For immediate release
May 28, 2011
As of today we have confirmed that 5 people fell victim to the May 26, 2011 protest rally on Rustaveli Ave. We express our deep condolences to the families of the deceased. Once again, this tragedy confirms the need for a comprehensive, unbiased, timely and efficient investigation into human rights abuses and violation of the laws in Georgia Although the authorities had the legal right to order protesters to disperse before breaking up the rally, the force used by the Ministry of Interior Affairs on May 26, 2011 was disproportionate. Video footage disseminated by different media outlets makes it clear that law enforcement bodies used excessive force even when protesters did not or could not offer any resistance. There are no legal or reasonable grounds to chase and physically assault people who are running away or hiding in buildings.
We also condemn the interference with professional activities of journalists both by protesters and law enforcement bodies, which took the form of damage to their equipment, and verbal and physical assault.
We are also concerned about the authorities’ detention and severe mistreatment of several protesters.
Furthermore, no list of detained people was available for 48 hours after breaking up the rally. Most of the detained protesters were not given any opportunity to contact their family members, or receive medical or legal assistance as guaranteed by law. The whereabouts of tens of protesters are still unknown.
The moral responsibility for the tragic consequences of the rally lies both with its organizers and law enforcement bodies-both failed to assure adequate safety of citizens. In our opinion, the organizers and responsible persons should abide by the law and assemble peacefully.
On the other hand, the law enforcement bodies should have made the audio and video records they had public in a timely manner to avoid and prevent the tragedy.
We call on the authorities and law enforcement bodies to:
– Ensure all detainees are provided with medical assistance, the opportunity to contact their families and have the protection guaranteed by law;
– Announce a search for missing citizens;
– Launch an exhaustive, efficient, unbiased and timely investigation into the use of disproportionate force when breaking up the rally and call to account those who are guilty;
– Investigate the harassment of journalists, including both physical abuse and material damage to their equipment;
– Launch an efficient, unbiased and timely investigation into the deaths that resulting during the process of breaking up the rally;
– Given the public interest, the Public Defender and international human rights organizations should be given the opportunity to observe the investigation process; results of the investigation should be made available to the public.
Young Lawyers’ Association
Open Society – Georgia Foundation
Transparency International Georgia
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy
42nd Article of Constitution
Contact: Ana Toklikishvili, Open Society Georgia Foundation, Cell:+995 95 221 999