Statement of the Public Defender Regarding Violation of Freedom of Assembly

The Public Defender of Georgia assesses yesterday’s incident as a violation of the right to freedom of assembly. During the incident policemen did not allow participants of a peaceful rally to gather in Heydar Aliyev Park.

Yesterday, on June 12, at 19.30, a manifestation of human rights activists was scheduled in Tbilisi, at Heydar Aliyev Park. Under the slogan “Sport for human rights”, rally participants planned to protest against fully-fledged human rights violations, detention and arrests of human rights activists in Azerbaijan. The demonstration was scheduled on the opening day of the European Games held in Baku, Azerbaijan. Information on the action was announced and disseminated, including on social media.

At the planned time, rally participants who arrived at the place, encountered a police line mobilized around Heydar Aliyev Park. According to the policemen, they were conducting a police event and could not allow the rally participants in the park. Despite being asked, they did not provide the protesters with information on legal grounds for such restrictions. They also did not explain what kind of police event was taking place there. The rally participants were forced to move to a farther area and hold the rally there. The police action was directly aimed not to allow the protesters to hold the rally on the territory of Heydar Aliyev Park. According to the rally organizers, policemen were intentionally preventing the participants who were identified by appropriate T-shirts/ banners from entering the park, while other persons were not prevented from doing so. Later, a representative of the Public Defender arrived at the place of the incident. Despite the lawful request, the policemen did not provide information to the Public Defender representative on a type and grounds of the police event, restriction of the place of assembly, by which they violated requirements of the Organic Law of Georgia on Public Defender.

The Constitution of Georgia, as well as international human rights standards, adheres to the right to freedom of assembly and manifestations. According to the Constitution, everyone has the right to public assembly without arms either indoors or outdoors without prior permission. A place is public in case the public has an equal access to it, and it includes parks and gardens. The authorities should always try to support holding of public gatherings in places selected by organizers if this is a public space that is usually accessible for the public. In the mentioned case, we have violation of negative obligation of the state - not to interfere and hinder the course of a rally until there is necessity for restrictions necessary for democratic society that is envisaged by the law and directed at benefits envisaged by the relevant article of the Constitution. It should be noted that in the above case the rally organizers did not have an obligation to notify local self-governing authorities in advance since in accordance with the Law of Georgia “On assemblage and manifestations” the above is an obligation only in case it hinders the work of public transport. Also, there were not pre-requisites envisaged by the law on restriction of place of assembly:

  1. the form, time, and place of an assemblage or a manifestation did not coincide with that of another assemblage or a manifestation;
  2. Conducted, the assemblage or manifestation did not cause a material danger to public safety and order, or constitutional rights and freedoms of other people.

Development of the above-mentioned events indicates to high probability that the actions of the policemen to prevent holding of the rally in Heydar Aliyev Park was planned at the top of the power vertical. I call on the Prosecution of Georgia to immediately start investigation of the above-mentioned events and pay special attention to examining at the time of which high-rank official/ high-rank officials was the above decision taken.

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