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Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International react to Tbilisi rallies

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, June 24
Human Rights Watch says that riot police in Tbilisi fired rubber bullets and used tear gas “without warning” against thousands of nonviolent protesters outside the Georgian Parliament on June 20, during the demonstration which was sparked by the presence of MP from the occupant country in Georgia’s parliament.

The international organization urged the Georgian government to investigate the use of force during the rally which left 240 injured.

A statement reads that “it is urgent for the authorities” to instruct the police to adhere to the rules on the use of force under international law,” as the demonstration continued.

“Those rules require the police to use only strictly proportionate force in response to any threat posed by protesters, and to resort to measures such as rubber bullets only as a last resort,” the statement reads.

Amnesty International has also called upon “for an immediate, thorough and independent investigation” into the use of force by riot police in Georgia, after protestors in Tbilisi were attacked with rubber bullets and tear gas.

Amnesty International reports that Levan Asatiani, Senior Campaigner for South Caucasus, was on the ground in Tbilisi and said:

“Eyewitnesses described watching in disbelief as police fired rubber bullets indiscriminately into the crowd. Reports of erratic firing are confirmed by video footage. Rubber bullets can cause serious injuries and should never be used indiscriminately to disperse crowds. Police have the duty to protect public order and respond to violence, but their response must be necessary and proportionate.”

“The heavy-handed police approach has resulted in scores of injuries, including at least 31 journalists. Most of them were hurt by rubber bullets,” he added.

The Interior Ministry says that police dispersed the rally after the appeal of the Interior Ministry to the demonstrators to act calmly and after the arrival of Georgian Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia at the scene.

Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia stated that the police “stood immobile,” until the Georgian statehood and the public safety were placed under the risk.

“Politicians and political parties managed to transform the fair and sincere protest of our people into violence targeted against police and state institutions. Protesters tried to occupy the parliament building, and the police were forced to take measures,” Gakharia said.

He said that investigations on possible overuse of force had been launched.

Up to 50 of 240 remain in hospitals, several of them with severe health problems.

One of the young girls lost eyesight in one of her eyes due to the rubber bullet.

Demonstrators protest with one eye covered.