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Heads of EU Mission send letter to gov’t over Pride related events and their follow-up

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, July 16
Ambassadors of EU countries accredited to Georgia are addressing the government in Georgia due to the violence on July 5 and events, that followed-up anti-PRIDE rally held by ultra-right extremists, with participation of several clergymen. Letter was sent to the Minister of Internal affairs Vakhtang Gomelauri; PMrIrakli Gharibashvili, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Vice-PM Davit Zalkaliani and Minister of Justice Rati Bregadze received the copies.

The ambassadors note that the violence in the streets of Tbilisi has cast a shadow over EU-Georgia relations and Georgia’s image as a country upholding basic human rights. Signatories reminded Georgian authorities that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression constitute key universal human rights and are assured under the Georgian Constitution. “Yet, on 5 July, the participants of LGBTQI+ Tbilisi Pride were unable to exercise these rights in the face of imminent threats to their safety.”

They write that Physical infringements on the safety of ivic activists and journalists caused by targeted organized violence were alarming. In this context ambassadors recalled that journalists must be able to carry out their job safely and securely in any democracy: “We mourn the tragic death of TV cameraman Lekso Lashkarava and await the results of the investigation into the cause of his death.”

Heads of EU Missions expressed regret that ‘authorities did not call publicly for the protection of those peacefully marking Pride events, take other necessary actions to prevent or deter hate driven speech or, in the end, provide sufficient protection as violent acts against activists and journalists were carried out.’

In the letter, the representatives of EU countries remind the Georgian authorities that observance of the norms enshrined in the Constitution of Human Rights is reflected in the Association Agreement between the EU and Georgia and the European Convention on Human Rights. “They unite us and make us proud, but also oblige us to take action in their defence and to protect the most vulnerable persons in our societies,” the letter read.

According to the statement, intensified rhetoric against these values also poses a national security risk, increasing the vulnerability of Georgia’s democracy, already faced with significant disinformation challenges.

They called for further immediate and appropriate political and legal actions. All violent incidents and criminal acts need to be effectively and quickly investigated and duly prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

“We call on all relevant authorities to uphold the rule of law and to act in effective prevention of any future attempts at such criminal acts. Further efforts to address hate speech, incitement of hatred and intolerance need to be an integral part of these efforts. In parallel, we call on all sides to act responsibly and refrain from actions that could further aggravate the situation.”

Recall that hate groups have insulted the EU flag raised in front of the Georgian Parliament several times. Same violent group abused more than 50 journalists, some of whom are still receiving treatment and are unable to work due to injuries. Lekso Lashkarava, the cameraman of TV Pirveli, who was injured on July 5, died on July 11. Examination has not yet determined whether the physical injuries sustained a few days ago were the cause of his death, MIA speaks of possible drug overdose.

The joint letter of 25 embassies calls the desecration of the EU flag an ‘alarming fact’, since the flag embodies the fundamental values on which the EU-Georgia relations are based. “The double attack on the flag is also a direct attack on Georgia's democratic and pro-European aspirations.”

Signatories of the letter are delegation of the European Union to Georgia and Embassies of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.