DRI: The Tbilisi City Court ruling against persons detained at November 9 rally is unjustified

Observers of the Democracy Research Institute (DRI) monitored the trials of civil activists detained near the Parliament of Georgia on November 9, 2020 - Alexi Machavariani, Nodar Rukhadze and Giorgi Mzhavanadze.

According to the observers, the following shortcomings were identified during the consideration of the case on its merits:

Low burden of proof and insufficient standards of the protection of rights

The video footage provided by the patrol police as evidence only covered the period of time that showed the detention of the civil activists. The footage did not explicitly show the offences indicated in the arrest protocols, in particular, petty hooliganism, disobedience to the lawful request of the police and abuse of police officers. The patrol inspectors, without any reason, had not filmed the factual circumstances relevant to the case by their body cameras, in particular, the actions that led to the arrest of the activists. The recordings of body cameras provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs only showed the process of transporting the detainees by car, which had nothing to do with the offences.

Sharing contradictory and inconsistent evidence by the court

The inconsistent and superficial testimonies of the law enforcers questioned at the trial did not correspond to the chain of events depicted in the video footage.

In the case of Alexi Machavariani, the court considered several pieces of firewood as dangerous items provided for in Article 11 (2) (b) of the Law of Georgia on Assemblies and Manifestations, which, according to the court, could be used to harm the lives and health of protesters or other persons. The mentioned decision was based, according to the court, on the recent misuse of firewood by individual protesters, in particular against police officers.

The Tbilisi City Court found all three detainees guilty and imposed the following penalties on them: Alexi Machavariani and Nodar Rukhadze were fined GEL 1,000 and GEL 1,500 respectively, while Giorgi Mzhavanadze was sentenced to 3 days of administrative detention.

The judge ignored Giorgi Mzhavanadze's statement about ill-treatment by the police

At the trial, Giorgi Mzhavanadze accused patrol inspectors of the use of disproportionate force and physical abuse, which, according to the lawyers, was being investigated by the State Inspector's Office. However, judge Tamar Meshveliani did not show interest in the details of the alleged ill-treatment of Giorgi Mzhavanadze, as she considered that this had nothing to do with the subject of the dispute and that the details were to be established by the investigation, whereas it was the responsibility of the judge to respond to the above.