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8 Georgian NGOs protect people arrested during Russian law protests

8 Georgian non-governmental organizations continue to protect the rights of those arrested during the protests against the "Russian law" during the April-May period.

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Georgia: 8 Georgian non-governmental organizations continue to protect the rights of those arrested during the protests against the “Russian law” during the April-May period.

From April 15 to May 9, the hotline of non-governmental organizations received messages about 134 arrested persons. All of them were detained under articles 166 (petty hooliganism) and 173 (disobedience to a police officer’s legal request). 

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As soon as they received the message on the hotline, the Georgian NGOs looked for the detainees and met them, describing the facts of their rights violations and explaining their rights.

At the moment, find out the following problematic tendencies:

  • The problem is receiving information about the location of the detainees on time.
  • The detainee has the right to inform his family or lawyer about his whereabouts as soon as he is arrested. 
  • Despite this, most detainees could not communicate properly with family members or lawyers. 
  • After receiving information about the arrest, the attorneys spent the night “searching” for the detainees. 
  • Often, the location of detainees was only possible after visiting the site with different detainees, including detainees outside Tbilisi (Telavi, Mtskheta, Dusheti, Gori, Khashuri). 

Also, it was problematic to obtain information about the detainees who were taken to medical facilities instead of isolators due to their injuries.

Indefinite extension of detention period

The administrative detention was mostly a maximum of 48 hours based on template evidence. Usually, the template for extension of the detention included an indication only that an extension was needed to obtain additional evidence. However, the court heard that no further evidence was found during the period. 

Moreover, after almost 48 hours of detention, law enforcement agencies did not even take the detainees to court after they had expired. Most of the cases have been filed in court just now.

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Exaggeration of force by law enforcers during arrest

Alarmingly, the majority of those arrested were pointing to physical and verbal abuse by law enforcement during the arrest. Several detainees had to be treated in a medical facility due to the severity of their injuries. 

Information regarding these facts was provided to the Special Investigation Service, according to which an investigation has been launched into the possible violation of the power of violence against the protest participants. However, the result is not known so far. The NGO network protects up to 30 victims at this stage.

It should be noted that most of the detainees had various injuries, which they described as sustained by law enforcers during arrest.

Discussion of cases in court

At this time, the Ministry of Internal Affairs presented the cases of persons detained on April 16-17 to the Tbilisi Civil Court. Twelve cases have been completed in the Court of First Instance, in which lawyers of NGOs represent the interests of detainees. According to the existing results, the court found all persons to be administrative offenders and imposed quite strict sanctions on them. 

In particular, one person was sentenced to administrative detention (for five days), the most severe sanction in this case, while others were sentenced to fines ranging from 2000 to 2600 Gel. Only one person was given a verbal note. The total number of fines for now is 20,700 GEL.

The cases under consideration show that the judges, largely without any objective evidence, unlawfully ruled in favor of the participants in the peaceful demonstration. 

Moreover, in some cases, the detainees themselves presented video recordings that made it clear that they did not breach administrative law during the arrest. 

In addition, there were instances where law enforcement representatives’ explanations of those called as witnesses did not match the content of their own video recordings in court.

The NGO Legal Aid Network continues to protect the rights of those arrested during protests against Russian law.

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