Georgian Government Intensifies Crackdown on Activists

GDI would like to respond to the recent detentions of activists. We believe  that the Georgian government has  intensified the tendency of politically motivated crackdown on activists and violations of  their rights.

In Zugdidi, on October 30, 2021,  the day of the municipal runoffs, the police used force to detain the observers and activists representing the United National Movement near the polling station. Among them,  Giorgi Mumladze and Nika Narsia were detained following a verbal arguments  between Giorgi Mumladze and the Mayoral candidate of the governing Georgian Dream party, Mamuka Tsotseria. According to the initial reporting, the police took the activists  to the police station  for an interview (which is a voluntary process and thus the police had no right to force them to give an interview). However, according to later reports , the activists  were charged  based on the Articles 166 and 173 of the Administrative Offences Code and  sentenced to administrative detention (5 days for Kakha Kvekveskiri, 8 days – Nika Narsia and Albert Merebashvili) and 10 days - Giorgi Mumladze). 

The Police also arrested activists on the basis of disobedience in Kutaisi on November 1, when the activists were going to draw a sign stating “Free Misha”. According to these activists, the police took away their stencils and other personal items as well.  

Police disobedience was also used as a ground to detain a member of Girchi–More Freedom party, and the Vice-Mayoral candidate of the united opposition, Imeda Kldiashvili, who parked his car in front of the entrance of the State Security Service building as an act of civil disobedience to protest the pressure the Service had applied to a person, who, according to Kldiashvili, possessed  information on  the alleged rigging of the election by the authorities.

On November 1,  the law enforcement officers also detained activists near the Parliament building in Tbilisi, as they were protesting the results of the elections and restriction of freedom of Mikheil Saakashvili. The police did not allow them to set up tents  near the Parliament building, although,  according to the activists, they had secured consent from the Tbilisi Municipality to install 3 tents there. The media reported that 2 activists were charged with administrative offenses. 

GDI condemns the above described detentions of the activists and views  them as a continuation of repression against those who oppose the government. Namely, the detention of the observers of the leading opposition party, UNM, in Zugdidi is suspicious, because the police did  not have a similar reaction towards those on the other side (the representatives of the Georgian Dream) who were also involved in the quarrel. The detained activists were present near the polling station with the aim of observing the situation, which leads us to suspect that the purpose of these detentions was to hinder election monitoring and was thus politically motivated. In a similar fashion, the detentions of those demanding the release of M. Saakashvili near the Kutaisi Mayor’s office and the Parliament building in Tbilisi left with the impression that the restriction of their freedom was due to the political nature of their protest. Moreover, in most of these cases, the legal basis used for these detentions was the alleged violation of those legal norms of Administrative Offenses Code (articles 173 and 166) which are most frequently used  by the police and the courts  to unlawfully restrict the freedom of assembly and expression of the critics of the government. 

We call upon the Court to reject the use of Administrative Offenses Code as a repressive weapon during the trial of the detained activists and to assess the acts of the detainees  within the context and in light of freedom of expression and the ongoing political developments. We also call on the MIA to abandon the practice of absusing the same Code with the purpose of cracking down on critical voices. Unfortunately, this practice is a clear example of politicization of the law enforcement agencies which resulted in reduced public trust in them.