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Silent protest action in front of the Parliament

26.11.2009
Alex Bezhanishvili

On the initiative of Human Rights Center and the South Caucasus Network for Human Rights Defenders, a silent protest action was staged in front of the Parliament building. The South Caucasus Network defenders from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the Human Rights House Foundation from Norway as well as other representatives of NGO community made a protest against the arbitrary detention of the activists of “7 November” movement by patrol police.

The Human Rights Center and the South Caucasus Network delivered a special statement to the media, stating that the arrest of Dachi Tsaguria, Djaba Djishkariani and Irakli Kordzaia on November 23 in front of the Parliament building was one of the first direct consequence of putting into practice the amendments to the Law on Assembly and Manifestations. This incident made it clear that the Law is in conflict with the Constitution and poses a threat to the protection and implementation of one fundamental rights – right of assembly and freedom of expression.

Full text of the statement is available at:
http://www.humanrights.ge/index.php?a=urgent&id=110&lang=ge

It is worth mentioning that before the action started, the Parliament Security service employee asked TV reporters to produce permission for shooting and stated that it was not allowed to shoot the Parliament building. He failed to cite the concrete law that restricted shooting of the Parliament building, though; he avoided answering “catchy questions” and “fled the place of incident”.

The Human Rights Center representatives measured the distance from the stairs of the Parliament building up to the place where the “7 November” activists were sitting before their arrest. The distance turned to be much longer than a 20m radius allowed   by the current antidemocratic law. Moreover, it should be noted that if measured directly from the building entrance as specified in the controversial law, the distance would be much longer.

The judicial decisions of November 23 where it is indicated by the Judge himself that at the moment of detention Dachi Tsaguria, Djaba Djishkariani and Irakli Kordzaia were within a 25-30m radius of the Parliament building are of major concern to the human rights defenders. It means that the Judge automatically documents that the detainees were expressing their protest beyond a 20m radius. This “misunderstanding” is caused by the Judge’s ignorance of the law. He did not remember the exact radius within which opinions can be expressed freely. He did not even dare to look into the law and preferred trusting the position of patrol police representatives blindly, according to which assembly was not allowed within a 50 m radius of the building. The chief of the patrol police, Giorgi Gegechkori also revealed his ignorance of the law, saying to the activists at the moment of the arrest that they were not at a distance of 50m from the Parliament building. This was the major motivation to place them in detention.

“It is regretful that both policemen and judges are unfamiliar with laws, but it is even more regretful and worrying that through political pressure and biased position they tend to breach the law directly“, - says the representative of “Former political prisoners for human rights”, Nana Kakabadze when commenting the court decision.

At the trial the Judge completely agreed with the Protocol on administrative offence drafted by the police, which states that on 23 November of 2009 the detainees were in Tbilisi, on Rustaveli avenue, at a distance of 25-30m from the entrance of the Parliament building, in breach of the requirements of the Law of Georgia on Assembly and Association. The Protocol also states that the detainees failed to produce a relevant permission to the patrols and inspectors and that their action restricted free movement of passers-by. According to the Protocol, the detainees did not comply with the legal requirement of the patrols and inspectors when the later were trying to prevent this offense and assaulted the inspectors, both physically and verbally.

At the trial the Judge dismissed and refused to review the evidence, i.e. a video tape submitted by the attorney of the detainees, Gela Nikolaishvili, where it’s quite obvious that Tsaguria, Djishkariani and Kordzaia neither restricted free movement of passers-by, nor assaulted the police. They were sitting at a distance allowed by the law and expressed their protest silently, holding posters with photos of Buta Robakidze, Sandro Girgvliani and Zurab Vazagashvili, killed by the police.

The court completely agreed with the Protocol on administrative offence drafted by the police, found the detainees guilty and imposed an administrative fine of 500-500 GEL under the prima articles 173 and 174 of the Administrative Code of Georgia.

The NGOs gathered in front of the Parliament and denounced the politically motivated decisions of both the police and the judges. This position of the Georgian NGO sector is shared by the NGO representatives from Armenia and Azerbaijan, members of the South Caucasus Network for Human Rights Defenders. A Norwegian human rights defender (Human Rights House Foundation) also expressed her concern with this regard.

“It is essential that the antidemocratic Law on Assembly and Manifestations be changed, and the policemen and judges that violated the law punished”, - stated the Director of Human Rights Center, Ucha Nanuashvili at the protest action.
The young people whose rights were violated during the 23 November incident also participated in the protect action.

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