A statement of the Georgian Democratic Initiative (GDI) on the developments that took place on May 1, 2013, on Rustaveli Avenue

On May 1, 2013, on Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi, the Patrol Police detained participants of a protest march organized by Laboratory 1918 which, according to the authorized persons of the police, was caused by violation of law by protest participants.

The protest participants may have really committed different administrative offences in individual cases. However, at the same time, the footage that has been disseminated makes the impression that a part of the police officers forgot the aim of their action – clearing the traffic part of the road – and their actions were mainly oriented to detaining the protest participants, including on the pedestrian area. We believe that in such cases the police could have stopped violations of law using less painful methods (than detention). It is also a sad fact that persons in civilian clothes again took part in the detention process and a part of the police officers used insulting words against the protesters. Several participants of the protest also indicate that they were assaulted physically after being detained. We believe that the Ministry of Internal Affairs must make every effort to retrain police officers, so that they respond adequately and proportionately in such situations, and investigate all facts of alleged violation of rights.

We consider it impermissible to detain journalists when they are carrying out their professional activity. We consider the following statement of the Minister of Internal Affairs inadequate: “The police couldn’t have found out who was a journalist on the ground; students can also hold a microphone.” Such a statement is dangerous and may encourage representatives of the law enforcement body to ill-treat journalists in the future.

It is also important to make a legal assessment about who made the decision to clear the traffic part of the road and, in general, how compatible this decision was with the requirements of the Georgian legislation. As the statements of the protest participants make it clear, blocking of the traffic part of the road was caused by the large number of the protesters and it was not an end in itself. In accordance with Paragraph 2 of Article 111 of the Law of Georgia on Assembly and Manifestations, “It shall be impermissible” to make a decision on clearing the traffic part of the road “if it is impossible to hold the assembly or manifestation otherwise, considering the number of participants of the assembly or manifestation…” According to the Georgian legislation, the authority to make a decision of this type goes beyond the competence of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the decision must have been made by the Tbilisi City Hall or the Government of Georgia. And none of the aforementioned agencies has disseminated public information about making the said decision.

Due to the aforementioned, in order to study the issue completely, we have requested corresponding information from the relevant agencies, and its analysis will enable us to make the final legal assessment.