Statement regarding the violent incident in Akhaltsikhe
We, the undersigned organizations, express our concern regarding the incident that took place in Akhaltsikhe on October 27 and call upon investigative agencies to investigate the said incident swiftly, objectively, and impartially, as well as to take measures envisaged by law. It is particularly noteworthy that the violent incident allegedly involved a governor.
Such violent incidents in the pre-election period reflect negatively on the election environment.
We call upon political parties and their representatives to exercise particular responsibility for their actions in the pre-election period and to refrain from confrontations and violence, especially from making statements that are going to encourage such acts.
According to news reports, on October 27, 2016, cases of possible robbery and violence and threat of violence committed at the time of an event of election agitation or election campaign took place on the Uraveli-Muskhi road.1 In particular, a majoritarian candidate and activists of the United National Movement were campaigning all day long and meeting with the population. According to N.Kh., a UNM activist, as they were traveling by car to meet the population as part of the election campaign, they were followed by a white passenger car. N. Kh. documented this with his video camera, after which his car was overtaken by the car of Akaki Machutadze, the Governor of Samtskhe-Javakheti; out of the car came out Giorgi Baliashvili, the former head of the Municipal Improvements Service, who abused him physically and took away his camera.2
The UNM activist said that later, when he was returning from the village, the Governor and persons accompanying him again abused him physically and verbally on the road to Uraveli.3
According to news reports, the Governor of Samtskhe-Javakheti, Akaki Machutadze, has denied the allegations.4 Giorgi Baliashvili also denied that the incident had taken place.5
The Ministry of Internal Affairs is conducting the investigation under Part 1, Article 178 of the Criminal Code (robbery).6
We believe that the Ministry of Internal Affairs should emphasize not only the explicit seizure of an object (video camera) but also the facts of possible violence and threat of violence. In particular, the victim has stated that the UNM’s majoritarian candidate was conducting the election campaign all day long and that the violent acts against the activists were connected with events of the election campaign.
It is important that the cases of possible violence and threat of violence are not left without a legal assessment. The acts described by the victim and the media reports also contain elements of the crime punishable by Article 1621 of the Criminal Code. The said crime consists of the following: “Battery or other violence committed at the time of an event of election agitation or election campaign, which was not followed by consequences envisaged by Article 120 of this Code, or threat of violence”.
Besides, according to N. Kh., his brother was dismissed from his job in the same period, which N. Kh. links to his own political activity.
We, the non-governmental organizations, consider it unacceptable to persecute people and to dismiss them from their jobs on political grounds, to interfere with their political (pre-election) activity, and to engage in other similar acts.
It is important to provide a swift and impartial response to the aforementioned, especially taking into account that the incident took place several days before the second round of the elections.
Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association
Transparency International Georgia
Civil Development Agency (CiDA)
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
Public Movement “Multinational Georgia”