On the detention and two-month pre-trial detention of the Rustavi 2 supporters
We respond to the arrest of participants of the rally in support of Rustavi 2 TV near the building of Parliament of Georgia as a result of assault on a Georgian Dream MP David Lortkipanidze. The detained individuals have been charged with Article 239 (hooliganism) of the Criminal Code – a serious crime that can lead to a jail term from four to seven years. It has to be taken into account that reportedlylocation of the detained protestors was established only after three hours, once Rustavi2 reported their detention. The detained protestors were placed in pre-trial detention.
Naturally, violence against any individual constitutes an offence and the law enforcement agencies must react on such incidents. However such reaction must not be selective and disproportionate to the offence –reaction of the state offences of identical nature must be similar. Detention of these protesters and measures taken against them constitute an example of selective justice and we believe are be politically motivated. That this is indeed the case is affirmed by the following circumstances:
2) Instances in which the law enforcement agencies were directly legally obliged to react, but failed to do so. For instance, protest rallies at homes of the Constitutional Court judges. According to the Georgian law, such rallies constitute an outright administrative offence, therefore the law enforcement agencies had to react in accordance with the law.
3) A number of cases when Members of Parliament from the National Movement were physically assaulted, but the law enforcement agencies either did not detain offenders at all, or they were given an administrative fine of 100 lari. This includes:
- Violent assault against Chiora Taktakishvili, MP which occurred during the events near the Parliament Library on February 8, 2013. The offenders were fined by court by 100 lari each for the violation of Article 166 of the Code of Administrative Violations.
- Assault on MP Giorgi Gviniashvili on September 14, 2014 during a rally in Kakheti, after which the offenders were detained but released under written pledge.
- The episode of egg-throwing at the National Movement members in Gurjaani, which was not followed by any reaction of the state authorities.
4) One of the detained defendants was only now charged for an alleged beating related to a family conflict that took place several months ago.
Against the background of such tendencies regarding reactions on the physical assaults against MPs, pre-trial detention and launch of criminal investigation demonstrate that we have a case of selective and disproportionate use of law and state institutions. In this regard of importance are statements by representatives of executive and legislative branches of the government, which contain double standards and thus endorse violence against political opponents as well as violation of their rights. Specifically, according to Deputy Prime Minister Kakha Kaladze, physical assault against MPs is unacceptable, while, according to Speaker of Parliament David Usupashvili, rallies against the Constitutional Court judges and their family members, as well as numerous threats issued against them,are not a problem. A statement by PM Irakli Garibashvili that law enforcement agencies should “rid Kakheti of the provocateurs who hinder the peasants”, which was followed by the above-mentioned assault on MP Gviniashvili, is particularly alarming.
We call upon the Government of Georgia and the law enforcement agencies to respect the freedom of assembly guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia, and at the same time react adequately and consistently on identical offences, based on the fundamental principle of equality before the law.
Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS)
Media Development Foundation (MDF)
Baltic to Black Sea Alliance - Georgia (BBSA – Georgia)
Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA)
Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia)
Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)