Amicus Curiae Brief relating to the "Wake the Oligarch Up" Activists
Freedom of peaceful assembly is one of the foundations of a democratic society; it promotes public and informed debate on issues of public importance, respect for human rights and the rule of law. Unfortunately, the Public Defender's Office of Georgia has recently identified a number of cases of obstruction of the full realization of this right, which has a negative impact on the quality of democracy in the country.
The 5 September ruling of the Ozurgeti District Court, on the basis of which, nine participants of the “Wake the Oligarch Up” demonstrations held in the vicinity of Ureki Residence LLC in July-August were found guilty of violating the noise limits, is worth mentioning in this regard. According to the Court, since the purpose of the rally participants was to make noise, their action did not fall under the scope of the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations.
The Public Defender of Georgia considers that the decision represents a dangerous precedent of substantive restriction of freedom of expression.
On 25 October 2019, the Public Defender filed an amicus curiae brief with the Kutaisi Court of Appeal. The Public Defender highlighted the approach of the European Court of Human Rights, according to which, any demonstration held in public space may lead to the violation of the normal rhythm of life at a certain level or may insult or bother the people who oppose the ideas and demands of the demonstration, but this fact cannot justify the interference with the right.
According to the internationally recognized standards, the restriction of the ability of a person to freely determine the means of conveying a message is only permissible if it does not make the content of the assembly pointless. Accordingly, the Public Defender urged the Court to consider how closely the chosen form of the assembly was linked to its content.
The Public Defender also emphasized that no measure restricting freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, except when violence is promoted or democratic principles are rejected, serves democracy and, on the contrary, endangers it. Exactly the above conditions the necessity of the use of a particularly strict test by the courts when examining the lawfulness of the substantive restriction of freedom of assembly.
It is also noted in the amicus curiae brief that the assemblies of political content enjoy a high degree of protection and that the criticism of the Government cannot provide sufficient grounds for restricting the right.
Since the court's explanations with regard to such cases can play an important role in shaping a uniform practice, the Public Defender hopes that the Court of Appeal, when making a decision in the above-mentioned case, will be guided by the principles set out in the amicus curiae brief.