For the past several days, the Georgian public has been expressing consolidated and strong protest against the occupation and the use of excessive force to disperse the rally by the government. The public’s unanimous position has already produced certain results, and Georgian Dream has taken steps in response to the demands of the protest rally participants. It is a welcome development that two demands posed by the protest rally participants have effectively been satisfied, although three others still remain to be met.
As it is known, the organisers and participants of the rally, including civil society representatives, have posed several demands: 1. resignation of the Parliament Speaker; 2. resignation of the minister of internal affairs; 3. immediate release of detainees; 4. unbiased investigation of the rally dispersal process; and 5. holding the next parliamentary elections based entirely on the system of proportional representation.
We consider the resignation of the Parliament Speaker, whose actions/inaction largely sparked the public protest to be an important development. At the same time, reports have been disseminated about Irakli Kobakhidze’s possible nomination to the Constitutional Court, which, if confirmed, would mean that the legitimate public protest will have been ignored.
We also welcome the ruling team’s decision to hold the next parliamentary elections based entirely on the system of proportional representation. The proportional system with a so-called natural barrier (0.67 percent) is the best option to ensure political diversity and that the voters’ will is translated into parliamentary mandates. It should be noted here, however, that such a low barrier, as a rule, complicates the formation of the parliamentary majority and the government and increases the risk of fragmentation of political parties. We would also remind the public that the Venice Commission’s recommendation that the barrier in the proportional system should be preferably set at 3-5 percent.
Despite meeting some of the demands, the one for the resignation of the minister of internal affairs has not yet been satisfied. According to the disseminated reports, the Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into the use of excessive force by the law enforcers, while the Ministry of Internal Affairs suspended 10 law enforcers after an investigation; in two of these cases, the materials were sent to the Prosecutor’s Office as they contained elements of crime. It is our opinion that, along with the legal responsibility of rank-and-file law enforcers, it is important that there is also a political responsibility assumed with regard to the irregularities committed during the rally [dispersal], which should unequivocally be taken by the minister of internal affairs. Both local and international organisations are talking about the use of excessive force during the rally dispersal. Hundreds of people were harmed in the process of the rally dispersal, including journalists. This is precisely why it is important that the government does not leave this unfortunate outcome without an appropriate response.
Some of those detained during the rally still remain in the pre-trial detention facility. We believe that the detainees were unable to exercise their right to the fair trial: the consideration of their cases was expedited, the detainees were not given an opportunity to present corresponding evidence, and, in most cases, the judges ruled on penalties based only on the testimony of a single law enforcer. We would like to underscore that those indicted must be allowed to fully exercise their rights at least in the Court of Appeals, since they did not have this opportunity in the court of first instance. In addition, it is important that the state provides the detainees with full medical assistance if needed.
It is noteworthy that, during the protest rallies that are being held in the country, the “anonymous” Facebook pages which have been discrediting rally participants and organisers have once again stepped up their activities. Such methods should be abandoned.
We hope that the government will meet the remaining demands and offer an appropriate response to the legitimate protest of the public.
Transparency International Georgia (TIG)
Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS)
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
UN Association of Georgia (UNAG)
Media Development Foundation (MDF)
Society and Banks
Business and Economic Centre (BEC)
Open Society Georgia Foundation
Partnership for Human Rights (PHR)
Atlantic Council of Georgia
Voice from Georgia
Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC)