the Patriarchate of Georgia, which called on the Georgian authorities not to allow the holding of the pride march organized by Tbilisi Pride and accused the LGBTI activists of engaging in “propaganda of the sin”. The Patriarchate’s official statement was followed by even more radical and violent statements of other clergymen, which the Patriarchate has not yet distanced itself from. It is clear that such statements by the religious institution with broad public support contribute to legitimization of violence, and it is unfortunate that the extremely grave experience of 17 May 2013 has not changed the views and attitudes of the Patriarchate.

At the time of the rally and the counter-rally on June 14, the police more or less managed to ensure safety and, among other measures taken, detained up to 30 participants of the counter-rally. However, on this day the queer activists were compelled to leave the territory of the rally and suffered from insults, feelings of fear, and a grave emotional stress. The participants of the counter-rally threw eggs at Giorgi Tabagari, an organizer of the rally. It is alarming that the participants of the counter-rally threatened and verbally assaulted a representative of the Public Defender of Georgia. They also interfered with journalists in their professional activity, although, in a number of cases, the police failed to provide immediate response to such incidents.

It is also problematic that on June 14 the police failed to take legal measures against the organizers of the violent rally who made violent statements that contained threats and incited hatred in the territory of the rally. Moreover, the political rhetoric of the authorities failed to give a proper response to the violent and homophobic ideas of the counter-rally, and, by this “silence” of sorts, even legitimized them politically.

The mobilization of anti-democratic groups which started on June 14 continued on June 16 by means of a large rally in downtown Tbilisi, at which Levan Vasadze made extremely problematic and anti-state statementsregarding the creation of “people’s legions” and control, detention, and violence against LGBTI people in the streets. Mr. Vasadze stated that if the police interfered with their activity, they would not obey the law enforcement officers.

It is clear that such statements violate the foundations of democratic political system and contain high risks of escalation of violence.

In our opinion, strengthening of ultra-conservative, anti-democratic ideas has structural economic, social, and political causes and it’s essential that the authorities and political and civic groups realize this properly. The extreme poverty, economic inequality, fragile democracy, and deep political and social polarization that exist in our country create fertile grounds for the upswing of ultra-conservative ideas. Unfortunately, neither the authorities nor other political groups are able to properly understand and respond to the existing challenges.

Moreover, despite the recent trend of strengthening and organization of anti-democratic groups, the authorities have not taken adequate measures to prevent the radicalization of similar political ideas and groups. And in some cases, there were doubts that the authorities were lenient to them.

We should underline the political biographies and political interest of the leaders of this movement. A big part of them are openly connected with the Russian political establishment, and their interest in obtaining political power and influence is obvious. For this reason, it is important that the social groups that joined the rally yesterday, on June 16, properly realize the real political intentions and agenda of the leaders of this movement and that they not allow these irresponsible leaders to use their social discontent for political purposes.

Unfortunately, despite the grave experience of 17 May 2013, we cannot see that the authorities properly realize the grave political and social consequences of homophobia and take systemic steps to overcome it. Contrary to this, it’s evident that, for years now, the authorities have been failing to ensure the protection of the LGBTI people’s right to assembly and openly disregarding the LGBTI people and their rights. On May 17 in 2012 and 2013, on the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, the State failed to respond to the dispersal of peaceful demonstrations of LGBTQ people. It’s clear that such a policy creates a feeling of impunity and encourages homo/bi/transphobic violence in the society. Contrary to this, members of the ruling team often instrumentalized homophobia politically and manifestly ignored the LGBTI people and their rights.

Considering the foregoing, we, the signatory organizations, once again call on the State to realize its responsibility for the evolving social crisis and to take effective measures for pursuing a policy based on equality and inclusiveness. It is essential that political parties and the Patriarchate realize their responsibility in this process.

Therefore, the signatory organizations call upon:

  • the Government to treat the activities of Mr. Vasadze and of political and clerical groups connected with him with full responsibility and to provide a proper legal response to their violent plans and activities. In this regard, it is essential that the investigation that the MIA has launched on the basis of public statements made by Mr. Vasadze on June 16, under Article 223 of the Criminal Code (creation or management of illegal formations, or joining and participation in such formations, and/or implementation of other activities in favor of illegal formations), be real and effective and that that the public is informed of the concrete results of the investigation in a timely manner;
  • the Government and the political establishment to realize the social, economic, and political causes of the upswing of anti-democratic political movements and to respond to it by systemic democratic and social policies;
  • the executive and legislative branches of government to properly realize the political and social effects of homophobia and to develop a consistent and systemic policy for eradicating homo/bi/transphobia;
  • the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia to effectively investigate the incidents that took place near the Government Chancellery on June 14 and to inform the public of the progress of the investigation;
  • the police to take effective and proactive preventive measures to protect the safety and rights of the participants of the assembly of June 14 and LGBTI people in general.
Signatory Organizations:

  • The Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)
  • Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (GYLA)
  • Human Rights Center (HRC)
  • Women's Initiatives Supportive Group (WISG)
  • Article 42 of the Constitution
  • Union Sapari
  • Equality Movement

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