NGOs make a joint statement regarding May 17 - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

NGOs make a joint statement regarding May 17

16 May, 2013

May 17 is the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), which has been officially recognized by the European Parliament and a number of countries of the world.

This day is a form of protest against the practice of violation of human rights and stigmatization on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The analysis of the situation of human rights in Georgia demonstrates that the rights of LGBT people are often violated on the grounds of sexual orientation and that the State’s response to this problem is often inadequate. In a number of cases, the Georgian legislation and the practice of its implementation are indirectly discriminatory in relation to LGBT people, depriving them of the opportunity to fully exercise their major rights, including the right to family and private life, the right to healthcare, and labor rights. Investigations into incidents of violation of LGBT rights are ineffective. There are also problems with regard to proper application of Article 531 of the Criminal Code, which regards commission of a crime with the motive of intolerance due to sexual orientation and gender identity as an aggravating circumstance. Together with the State’s ineffective policy, the isolation and stigmatization of the LGBT community is also caused by existing social and cultural structures, which regard this group as sick, alien, and hostile. This situation makes LGBT people a particularly vulnerable group, which imposes on the State a positive obligation to take complex measures for the integration of the LGBT community with the society and for contributing to their full development.

In connection with the IDAHO, Identoba, Women’s Initiatives Supportive Group, and other organizations are going to hold a peaceful rally in front of the former building of the Parliament. LGBT activists and their supporters are going to silently express their opposition to discrimination and violations of the rights of LGBT people. In response to this rally, various groups have planned to hold a counter-demonstration near the former building of the Parliament. These groups regard the rally of May 17 as immorality and propaganda of the LGBT community and are protesting against it.  

The counter-demonstrators have announced that they will hold a large demonstration on Rustaveli Avenue. It should be noted that the right to hold a counter-demonstration is protected by human rights law, though it is essential that the counter-demonstration retain a peaceful character and fall within the limits provided for by law. In spite of the fact that the organizers of the counter-demonstration emphasize the peaceful character of their assembly, social networks disseminated several pieces of news in which the counter-demonstrators state that they won’t allow LGBT activists to hold the rally of May 17. Moreover, these statements often contain threats and hate speech.

International standards related to freedom of assembly make the State obliged to ensure the conduct of assembly in a peaceful environment, and it is not justified to restrict this right on the basis of the argument that the majority of the public is against such an assembly and that it might be followed by a violent act. Even in such a situation, the State is obliged to take adequate measures to ensure the full exercise of freedom of assembly.

Considering the scale and context of the counter-demonstration planned for May 17, it is necessary that the police develop an effective safety strategy in advance and take all measures to ensure that both assemblies are held in a peaceful and safe environment. For this purpose, the police should distance the opposing protesters from each other and should not allow the possibility of physical contact between them, especially at the time of gathering and dispersal of the protesters when the risks of manifestation of aggression may be particularly high. At the same time, the police should exercise strict control on possible provocative behavior of some protesters which might take place in the areas of the assemblies.

In spite of the unfortunate experience of last year, we hope that the police will be able to protect freedom of assembly effectively and will fulfill their obligations in the spirit of protection of and respect for the rights of LGBT people. This expectation is also reinforced by positive statements made by high-ranking officials.

In addition, we call on the organizers and participants of the assemblies to comply with the requirements of law, to behave in a tolerant manner, and to retain the peaceful character of the assemblies, which is a pre-requisite for the development of democratic and pluralist society.

We, the signatory organizations, are going to observe the rallies of May 17 in a coordinated manner from the morning through a special observation mission and provide the public with full information about the rallies and about the State’s fulfillment of its obligations. If necessary, we will use the relevant legal mechanisms within the limits of our resources to protect victims of violations of rights.

Transparency International Georgia  

Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)

Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)

Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association

Article 42 of the Constitution

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)