Public Defender Echoes Restriction of Placement of Tent by Protesters
The Public Defender of Georgia echoes the incident when law enforcement officers prevented participants in a rally ongoing in front of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture from putting up a tent in the yard or vicinity of the Ministry. The participants in the rally could only place a small tent outside the yard and cover it with cellophane to protect themselves from the rain. At night, law enforcement officers did not allow the participants in the rally to cover the cellophane part of the tent with a blanket.
The Public Defender, based on the explanations of the Constitutional Court of Georgia, common courts of Georgia and the European Court of Human Rights, emphatically points out that forms of expression include the possibility of erecting tents and other types of constructions. Participants in the assembly have a guaranteed right to publicly and peacefully express their opinion in the part of the territory and in the form they consider appropriate. In addition, it is allowed to express opinion not only by talking or making statements, but also by silent form or by erecting temporary constructions (including a tent), if this does not contradict the legislation in force.
It should be noted that expressing protest in an intense form is often the only or most effective way to attract the attention of the authorities and/or the public. Any assembly in a public place may cause a certain level of disruption to ordinary life, however, this cannot justify interference with the right. Therefore, when there is a peaceful assembly, the State should show a certain degree of tolerance towards it. As for the place of the assembly, it should be emphasized that any decision should be based on a fair balance between the proper functioning of institutions and the freedom of assembly guaranteed for each individual by law, and such restrictions should not be blanket in nature. When making a decision, it is important to ensure that the responsible agencies take into account the circumstances related to the assembly (including the location of the building of the Ministry, the size of the territory, climatic conditions) and the public interest.
It should be noted that according to the participants in the rally, no one has informed them of the specific grounds for interfering with their right to assembly. Even the Public Defender does not know on what grounds the participants in the assembly were restricted from placing their tents in the yard of the Ministry or in the vicinity of it; it is also not clear why they were not allowed to use a blanket.
The Public Defender of Georgia once again calls upon the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia and the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia to ensure the freedom of peaceful assembly of persons protesting near the premises of the Ministry and not to impose restrictions not provided for by human rights standards.