Investigation into the 20th June events creates perception of selective approach
For several weeks now, the Central Criminal Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs has been investigating the incident that took place during the rally held outside Parliament on 20-21 June 2019 on the grounds of organisation of and participation in group violence. As of today, the following persons have been charged: Georgian MP Nika Melia, whose pre-trial restrictions include bail and a number of other measures; politician Irakli Okruashvili and 17 people who have been placed in pre-trial detention.According to the General Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia, an investigation is also under way into concrete instances of the use of excessive force by the police during the rally dispersal, although only two police officers have been charged so far.
Unfortunately, the steps that the state has taken to date have failed to gain public trust with regard to impartiality and objectivity of the investigation, namely:
- The requests for pre-trial detention submitted by the Prosecutor’s Office are mainly formulaic and based on nothing but general reasoning.
- As of today, 19 protesters and only two police officers have been indicted.
- The steps taken by the investigative agencies, in some cases, create a perception that, rather than serving a full and objective examination of the issue, they work to form a negative public opinion about the accused. For example, the video related to Bezhan Lortkipanidze’s case which was disseminated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and then the uncut video of the same incident disseminated by the media cause objective viewers to have different perceptions about what had happened.
It is clear that political or legal responsibility of all groups that participated in the events that unfolded on the night of 20-21 June should be established and assessed appropriately. There is no doubt that everyone is equal before the law, and legal response to all violations (whether committed by the protesters or the police) is necessary. However, such response must be based on strict adherence to the Constitution and the law, high standard of substantiation and maximum degree of public awareness. Against the background of the ongoing crisis, submitting formulaic requests and using pre-trial detention against the rally participants en massebased on unsubstantiated decisions – all that in parallel with the large-scale protest by independent groups of the public – rather points to the wish to exact vengeance on the part of the government. This assessment is made harsher by the fact that, to this day, with the exception of two cases, the public has not received a comprehensive response concerning real measures carried out against police officers who acted violently on 20-21 June; specifically, all the police officers who violated the law have not yet been identified and indicted. In addition, the minister of internal affairs has not assumed political responsibility and the systemic problems that surfaced during the dispersal of the rally have not been analysed and understood either.
Transparency International Georgia
Georgian Democracy Initiative
Human Rights Center
Article 42 of the Constitution
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy
Media Development Foundation
Center for Research Journalism and Economic Analysis
Human Rights and Monitoring Center
On 10 August, pre-trial detention was replaced by bail for one of the detainees, Bezhan Lortkipanidze, due to deterioration of health.