The Eastern European Coalition for LGBT+ Equality and the Swedish Federation for LGBTQI Rights (RFSL) are appalled by the violent events that unfolded in Tbilisi on 5 July and call on the Georgian authorities to investigate the attacks perpetrated against journalists and peaceful bystanders, ensure the safety and security of LGBT activists and community members and fulfill the positive obligation of protecting the Constitutional right to freedom of peaceful assembly guaranteed to all Georgians.
On 5 July, several groups of violent individuals, galvanised by far-right groups and the Georgian Orthodox Church, organised a demonstration aiming at preventing the March for Dignity from taking place later the same day. The demonstration started in the morning hours and very quickly escalated into a violent assault on journalists and peaceful bystanders. The mob also broke into the office of Tbilisi Pride and vandalised the premises. Attacks were later perpetrated against several other civil society offices, including Human Rights House, Sapari, and the political movement Shame.
Police on the scene were not equipped with riot gear and failed to take active measures to disperse the violent crowd and prevent acts of aggression. Moreover, the Ministry of Interior made a statement requesting that Tbilisi Pride cancel the March for Dignity, at the same time as the Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili called the planned pride march ’’unreasonable’’ and stated that it was organised by ’’radical opposition’’. A similar statement was made by the chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Irakli Kobakhidze.
Under the circumstances of unhinged violence and the outspoken lack of political will to protect the peaceful assembly of LGBT people, Tbilisi Pride announced the cancellation of the Pride march. The attacks that continued throughout the day left more than 50 representatives of mass media injured – some of them requiring surgical interventions. Three bystanders were attacked for a perceived varying physical appearance, including a tourist, who was stabbed and required hospitalisation. Only eight persons were detained, facing administrative charges.
The events that unfolded on 5 July can only be compared to the level of violence on 17 May, 2013. Not unlike eight years ago, the state failed to take preventative measures despite the fact that both the far-right groups and the Georgian Orthodox Church had pre-announced the counter-demonstration and the Pride organisers had, together with human rights organisations and representatives of diplomatic corps, appealed to the Ministry of Interior to take adequate security measures.
It is clear that despite years of active work on the part of LGBT movements in Georgia, as well as successful litigation in the European Court for Human Rights and the Georgian government’s official commitment to protect and promote human rights, the rights of LGBT people, their freedom of assembly and manifestation still face significant challenges. These attacks on the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are a threat to the Georgian democracy.
We call on the Georgian authorities to:
- Without delay, ensure proper investigation of all instances of attacks on journalists and peaceful bystanders on 5 July;
- Increase security measures to prevent instances of retaliation and/or sporadic attacks on individuals based on their gender expression and real or presumed to belong to the LGBT community;
- Uphold Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 17 of the Constitution of Georgia and ensure the safety and security of journalists enabling them to safely perform their duties;
- Uphold the positive obligations under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 21 of the Constitution of Georgia to ensure the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and manifestation by LGBT people;
We call on the international community to:
- Hold the Georgian government accountable and call for a quick and efficient investigation of the violent acts perpetrated on 5 July;
- Make sure that rights of LGBT people and other vulnerable groups are not optional in programs supporting reforms in Georgia, especially in regard to rule of law and access to justice.
Links for further reading:
A joint statement including Sweden: https://ge.usembassy.gov/joint-statement-on-violence-in-tbilisi/?fbclid=IwAR2zMyj0MBIsoZuYvsBI_fI3rk6cU8Sji4aaGvCVe6bQgWYA11T_urcux_0