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Georgia: Police must be held accountable for its 'punishment operation' against protesters

© Mirian Meladze/Anadolu via Getty Images

In response to the police in Georgia violently dispersing an overwhelmingly peaceful demonstration in Tbilisi, where protestors rallied against the controversial “foreign influence” bill, Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“What we witnessed in Tbilisi yesterday was a brutal retribution against people for exercising their right to protest peacefully.

“Instead of facilitating a peaceful demonstration, the police have carried out what appears to be a punishment operation. On several occasions, police were seen chasing and hitting fleeing protestors with truncheons, surrounding and beating them mercilessly while on the ground.

“The right to peaceful assembly is fundamental and we urge the authorities to conduct a swift, impartial and thorough investigation into all instances of force used, and accountability for those found responsible of unlawful use of force.

“We also reiterate our call to drop the ‘Transparency of Foreign Influence Bill’ which seeks to restrict the right to freedom of association and is clearly intended to smear and restrict independent civil society organisations and curb their activities.”

Brutal retribution

Tensions between peaceful protesters and police, which progressed throughout yesterday ended with law enforcement violently dispersing demonstrators by using unnecessary force without warning. Police officials were seen using tear gas and administering beatings, including against journalists.

At least two injuries have so far been reported: an employee of the Interior Ministry and a cameraman from Rustavi 2 TV, who inhaled tear gas. According to officials, police detained 11 people, citing violations of public order. Secretary General of the opposition party LELO, Irakli Kupradze, is reported to be among those detained.

Amid the unrest, Parliament delayed voting on the “Transparency of Foreign Influence Bill”, rescheduling the consideration for today (17 April).  

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