Update (05/02/2023) : Akaki Chikobava and Giorgi Khasaia, who had been detained on criminal charges, were granted bail by the Tbilisi City Court, each set at 3,000 GEL.
The signatory organizations demand the immediate release of activists Nata Peradze, Giorgi Khasaia, and Akaki Chikobava.
On February 2, 2024, the court sentenced activist Nata Peradze to an administrative detainment for five days. On January 9, Peradze, as a protest performance, poured the paint on the image of the Soviet dictator – Stalin. The activist herself distributed the footage of the performance on the social network.
Freedom of expression plays a vital role in building a democratic society. Therefore, assessing the manner of protest should only be the subject of public discussion or debate by civil society circles. Detention for such performances is disproportionate and an unacceptable response.
Nata Peradze was detained per Article 166.2 of the Administrative Offences Code of Georgia. The mentioned article provides an alternative measure – a fine of 500 GEL. It is difficult to justify what legitimate aim was pursued to apply such a severe sanction instead. The court did not take into account the content of the protest, its non-violent nature, and the fact that Peradze’s performance did not prevent others from enjoying their rights.
Regrettably, the Georgian government using disproportionate measures against activists and human rights defenders has become the trend. Yet again, current events demonstrate the state’s active effort to stifle freedom of expression by applying administrative detentions against protest participants.
Activists Akaki Chikobava and Giorgi Khasaia were subjected to disproportionate sanctions, too. On January 23, 2024, activists and media representatives gathered in Tbilisi to protest the violent and unjust nature of the eviction of the family from the apartment. Twenty persons were arrested, and criminal prosecution was initiated against two of them – Akaki Chikobava and Giorgi Khasaia. The court decided on pre-trial detention for both as a preventive measure. On February 2, the appeals court upheld the decision.
Georgia has undertaken many international obligations to ensure freedom of expression, including under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Convention commands the member states to guide with the principle of proportionality before deciding on the sentence and to take into account the content of the specific act of expression and its purpose – especially if it refers to the protection of human rights, democracy, and the restoration of justice.
While assessing various performances and expressions, the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly emphasized the vital importance that local courts justify the appropriateness and proportionality of the punishment (see.: Tatar and Faber v. Hungary, Murat Vural v. Turkey). Moreover, the court found that criminal prosecution and detainment for such protests have a chilling effect and can be considered a disproportionate interference with freedom of expression in a democratic society (see.: Marina Alekhina and others v. Russia ).
- Human Rights House Tbilisi
- Human Rights Center
- Rights Georgia
- Media Institute
- Georgian Center for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims