LGBTI protest took place in Tbilisi despite threats of violence

Peaceful Assembly

To mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOTB), a protest led by the LGBTI community was planned to take place on 17th May 2018. One day before the planned protest, the Equality Movement announced the possible cancellation of their activities due to security concerns. Despite possible confrontations during the march due to a counter-demonstration supported by the Georgian Orthodox Church, dozens of people took to the streets to protest, chanting slogans against homophobia. At the same time, a counter-demonstration took place in support of the church’s call for a rally on the “day of sanctity and strength of the family.” No major incidents were reported during the demonstrations. 

On 12th May, a rally against police raids in Tbilisi night clubs was held in front of Georgian Parliament. Protesters criticised the excessive used of force during these operations and called for the resignation of the Prime Minister and Interior Minister. Authorities justified the raids as part of an investigation that has been running for more than three months, leading to evidence of illegal activities in these clubs. 

In a separate incident, another protest took place at the end of May following a Court decision in the case of the murder of two teenagers in December 2017. After a 4-month trial,  the Tbilisi City Court  delivered a verdict and found one of the suspects guilty of premeditated murder for one of the victims -Levan Dadunashvili- and not guilty for premeditated murder of  the other victim Davit Saralidze. The second defendant was found guilty of attempted murder of Davit Saralidze. The not guilty verdict sparked massive protests calling on the resignation of the Prime Minister and other government officials, leading to the resignation of the General Prosecutor. Despite the resignation, the protests continued with people demanding the resignation of other high level officials.

Expression

In May 2018, Georgia’s Orthodox Church released a statement calling for a boycott of media outlet Rustavi2, calling priests and church supporters to "stop communicating with and participating in the channels shows." In addition, the statement calls on the government to "take measures and adopt an appropriate mechanism to defend society, in order to avoid the potential danger coming from these communicating channels." 

The statement follows artist Lia Ukleba’s controversial painting of the Virgin Mary with a toy pistol held to her head during a show on Rustavi2 with anchor Giorgi Gabunia using the artwork to argue against a bill, proposed by the ruling Georgian Dream, that would allow courts to ban the distribution of artworks deemed to ‘violate others’ [people] rights.’ 

As reported previously on the Monitor, a decision by the Georgian Supreme Court transferred ownership of Rustavi 2 TV channel to its former owner, Kibar Khalvashi. Civil society and the political opposition have strongly objected to the decision, arguing it could negatively impact media freedom and democracy as Khalvashi has close ties to Georgia's ruling party. Following the Supreme Court decision, the European Court of Human Rights issued an indefinite moratorium on the implementation of the Supreme Court's decision.

On 21st April 2018, the Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information and other CSOs released a statement expressing concern regarding the Georgian government’s request submitted to the European Court to abolish the interim measure issued regarding the Rustavi 2 case. The organisations stated that this request should not be approved in order to "avoid the change of critical editorial policy of the station following the ownership changes of the company." Further, they highlighted how the government request "clearly points out that it is [the] critical editorial policy of Rustavi 2 that concerns the government most."