Public Defender of Georgia Responds to the Events Developed on Rustaveli Avenue on June 20-21
The Public Defender of Georgia is responding to the events developed on Rustaveli Avenue on June 20-21, 2019.
The Public Defender and her representatives were actively observing the events related to the arrival of Russian MPs in the country and the protest held against the Russian occupation.
Several hours after the start of the rally, protesters tried to enter the Parliament building, which was accompanied by sharp conflict with the riot police. The Public Defender urged the authorities to take timely politial steps to prevent the escalation of violence. Also, she called on protesters to stop violent actions, while police was urged not to use disproportionate force.
Finally, the government broke down the rally with the use of force, as a result of which, more than 200 people were injured. Law enforcers used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons against the demonstrators.
Monitoring of the rally showed that protesters had not been clearly warned of the use of special means before the use of force.
In addition, police did not give reasonable time to the protesters. The video materials released by the media (e.g. shooting rubber bullets in the head of civilians) indicate the use of disproportionate force by the law enforcers. Alleged cases of the use of disproportionate force was also indicated by the detainees and publicly released video footage. All of the above requires timely and effective investigation by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Georgia.
Interference with the professional activities of journalists, their detentions and injuries need to be assessed separately. According to the Charter of Journalistic Ethics, 33 reporters were injured as a result of the use of rubber bullets and tear gas by police. Several of them said the police intentionally targeted them and shoot rubber bullets even after they had told law enforcement officers that they were representatives of the media.
Representatives of the Public Defender have carried out monitoring in police stations and temporary detention isolators. The location of 121 detainees has been established. 63 detainees have been visited.
Representatives of the Public Defender arrived at 6 hospitals in Tbilisi; they met and talked to doctors, the administration of the clinics and the injured citizens. The Public Defender's Office estimated that total of 217 people were hospitalized after being injured at the rally. 80 out of them were policemen. During the visit of the representatives of the Public Defender to the clinics, 54 injured persons (including 8 policemen) remained hospitalized. According to the information received during the visits, they were mainly injured in the head and upper limbs. Some of them remained in the intensive care unit, as they were in critical condition. In addition, according to the information provided, their damages were not in compliance with the typical damage caused by rubber bullets, which requires further assessment.
Representatives of the Public Defender have been in Tbilisi City Court since morning. According to the data of 15:00, 310 persons were registered in the court. Most of them have been interviewed; representatives of the Public Defender also attended the trials. Unfortunately, the cases are being reviewed in an accelerated manner and the detainees are not enabled to enjoy the right to a fair trial or an important procedure, such as submission of evidence, the right to effective defense, or consideration of a case within reasonable terms. In the course of the trials, serious problem of hearing was observed (in most cases the dynamics are not functioning), which violates the principle of publicity of trials.
The Public Defender addresses:
The Prosecutor General’s Office of Georgia
- To launch and carry out an effective investigation into the use of disproportionate force, as well as alleged cases of violence against the detainees
- To launch and carry out an effective investigation into the violent acts committed against journalists and the cases of interference with their activities
The Government of Georgia
• To fully compensate for the costs of treatment and rehabilitation of people injured at the rally
Tbilisi City Court
• To conduct the proceedings relating to the detainees in full compliance with the human rights standards
The Public Defender continues to study in detail the alleged violations of the above principles and the use of disproportiante force by police during the rally, as well as alleged illegal actions carried out against journalists.