The non-governmental organizations are responding to the events of March 21 in Marneuli, where activists of the “Movement for Georgia” together with the local population have demonstratively violated the restriction of movement at 21:00. Shotly after the noted demonstration the government began to actively contact activists and call them in for questioning within the framework of a criminal prosecution due to the repeated violation of the curfew. The fact that most of the cases have not been investigated for months and that investigation has resumed only after March 21 protests raises legitimate suspicions that the government will use criminal sanctions as punitive measures aimed at quelling citizens’ protests.
We have repeatedly stated that the government is trying to restrict freedom of expression under the pretext of protecting public health, but this time it is especially alarming that we are dealing with the threat of the restriction of freedom of movement of citizens and initiations of criminal prosecutions.
It is noteworthy that the activists decided to hold the demonstration after authorities have failed to consider the request of ethnic Azerbaijani citizens and did not lift the curfew for the night of Nowruz Bayram. We believe this decision to be inconsistent and, moreover, discriminatory against ethnic minorities. The government could have made an exception, especially since regulations are to be eased in connection with the football match of March 28, 2021, and as restrictions were also lifted, for example, on the night of January 1. It is noteworthy that the discriminatory approach was taken by the authorities before as well, as travel restrictions were lifted when Georgian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas Day (January 7), but not on the date of December 25.
It is unfortunate that the government continues to discriminate against minority groups, although even more disturbing is the fact that in response to protests against the latter, the government is threatening to prosecute civil activists.
We call on the Georgian authorities not to go beyond the constitutional framework, to stop the unequal treatment of their citizens and not to use criminal mechanisms against the civil activists based on the protests expressed during rallies and manifestations.
- Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
- Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF)
- Media Development Foundation (MDF)
- Union “Sapari” (HRHT)
- Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
- The Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC)
- Institute for Democracy and Safe Development (IDSD)
- Human Rights Center (HRC)
- Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia)
- Rights Georgia (RG)
- Democracy Reporting International Georgia (DRI)
- International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
- Rehabilitation Initiative for Vulnerable Groups NGO (RIVG)
- Atlantic Council of Georgia