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Amnesty report sheds light on Georgia’s human rights abuses

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, May 25
The situations related to the aftermath of armed conflict, internally displaced people, freedom of assembly, and the justice system of Georgia, has drawn the attention of the Amnesty International annual report on The State of the World’s Human Rights Worldwide.

The report cites examples in Georgia where the police have used excessive force in dispersing demonstrations in January and May of 2011. Emphasizing the importance of “freedom of assembly”, the authors stressed that “[Georgian] police violently dispersed an authorized peaceful demonstration consisting of dozens of veterans of Georgia’s armed conflicts.”

Discouraging the arrest of 11 people for hooliganism and disobedience, the document emphasized that the police officer seen hitting a woman was dismissed while those detainees were charged reportedly without viewing available video evidence, relying on the testimony of police officers only.

While dispersing an anti-government protest of thousands of demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili at midnight, Georgian riot police beat “unarmed demonstrators who were offering no resistance” immediately after the rally permit expired.

A police officer and a civilian were killed after being hit by a speeding car, carrying an opposition leader away from the scene. Two protesters found on the roof of a shop close to the protest were supposed to have died by electricity but the report reads that “this version was contested by an alleged eyewitness, who claimed that he last saw one of the victims being taken into police custody.”

Journalists were verbally and physically assaulted by police officers, some detained for questioning, and had their equipment damaged or confiscated. More than 105 demonstrators were arrested and later sentenced to up to two-months in prison for resisting police while their families were not provided any information about the detainees for several days.

The authors of the report say “no public or independent investigation was conducted and allegations of ill-treatment by police were not investigated” except for the dismissal of four police officers for their excessive use of force.

Security and freedom of movement for civilians living in the conflict-affected areas – Abkhazia and South-Ossetia also remain a concern for Amnesty International. Amnesty International welcomed the exchange of detainees under the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism bringing together the Georgian and South Ossetian sides, but emphasized that “incidents of shooting, injury and the detention of civilians for the alleged illegal crossing of the Administrative Boundary Line between South Ossetia and Georgia were reported throughout the year.”

The independence of Georgia’s judiciary system remained a concern for Amnesty as well. The report states that on 26 April, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Georgia had failed to carry out an effective investigation into a high-profile murder case involving government officials. The court found that the investigation into the death of Sandro Girgvliani in 2006 lacked “independence, impartiality, objectivity and thoroughness.” Amnesty was particularly concerned by attempts by the Ministry of the Interior, the Prosecutor’s Office, the domestic courts and the president to “prevent justice from being done.” The Court ordered the government to pay ˆ50,000 to the victim’s parents. The authors referred to Sandro Girgvliani, aged 28, explaining that he was kidnapped and beaten to death by the Ministry of the Interior officials in January 2006, after he argued with a group of high-ranking ministry officials in a Tbilisi cafe. Amnesty’s report emphasized that no new investigation was opened into the case.

The report also discouraged the evictions of 247,000 displaced people from the capital Tbilisi. Calling it a violation of “domestic and international standards” the authors stressed the need for adequate consultation, notice or access to legal remedies from the authorities because the aspects of the right to adequate housing – such as access to employment and sustainable livelihoods – were not always respected as alternative accommodations.

Welcoming the international document, Georgian NGO 42nd Article of Constitution discouraged the inefficient policy of the Georgian government against human rights violation in Georgia. Stressing the lack of a precise investigation for killing or beating a person, the NGO said it’s necessary to charge the violators.