GEO

Fine And Administrative Detention - A Weapon Of The Government Against Civil Protest

22 January, 2020

 

The public authorities use their power against civil activists selectively, disproportionately, and unreasonably. On June 20-21, the court imposed substantial fines and applied administrative imprisonment towards detainees without proper justification and evidence disregarding the right to a fair trial. The same practice continued with respect to persons detained during subsequent rallies.

CSOs are closely monitoring the ongoing protests of civil activists following the June 20 events and question legality of the use of force and sanctions imposed on them.

The observation of the processes showed that the police do not explain even the minimum rights envisaged by the Code of Administrative Offenses of Georgia to the detainees. In addition, during the court hearings, the officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs fail to provide evidence justifying lawfulness of the detention.

The decisions are mostly made only based on a police officer's testimony. Even in cases where the officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs presented videos as evidence, misdemeanors from the side of detainees mostly were not detected.

Despite these circumstances, civil activists usually are subject to administrative imprisonment or in most cases fine. The amount of fine varies from GEL 1000 to GEL 2500.

According to the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR, disproportionate sanctions, including harsh fines may violate the right to freedom of assembly and have a chilling effect by preventing people from participating in protest rallies in the future.[1] In addition, the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly stated that disproportional sanctions may have a chilling effect.[2]

Based on the current economic situation in Georgia and the fact that the demonstrators participating in ongoing protest rallies are often students of higher education institutions, we think that the court’s decisions may place a heavy financial burden on protesters. When alleged offenses are not justified by specific evidence, sanctions imposed by the court may indicate the government’s desire to use fines for making a chilling effect in order to weaken the protest movement and to prevent potential opponents from gathering and using their right to assemble.

 


[1] European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) and Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly (3rd Edition), 8 July 2019, para. 36 https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2019)017-e [15.01.2020].

[2] ECtHR, Guide on Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Freedom of Assembly

and Association (1st edition) 31 August 2019, paras. 74-78 https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Guide_Art_11_ENG.pdf [15.01.2020].

 

 

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