Public Defender of Georgia Echoes Restrictions on Freedom of Assembly of Affected Customers of Financial Company Georgia

Representatives of the Public Defender of Georgia monitored the rallies of the affected customersof the financial company Georgia in front of the Governmental Administration building in Tbilisi seven times in June and July. According to the affected citizens, from time to time the officers of the law enforcement agencies prevented them from putting up tents, freestanding umbrellas, beds and banners. It should be noted that the rally is underway on a wide pavement in front of the Governmental Administration and does not hinder traffic movement or block entrance of the building.

The video footage spread in the media shows that in one case the law enforcement officers did not allow protesters to use a folded bed that led to a confrontation between them.

Similar incidents took place on March 9 and March 21, 2017, when the affected traders of the burnt trade center Children’s World, gathered in front of the Tbilisi City Assembly and the Governmental Administration, were not allowed to put up tents at the edge of a wide pavement. In this regard, the Public Defender appealed to the Minister of Internal Affairs on April 6, 2017, and proposed to study the alleged violation committed by the employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in order to find out whether they acted under illegal instructions of the law enforcement officials and to use disciplinary measures against all offenders as a result of the study. Unfortunately, the Public Defender has not yet received information about the measures taken by the Minister with regard to the mentioned proposal, which is a violation of law.

Since the above cases do not cause blocking of building entrances or hindering of traffic movement, they are fully protected by freedom of assembly. Accordingly, it is inadmissible to restrict the use of this right by the state. The right to put up tents and other non-permanent constructions is clarified in the OSCE Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly.[1] In this context, it should be noted that on August 31, 2016, the Tbilisi City Court held that the restrictions on the Guerilla Gardeners’ right to put up a tent in front of the administrative building of the Tbilisi City Hall on 25 August, 2016, were illegal.

The same position was expressed by the Public Defender regarding many facts in the past, when the demonstrators were not allowed to use tents, freestanding umbrellas or chairs. This indicates that in most cases the realization of freedom of assembly is artificially hampered by law enforcement agencies on the basis of arguments incompliance with law, which leads to the necessity for responding to similar cases and informing police officers of the relevant standards.

The Public Defender once again emphasizes that similar actions of the law enforcement agencies are incompatible with freedom of assembly and calls on the Minister of Internal Affairs to ensure respect for freedom of assembly by police officers and to timely react to the committed offenses in order reduce their reoccurrence in the future.

[1] Osce/odihr Panel of Experts on the Freedom of Assembly, Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, Warsaw/Strasbourg 2010, Par. 18-19, pg. 30-31. See also the decision of the Administrative Cases Panel of the Tbilisi City Court of August 31, 2016, in the case №3/6463–16, pg. 10.

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