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The Human Rights Centre Demands an Investigation into the November 7 Events

December 21, 2007
The Human Rights Centre demands the start of a criminal case against the President and the Minister of Internal Affairs. The Centre has obtained evidence indicating that the government has committed a crime. These facts are depicted in the report “One Week of Violation” issued by the Centre. The presentation of the report was held on December 19.

The report gives a negative assessment of the events of November 7. The Human Rights Centre considers that both Georgian and international laws were breached on November 7.

According to the lawyers of the Centre, the demonstration was in accordance with the law; the only issue that was not arranged in a lawful manner concerned the deadline of the demonstrations. In other words, the application to Tbilisi City Hall should have indicated the final date of demonstration should. Simon Papuashvili, lawyer for the Human Rights Centre states:

“In our opinion and according to international practice, non-fulfillment of such a minor requirement stipulated in the law, cannot be the basis for violating the fundamental freedoms of a person: the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly and association.”  

The Human Rights Centre considers that the proclamations of opposition leaders during the demonstration were not against the law. “The demonstrators did not attempt to call for overturning or changing the constitutional order by force. Neither did they make statements against the territorial integrity of the state that could incitement of any conflict, violence or sow national, ethnic, religious and social dissent among people. Thus the force used against them was illegal,” - states the report.

Simon Papuashvili: “We were witnesses to this dispersal and victims of it. The force used against the demonstrators constitutes an unlawful action. I want to emphasize that those forces which were participating in the dispersal, I mean those people wearing masks, jeans, coats and using clubs without any identity card on their uniforms. This performance was against all international norms, including Georgian legislation. The force used by the police was disproportional to aim sought. The citizens in the vicinity of the Parliament were dispersed. The same was happening during the Rike dispersal. We think that a criminal case should be launched against the people who attacked the demonstrators.”           

According to the “Human Rights Centre”, people’s harassment has not stopped since November 7. Some people are bullied and some suffer legal persecution. The people (approximately 400), who were recognized by the representatives of the government, were fined. The fines ranged from GEL 100-500. 

The “Human Rights Centre” considers the methods with which TV companies Imedi and Caucasia were shut down, unlawful.

“None of the stations received any formal explanation prior to shutting down the broadcasting. The cancellation of the broadcasting licence of Imedi TV was done post factum. The judgment of the national court that suspended Imedi’s license is dated November the 7th. However, according to the logic of the events, the judgment of the court and the decisions of the Commission on Regulation of Broadcasting has actually been delivered a few days later. Therefore, the Georgian government is trying to use the post factum national court decision to give a legal justification for shutting down the broadcasting of Imedi TV,” it is noted in the report

The Centre considers that the context of the limitations of rights and the methods used by the Government are sufficient to declare that the proportionality requirement has not been met in the case of shutting down Imedi TV and Caucasia. (The proportionality requirement entails that the means of limitation need to be proportional to the aim pursued.) The suspension of broadcasting and the initiation of a criminal case against Imedi, can be considered respectively as the least and the most extreme forms of limitation of the right. Prior to the suspension of the broadcasting the Government did not attempt to explain to the administration of both TV stations what exactly constituted as an illegal act in their work and did not give a notice on the content regulation.

All cases concerning human rights violations, documented by the media, are mentioned in the report:
- Fierce beating of the demonstrators. Individual demonstrators were severely beaten by several (usually four to five) law enforcement officials;
- After the dispersal of demonstrations in front of the Parliament building, on Rike and near the office of Imedi TV as well, dispersed demonstrators were followed by special task force representatives after actually leaving the scene of the demonstrations. Demonstrators were captured and beaten in small dark streets and entrances of nearby buildings;
- Some law enforcement officials deployed for the dispersal and who were most active, did not wear any uniform or identification mark. The only symbol which made them different from the crowd was black masks;
- One fact that needs to be noted is that approximately 400 demonstrators were subjected to administrative process for taking part in the “illegal demonstration”. The majority of those people were fined 400 GEL;
- Unleashing gas and the dispersal of peaceful demonstrators by using excessive force was not necessary in a democratic society. The true motivation behind the violent dispersal was to instil fear in the demonstrators and the public at large. 

The Centre also underlines the infringement of right to property.

Simon Papuashvili: “The government must compensate TV Company Imedi for the damage Imedi suffered due to the raid of their office and for the income it could have received during the one month period of suspended broadcasting. Besides, the people who were at the TV station and became the victims of illegal actions can request compensation for immaterial damage.”

The report of the Human Rights Center will be send to 5 000 organizations. Ucha Nanuashvili, the executive director of the Human Rights Center is of the opinion that international organizations still expect the Georgian authorities to more or less adequately evaluate the November 7 events.

Ucha Nanuashvili: “The report will be send to everyone, who has any relations with Georgia. The addressees will be international organizations and representatives of the diplomatic corps. We know that many organizations expect a detailed report on which rights were violated on November 7.

We hope that the international organizations will put pressure on the Georgian government to investigate all breaches of the law and will punish those responsible.

The Center will help everyone who was injured on November 7 or since.

Elizbar Khachapuridze, a lawyer: The “Human Rights Center” can offer people injured during the November 7 events legal aid, such as filing suit to Georgian courts and to the European Court of Human Rights.” 

Nona Suvarian, Tbilisi