NGOs release a joint statement in connection with the forcible dispersal of the veterans’ protest on January 3
On January 6, 11 NGOs held a joint press conference at the office of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association. The NGOs appealed to the Minister of Internal Affairs to properly investigate the violent dispersal of the veterans’ protest which had taken place on January 3 on Heroes’ Square. The NGOs also signed the following joint statement:
‘On January 3, 2011, the police dispersed a protest of war veterans in the area of Heroes’ Square in gross violation of the requirements of law. The dispersal was accompanied by physical abuse.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs made a statement in which it justified the dispersal with grounds that are not provided for by law, while the court, when examining the case of the protesters, failed to study essential evidence, such as footage of Kavkasia TV and www.palitratv.ge online TV station and testimony of witnesses. Videos disseminated by various media outlets confirm that on January 3, 2011, police officers approached protesters on hunger strike sitting in front of the memorial for heroes fallen for Georgia’s unity and demanded their dispersal. After the protesters refused to obey this demand, the police started to disperse the assembly with the use of force, which was accompanied by physical abuse of the protesters and their supporters. Otar Gvenetadze, an officer of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who was wearing civilian clothes, physically assaulted Eka Matiashvili, the Chairperson of the Isani District Organization of the Georgian Party. Detainees also bore physical injuries.
The footage disseminated by www.palitratv.ge online TV station clearly shows individuals in civilian clothes helping law enforcement officers to put participants of the assembly into a police car, which demonstrates that police officers were performing their official duty without their uniforms. According to Paragraph 1 of Article 28 of the Law of Georgia on Police, ‘A police officer shall wear the uniform as provided for by the legislation of Georgia.’ The individuals who dispersed the assembly obviously violated this requirement. The Ministry of Internal Affairs justified the dispersal with the following circumstances: ‘The protesters failed to comply with the patrol police officers’ demand to dismantle the tent, resisted them with physical force, and assaulted them verbally. Several of the protesters, who obviously were under the influence of alcohol, were particularly active. Alcoholic intoxication of two of them has been established.’ The statement says that the participants of the assembly had set up a makeshift tent, which is not true and is not confirmed by the footage aired by TV stations. However, even if the protesters had used a tent, the police officers’ demand would still have been completely unlawful, because Article 111 of the Law of Georgia on Assemblies and Demonstrations only prohibits blocking the carriageway with various constructions. It is not disputable that the assembly was not being held on the carriageway. In addition, the police officers’ demand regarding the dispersal of the protest was not lawful.
According to Paragraph 1 of Article 13 of the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations, only an authorized representative of the local self-government body has the right to make such a demand. The footage aired by the TV stations clearly shows that the person who demanded the dispersal of the assembly was a uniformed patrol police officer rather than a representative of the local self-government body. At the same time, the footage does not confirm the physical assault on police officers on the part of the protesters. Moreover, it shows that one of the protesters was detained in a place remote from the site of the assembly after the assembly had already been dispersed. According to the official statement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, the police detained 11 participants of the veterans’ assembly (Zaza Germanozashvili, Ilia Chiloshvili, Valeri Dzebirashvili, Levan Asatiani, Malkhaz Topuria, Amur Revishvili, Sergo Dvali, Levan Asatriani, Leonid Ekhvaia, Shota Iamanidze, and Shota Zgudadze), while the court imposed administrative liability on the said persons under Articles 166 (disorderly conduct) and 173 (non-compliance with a lawful demand of a law enforcement officer) of the Code of Administrative Offenses. This case was considered by Thea Tadashvili, a judge of the Administrative Panel of the Tbilisi City Court. Lawyers of the individuals who were brought to justice demanded that the footage of Kavkasia TV station be enclosed with the case file as evidence. The said evidence would have dispelled the offense report which says that the police made a lawful demand to the protesters, but the protesters assaulted the police officers verbally and physically. The court rejected this motion as groundless, although it didn’t specify why it was groundless. The court also didn’t share the view that there had been five preliminary warnings and found all the individuals who were brought to justice to be offenders and imposed a fine GEL 400 on each of them.
Due to the foregoing, we call on the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia to impose relevant legal liability on the law enforcement officers responsible for the unlawful dispersal of the assembly and violence which took place on January 3, 2011.’