Use of force by the law enforcement officers at the CEC Building was illegal and unconstitutional

Georgian Democracy Initiative expresses its concern in relation to the events that have unfolded by the building of Central Election Commission on the night of 8th of November, 2020. We believe that the use of force was an egregious breach of law and the violation of the freedom of assembly protected by the Constitution of Georgia.

It should be emphasized that the use of special means under Georgian law entails concrete preconditions and strict standards, adherence to which is of an utter importance.  According to the Law of Georgia on Police, the use of water cannons is allowed in case it is aimed at suppressing mass violations of legal order, repelling a group attack on state and/or public facilities [1] Police is obliged to use coercive measures in proportion and only in the case of necessity and to the extent that shall ensure achievement of legitimate objectives [2]. Additionally, police may not use means that pose unjustifiable risk.[3] It should be noted that prior to the use of water cannons, the same law obliges police officer to warn a person and give a reasonable period of time to carry out the lawful order. [4]

During the events that unfolded yesterday, Georgian government has violated all of the above-mentioned obligations and preconditions. In particular:

  • Dynamics of the demonstration in the vicinity of the CEC did not at any point entail the use of special means, as none of the above preconditions were met. The rally as a whole took place in a peaceful and a calm environment, there was no mass violation of law & order or an intent of a group attack on the CEC building;
  • In the first episode of the use of water cannons, police did not warn those gathered and did not offer reasonable time to take action, having this way violated both national law and international standards;
  • Circumstances of the use of water cannons are alarming as participants of the demonstration were put at risk of a potential health damage. According to the reports, use of water cannons has injured several people, including cameramen, which indicates that law enforcement officers have not followed the rules of using special means and at the same time have prevented journalists from carrying out their activities;
  • In addition, one has to consider cold climatic conditions and an epidemiological situation which the government has clearly ignored when it allowed the use of special means;
  • It was also reported that along the use of water cannons, police have used a special gas that causes burning sensation in the eyes. If the information is confirmed, it is inexplicable as to why was the use of this tool necessary.

We call on the Georgian government to stop using disproportionate force against protesters and to ensure the right to freedom of assembly.

[1] Article 33, Paragraph 3, Subparagraph “g” of the Law of Georgia on Police.

[2] Article 31, Pargraph 1 of the Law of Georgia on Police.

[3] Article 31, Paragraph 6 of the Law of Georgia on Police.

[4] Article 31, Paragraph 3 of the Law of Georgia on Police.