Civil society report finds violations of freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression
In March 2017, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) issued a comprehensive report on violations of the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly in the country over the past two years. Georgia has one of the better legal frameworks and human rights records in the South Caucasus. However, according to civil society monitoring, there were frequent violations of freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression in the country from 2015 to 2016. The most frequent violations involved police repression of protests, including the illegal detention of demonstrators, as well as cases of hate speech. An issue specifically mentioned in the report concerns LGBT demonstrations, attendance to which remains low due to lack of confidence in police to provide protection against provocateurs.
On 2nd March 2017, as reported by Columbia University's Global Freedom of Expression, supporters of the beleaguered media outlet - Rustavi2 TV - set up tents and formed a human shield in front of the TV studio.
On 12th March, a protest in Batumi turned violent. According to Euronews, numerous people were injured during clashes between protesters and riot police. The skirmishes started as several people were arrested for unpaid parking fines and their supporters gathered in front of the police building to demand their release. The Interior Minister released a statement declaring that those involved in the violent events would be punished. All the arrested demonstrators were eventually released. A coalition of CSOs issued a statement "condemn [ing] the acts of violence and vandalism that broke out in Batumi [and urged] the authorities to conduct a prompt, comprehensive and objective investigation".
#Riots in #Batumi indicate latent #protest #potential. #Ajara's public health minister: 24 injured, incl. 11 police https://t.co/m09hLiGvr7— Alex Melikishvili (@A_Melikishvili) March 11, 2017
Also in March 2017, protesters accused the Georgian police of planting evidence as a strategy to put pressure on suspects. According to Radio Free Europe, demonstrators gathered on 22nd March outside the Interior Ministry in Tbilisi to protest the case of police planting illegal drugs on suspects.
"Protesters in the Georgia capital, Tbilisi, accused police of planting illegal drugs on suspects.— Michael Vanderpool (@Travelingsoul77) March 27, 2017
Georgian authorities are in the process of holding meetings, some with civil society representatives, on reforming the country's constitution. According to the Georgian National Platform, a member of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, during one such meeting held on 25th April 2017, the head of the State Constitutional Committee introduced a new editorial draft of the constitution's text.
Georgian civil society is most concerned with constitutional reforms of the electoral system, provisions to improve human rights protections and the status of presidential prerogatives. Taking part in these discussions and meetings is a welcomed opportunity for the sector to provide input into the new constitution on these particular priority issues.
Civic Space Developments