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NGOs Reveal Violations during Police Raids in Tbilisi Nightclubs

By Tea Mariamidze
Tuesday, July 24
Two major Georgian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs),Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) and Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC),have prepared a report regarding the May 12, 2018 police raids in Tbilisi nightclubs Bassiani and Gallery Tbilisi, saying they revealed some violations in the search process.

GYLA and EMC claim that the May 12 police raid, taking into consideration the time, forms and intensity, was one of the largest-scale police operations in recent years.

“The appearance of a large number of police officers, including armed police in Tbilisi nightclubs, frightened people on the spot and created an impression of demonstrating the repressive power of the state,” the report says.

According to the organizations, on May 10, 2018, the Tbilisi City Court issued a permit to conduct search in nightclubs. GYLA and EMC claim that the court did not specifywhy the police was allowed to conduct search in nightclubs, which is one of the essential requisites of the ruling.

"The purpose of the police entry was unclear, having detained 7 drug dealers before entering the clubs,” said the report.

The NGOs say according to the Georgian legislation, search during night hours is admissible only in case of urgent necessity but on May 12, both searches were conducted during night hours and the urgent necessity of the search was not mentioned in the court permit.

The authors of the report consider the use of the Special Forces in the search process was not necessary as there was no information about the potential threat in nightclubs.

EMC and GYLA say that the police were distinguished with aggression against people who were gathered in the area surrounding the club Bassiani.

In addition, the report underlines that the police forcibly dispersed the peaceful rally, held at Bassiani right after the raid.

“The law enforcement officers arrested more than 40 persons in administrative proceedings, including the potential leaders and organizers of the demonstration at Bassiani. Some of the detainees indicated the use of disproportionate use of force by the police,” the report reads.

The NGOs give several recommendations in their report:

• The Prosecutor's Office should start an investigation in possible facts of illegal personal searches on the internal perimeter of the club Bassian on May 12;
• The court should pay attention to standards of searches.
• The Ministry of Internal Affairs should provide additional staff training for negotiations with participants or organizers of peaceful rallies.
• The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor's Office should publicize the results of ongoing investigations into the deaths from over-dozing of drugs and provide additional information on the results of the massive police action on May 12;
• The parliament should adopt the new drug policy as soon as possible.

Law enforcers started a special operation in two clubs at about 1 am on May 12. According to MIA, 8 persons were detained for drug trafficking, but later the ministry confirmed only one person was detained in the club's territory and the rest were arrested before the raids.

The police actions were followed by large-scale protest rallies in the capital but they were suspended after the Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia vowed to adopt more liberal drug policy in near future.