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28 People detained during rally dispersal outside parliament

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Wednesday, November 27
Police forces dispersed a picket action near the entrances of parliament on the morning of November 26. The demonstrators intended to prevent a parliamentary session. After the rally was dispersed, police officers were deployed at all entrances to parliament. Three people were injured and 28 were detained during the rally outside the Georgian parliament. They are charged with violations of Articles 173 and 166 of the Code of Administrative Offenses - hooliganism and disobedience to a law enforcement officer. This information was released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia.

Law enforcers warned rally organizers to move off the road. They gave the demonstrators a 30-minute deadline. After the warning, the protested moved onto the sidewalks. However, after the expiry of the deadline, the rally was broken up. Police units used water cannons against protesters.

“The protesters have been released within the period specified by the legislature, they blocked entrances. Consequently, the action went beyond the scope of the law on freedom of assembly and expression, in particular, the Law of Georgia on Assemblies and Manifestations, which prohibits the blocking of the entrances of the legislative body, as well as the blocking of the road, unless the need for such participation is met by the number of participants,” stated Interior Ministry.

Police urge citizens to comply with the requirements of the law and say they will respond appropriately to each offense.

Special Forces have been monitoring all the entrances to the Parliament since yesterday morning. The plenary sitting of Parliament was held despite the protest.

The parliament has approved candidates for top parliamentary posts yesterday after several MPs of the ruling Georgian Dream quit the party due to the rejection of the GD-proposed election reform bill on November 14. The opposition and independent MPs did not participate in the voting, despite the address of the chairman of the parliament Archil Talakvadze, asking them to return to the parliamentary process and present their arguments to the public in the form of plenary/committee discussions.

GD MP Gia Volski has been approved as the first vice-speaker of parliament, while fellow MPs of the same party Mamuka Mdinaradze and Giorgi Kakhiani as deputy chairs of parliament.

Genadi Margvelashvili has become the head of parliament’s Education Committee, David Songhulashvili will chair the Euro Integration Committee and Irakli Beraia – the Committee of Foreign Relations.

The Institute for Democracy Research believes that the force used to disperse peaceful protesters outside parliament early on November 26 was out of proportion.

According to the organization, the restriction of protesters’ freedom of assembly and expression at dawn on November 26, which resulted in the violent dispersal of the rally, did not serve to safeguard the constitutionally enshrined goods of the country, was not proportionally restrictive and necessary for a democratic society.

The organization also criticizes the political officials’ positive assessment of the dissolution operation:

“The Institute for Democracy Research once again points out that high-level political appraisal of the disproportionate use of force by the Interior Ministry can be perceived as directly sanctioning violence and calls for greater accountability.”

According to the organization’s statement, the forceful dismantling of citizens’ assemblies has acquired systematic character, which is an important step backward on the road of the country’s democratic development.

Police also dispersed the rally outside the Parliament entrance on November 18, using water cannon, and arrested 37.

Civic activists and opposition parties have launched protests after parliament failed to approve a constitutional amendment initiated by the Georgian Dream on November 14, which stipulated that the 2020 elections would be proportional.

Public Defender Nino Lomjaria commented about police taking away firewood and barrels from protesters on Facebook, saying that the right to assemble and manifest is illegally restricted by the police.

She explained that to ensure the peaceful nature of assemblies, the law generally prohibits the possession of easily explosive, flammable substances and/or harmful objects. However, in 2014, the Constitutional Court of Georgia explained that the law does not prohibit the use of specific items or substances, but only in case actions of the assembly members create a reasonable suspicion that they will be used to harm people.

“Since we have not heard the explanation of the police why the protesters are deprived of these items, we believe that the police actions constitute an unlawful restriction on the right to assemble,” wrote Lomjaria.