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Rights Groups Call for Probe into Protest Break Up
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 6 Jan.'11 / 17:04

A group of human rights advocacy and watchdog groups appealed on Thursday to the Interior Minister and Chief Prosecutor to launch a probe into “illegal” dispersal by the police of a protest on Heroes Square on January 3.

The joint appeal, which is mainly in line with those of earlier statements by the Public Defender and Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), spells out in details legal arguments to support the claim that the break up of the rally, which in itself was held in compliance of the law, was illegal. The appeal says that the police actions, involving physical and verbal insult of protesters, were in violation of article 161 of the criminal code dealing with cases of obstructing rallies through illegal use of force and violence.

The appeal was signed by up to dozen of civil society organizations, including GYLA; Human Rights Center;  International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED); Transparency International-Georgia; Open Society-Georgia Foundation (OSGF); Article 42 of Constitution; Multinational Georgia; Association Justice and Liberty; Georgian Legion; Levan Mikeladze Foundation; Media Club; the appeal was also joined by the Georgian weekly magazine Liberali.

On January 5, the opposition Georgian Party appealed the prosecutor’s office to investigate and “to punish” a policeman who punched the Georgian Party activist during dispersal of the protest on January 3. The Interior Ministry said on January 5, that it had dismissed that policeman for violating police code of ethics.

Public Defender, Giorgi Tugushi, said in a statement that dismissal of that policeman was “a positive decision”, but added that there were other circumstances which needed to be addressed in connection to the January 3 protest rally break up. He said that it was necessary to find out what was, if any, legal reasoning of the police behind demanding from the protesters to cease the rally; who inflicted bodily injuries to two detained protesters – total of 11 people were arrested; they were released next day after being fined) and why plainclothes interior ministry employees were involved in the break up of the protest.
 
“It is necessary to assess the circumstances around the abovementioned fact in order to determine whether a concrete criminal offence was committed,” the Public Defender said.

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