Public Defender's Statement on Tbilisi State University Yesterday Developments
On March 14, 2016, representatives of the Public Defender's Office were observing two protest events and following developments throughout the day and late at night at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University. It is unfortunate that in some cases there have been cases of violence, though police and university security officers could not prevent these facts or have an effective response to them.
On March 14 in the first building of the University there were 3 cases of interference with the journalists' professional activities. According to the journalists, the perpetrators were the students supporting the university self-government. In particular, one of the participants of the self-government protest event caught "Liberal" journalist Sopho Gogishvili and tried to knock her down; seized her phone and deleted her recorded footage. Later the journalist got back her phone. The camera of another journalist of "Liberal", Mamuka Mgaloblishvili, was thrown down so that it was damaged. "Netgazeti" journalist Giorgi Diasamidze’s telephone, by which he was recording the ongoing events, was taken away by some people, while a security officer urged him to leave the area. According to the journalists, despite the fact that the university guards and police officers were nearby, they did not take effective measures to prevent violence.
Interference with journalistic activities took place at a time when a large group of young people, including masked men, entered the university's first building from the second building through a tunnel that caused a disturbance in the processes. According to reports, the mentioned group of people joined members of the self-government. Representatives of the Public Defender’s Office were informed that one of the students, D. Kh., was beaten. It should be noted that at that time entry in the building was limited. Therefore, it needs to be established how the above-mentioned people managed to enter the building and who was responsible for the entry control.
In their conversations with the Public Defender's representatives a number of protesters indicated at inactivate and ineffective actions of police offices. Two parallel protests required special mobilization and attention from the police. In similar processes, verbal communication between police officers and protesters is important, in order to explain certain issues and deliver correct messages for prevention of further escalation of the situation.
It is necessary both the police and university guard to ensure equal treatment of participants of both protests, including in terms of entry and movement in the building. Restriction on the entry in the building must be justified and a proportionate measure and it should not lead to the restriction of freedom of assembly.
In cases of violence it is necessary to make appropriate responses and punish perpetrators. I appeal to the relevant authorities to take adequate measures. Investigation should ascertain whether the police and university security officers duly performed their official duties. I call on the protesters to refrain from violence and not to allow any provocations.
It is important that students have been protesting and demanding implementation of changes in the system for several days. Relevant authorities must get interested in the mentioned issue and take appropriate steps within their competences.
"As a Public Defender, I express my personal interest in the operation of the so-called “ODR” in the university and I plan to use every tool to study the legality of this situation. At the same time, I express my readiness to get involved into the process of improvement of the higher education legislation in order to prevent unfair or unequal treatment of students or existence of a harmful situation of their rights and legal interests”.
The Public Defender's Office of Georgia continues to closely observe the ongoing processes.