NGOs released a statement over the violent incident on March 11 between the local population and law enforcers in Georgia’s Black Sea city of Batumi, Adjara, which left over 40 people detained and 33 injured. The incident also left the city's infrastructure and dozens of cars heavily damaged.
Police acted in the frames of law
By Tea Mariamidze
Tuesday, March 14
The NGOs believe that the police acted within the law when they tried to defuse the situation.
“The Constitution of Georgia ensures the right of peaceful manifestation. However, when the behavior of the protesters is no longer peaceful, the protest moves beyond the boundaries of the right of manifestation and the police has duty to restore public order and suppressing violent acts through the proportionate use of force,” the statement of the NGOs reads.
The third sector says that a number of organized groups started to vandalize property and deliberately escalated the situation.
“Derogatory statements on ethnic, religious and regional affiliation were publicly voiced by the protesters. The government should look into the motives and political affiliations of the organized groups, in an effort to ensure public order and due reflection on the political and social factors of the incident,” the NGOs stated.
The third sector believes that the Ministry of Internal Affairs does not have an effective strategy for ensuring safety during manifestations and as a result the violent and illegal actions of specific organized groups became widespread during the protest. However, they added that the circulated information on the disproportionate use of force by the police has not been confirmed.
The NGOs also released a number of recommendations towards the government, police, political parties and citizens of Georgia.
“The reaction time and lawfulness of the government in response to the incident should be swiftly and independently assessed and any identified issues should be resolved based on the findings. The source of the public discontent should be thoroughly studied and the government should search and find out the possibility that the events were orchestrated and not simply spontaneous,” the recommendations to the government say.
Moreover, the NGOs called on the law enforcement agencies to timely and thoroughly investigate the incident and protect the rights of the detained.
The third sector also urged the political parties to refrain from making any statement, which may even indirectly be justifying violence, can increase the risk of violent confrontations.
Georgia’s Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili, also commented on the Batumi developments, saying it is the Government's obligation to answer all outstanding questions as a result of a thorough investigation.
“It is a pity that the rally, which began peacefully, turned violent, as a result of which people were injured, and vehicles and property were destroyed. The Public Defender strongly condemns similar forms of vandalism. During expression of protest, citizens should remember that their actions should not damage other people's human rights or threaten other people's lives, health or property,” Nanuashvili stated.
The Public Defender called on the Prime Minister to study the shortcomings in preventing crises and ensuring security by the law enforcement agencies.
The Minister of Internal Affairs, Giorgi Mgebrishvili stated that at present, only seven people remain in pre-trial detention.
“The investigation is ongoing and all offenders people involved in the vandalism will be punished strictly. At this stage, seven people are detained under the administrative rule. The others have been released. However, administrative proceedings are still underway against them. We should wait for the end of the investigation,” Mgebrishvili stated.
The clashes between the law enforcers and Batumi locals allegedly started with a verbal conflict between the patrol police and several locals for traffic violations. After the police arrested six people, this led to a larger protest and around hundred locals gathered at the police department, asking for the release of the detained and the resignation of the police chief.
As reported by the Georgian media, the protesters were extremely aggressive, and threw stones at the police building and officers and damaged nearby cars and infrastructure.
Later, special police units disrupted the rally with tear gas and rubber bullets and arrested around 40 offenders. However, after the request of Adjara Government head Zurab Pataridze, all the detained, except several major offenders, were released until the issue is thoroughly investigated in order to avoid further tension.
Now the situation in Batumi is calm; however, police units are still present at the site of the incident.