Public Defender’s Statement on Batumi Developments

The Public Defender of Georgia expresses concern about the events developed in the city of Batumi last night. It is the Government's obligation to answer all questions as a result of thorough investigation.

Freedom of assembly is a fundamental human right and the state shall ensure realization of this right, though the 11 March developments went beyond the framework of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and turned into a controversy, which might include signs of criminal offenses and administrative violations.

Representatives of the Adjara Division of the Public Defender's Office were observing the developments on the ground all night long. They immediately visited all six detainees, who were arrested for resisting the legitimate demands of the police before the start of the large-scale rally. It is important that none of them have said anything about physical violence or verbal abuse by police officers.

It is a pity that the rally, which began peacefully, turned into violence, as a result of which people were injured, while vehicles and property were destroyed. The Public Defender strongly condemns similar forms of vandalism. During expression of protest, citizens should remember that their actions should not damage other people's human rights or threaten other people's lives, health or property.

It should also be noted that despite the fact that police used tear gas and rubber bullets, large-scale violence could not be prevented. The developments showed the need for analyzing the capacities of the country's security services and law enforcement system to timely and effectively overcome similar crises and whether there was an effective response plan to prevent these developments or defuse the extremely tense situation.

The Public Defender calls on the law enforcement agencies to conduct a thorough and effective investigation in order to identify offenders and bring them to justice. The authorities must use all legal means to protect the security of citizens and to punish violators. In addition, it should be investigated whether there had been legal basis for the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by police and whether there had been cases of abuse of power.

It should also be investigated whether the violent actions and confrontation were the result of a spontaneous protest rally or it was a planned process. The Government is obliged to provide convincing answers to the abovementioned questions as a result of effective and comprehensive investigation. In addition, it is unacceptable to politicize the existing situation and make it a subject of political manipulations.

The Public Defender calls on the Prime Minister to study the shortcomings in preventing crises and ensuring security by the law enforcement agencies.

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