Georgia: Attack against the Human Rights Center office in the framework of the Pride Week

09/07/2021
Urgent Appeal
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GEO 001 / 0721 / OBS 079
Physical attack /
Attack to the freedom of assembly /
Threats /
Discrimination
Georgia
July 9, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Georgia.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Human Rights Center (HRC), a member organisation of the OMCT and FIDH, about an attack against its office in Tbilisi, as well as the physical violence perpetrated against journalists and LGBTQ+ activists by far-right and anti-LGBTQ+ groups during the Tbilisi Pride week.

On July 5, 2021, at around 3pm, an anti-LGBTQ+ group attacked the office of the Human Rights Center, located in the building of the Human Rights House Tbilisi (HRHT) [1] . The group surrounded the premises and threw an explosive in the yard of the building, in retaliation for their support to the organisers of the Tbilisi Pride week, including the Union of LGBTQ+ people and their allies, the Tbilisi Pride and the ‘Shame’ movement. One civil activist was injured in the abdomen during the attack.

Since the early hours of July 5, numerous far right and anti-LGBTQ+ groups marched in the streets of central Tbilisi to prevent the holding of the ‘March for Dignity’, the concluding event of the Tbilisi Pride week, which had to take place on the same day at 6pm. The groups physically attacked 53 journalists and camera operators reporting on the anti-LGBTQ+ protests, by punching and hitting them with sticks and bottles. Despite the widespread violence and risks for both media workers and the LGBTQ+ people and activists, the Georgian law enforcement bodies failed to prevent the attacks and protect the journalists and peaceful protestors. Instead, it called on the organisers of the ‘March for Dignity’ to cancel the event due to the risk of violence, while allowing the violent groups to freely march in the city centre. This demonstrates the failure of the state to fulfill one of the fundamental principles of democratic state – ensuring freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly and manifestation for all members of society.

On the same day, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, stated that the march should not be held as according to him, it was “unacceptable for a large segment of the Georgian society”. While denying the existence of any form of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ population in the country, he restricted the activists’ rights to freedom of expression and assembly in blatant violation of international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Georgia is a party. The organisers of the Pride week had to cancel the event.

At the time of publication of this urgent appeal, eight people have been arrested on charges of “illegal interference into the journalistic activity”, “persecution”, “organisation, management or participation in group violence” and “violence” (articles 126, 154, 156 and 225 of the Criminal Code of Georgia), in relation to the violent attacks against media workers, and an investigation has been opened into the attack against the premises of HRC on charges of “violence” and “damage or destruction of property” (articles 126 and 187 of the Criminal Code).

On July 6, 2021, a peaceful gathering was held in front of the Parliament of Georgia, in Tbilisi, to express support to those injured the previous day. The event was again disrupted and its attendees were attacked by violent groups. The perpetrators tried to break through the police cordon, and threw explosives, stones and bottles against the peaceful protestors and journalists covering the event. Although the police arrested some of the attackers, the peaceful protesters left the area through the police corridor due to the risks for their security and physical integrity.

The Observatory strongly condemns the attack against the office of HRC and its members, as well as the acts of violence against the organisers of the Tbilisi pride week, the Georgian LGBTQ+ community and the journalists covering the attacks. The Observatory further condemns the restrictions on the right to the freedom of expression and assembly of the Georgian LGBTQ+ community.

The Observatory urges the Georgian authorities to carry out an immediate and transparent investigation into the above-mentioned attacks and acts of violence and take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all journalists and human rights defenders in the country, and particularly LGBTQ+ rights defenders.

The Observatory further calls on the authorities to guarantee the right to equality and non-discrimination as well as the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as protected by the Constitution of Georgia, as well as by international human rights law.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Georgia to urge them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all members of the Human Rights Center, as well as all human rights defenders in Georgia, particularly LGBTQ+ rights defenders;

ii. Carry out a transparent, impartial, immediate and thorough investigation into the above-mentioned attacks and acts of violence in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

iii. Put an end to all acts of violence and harassment against all human rights defenders in Georgia, particularly LGBTQ+ rights defenders;

iv. Take all measures to guarantee the rights to equality and non-discrimination, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly as protected by the Constitution of Georgia in its articles 11, 17 and 21, and as enshrined in international human rights law, particularly in Articles 26, 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Addresses:

• Mr. Irakli Gharibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia. E-mail: info@gov.ge.Twitter: @GovernmentGeo
• Mr. Vakhtang Gomelauri, Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia. E-mail: police@mia.gov.ge. Twitter: @MiaofGeorgia
• Mr. Irakli Shotadze, Chief Prosecutor of Georgia. E-mail: presscenter@pog.gov.ge. Twitter: @OfficialPOG)
• Mr. Kakha Kuchava, Chair of Parliament of Georgia. E-mail: contact@parliament.ge Twitter: @Geoparliament
• Permanent Mission of Georgia to the United Nations in Geneva. E-mail: geomission.geneva@mfa.gov.ge
• Embassy of Georgia to Belgium, Luxembourg and Mission of Georgia to the European Union. E-mail: eomission.eu@mfa.gov.ge. Twitter: @GEOmissionEU

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Georgia in your respective countries.

***
Geneva-Paris, July 9, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.  

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39
• Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18

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