Democracy Research Institute (DRI) publishes its second monitoring report on rallies

Monitors of the Democracy Research Institute observed 8 rallies of political content, which were organized by political parties and civil movements in Tbilisi from February 1 to February 29.

The number of protests held in February was lower compared to January.

The rallies organized by opposition parties and civil movements were mostly peaceful and remained within law. No one was detained during the February rallies and therefore, monitors did not observe any trial.

In several cases, the number of law enforcement officers was significantly higher than the number of demonstrators. Monitors of the Democracy Research Institute noticed a group of people in plain clothes in the vicinity of rallies several times, whose frequent and direct communication with law enforcement officers raised a suspicion that they were also representatives of the law enforcement agencies.

During the February protests, citizens and persons with special entry permits were restricted from entering the building of the Parliament of Georgia. Citizens have not been allowed by officers of the Special State Protection Service to enter the Parliament building three times.

According to the monitors of the Democracy Research Institute, the rallies held in February, given their peaceful nature and the number of people involved, did not create any danger, which would make it necessary to restrict entry into the Parliament building for the purpose of protecting the goodness of law. The absence of danger was also proved by the fact that the officers of the Special State Protection Service did not know what the grounds for the restrictions were.  

Given that there was no real or specific danger to public safety/order, the Democracy Research Institute considers that there were no legal grounds for restricting the persons with special permits to enter the Parliament building and the restriction was a disproportionate measure.

In one of the cases, on February 18, to keep order during the assembly in front of the business center of Bidzina Ivanishvili, Chairman of the Georgian Dream political party, law enforcement officers used a police measure – full blockage of a road leading to public space, which was not necessary or proportionate in its nature, since the police could freely achieve its likely aim of "public safety" by other, less restrictive means.[1] It is important to note, that on another occasion, on February 25, when the second rally was held in front of business center, the police did no longer block the part of the tunnel, which is an entrance to the Tbilisi Botanical Garden on the one hand and Bidzina Ivanishvili’s business center on the other hand.

Monitoring of the protests also highlighted the importance of raising public awareness of the law on assemblies and demonstrations. At certain rallies, demonstrators put up posters and photos on public buildings, painted sidewalks and even tried to symbolically set fire to an item, although no real threat of an unlawful effect has been created in any of these cases.

The full text of the report