Statement on the specific cases of threats and insults against activists and human rights defenders

Update (17.03.2022)

Another activist was threatened in Marneuli after this statement was published. On March 14, civil activist Samira Bairamova protested the opening of the office of the “Conservative Movement” party founded by pro-Russian, violent “Alt-Info” in Marneuli and painted Ukrainian and EU flags on the facade of their office.
The civil protest carried out by Samira Bairamova was followed by the threat of aggressive members of “Alt Info”. – Samira received death threats in private messages, and on March 16, members of the “Conservative Movement” released a video in which they openly threatened Samira Bairamova and spoke with aggressive, homophobic texts. In the video, party members said they perceived the painting over the party symbols as an insult to religious symbols and called on ethnic Azerbaijanis to “silence” Samira Bairamova and avoid as they perceive the “religious confrontation”.
We demand that the authorities protect Samira Bairamova and other activists from the apparent threat in Georgia, as well as respond appropriately to the openly aggressive, threatening texts of aggressive groups operating in Georgia, and investigate and prosecute members of these groups.

The state is obliged to protect the legitimate activities of human rights defenders, including the activities of minority human rights defenders and women activists. We call on the authorities to immediately and effectively investigate the specific cases of threats and insults against activists and human rights defenders.

The signatory organizations are concerned about the instances of harassment and assault against human rights defenders. We are witnessing organized campaigns against activists, especially women and minority human rights defenders.

An example of this is the statements made by pro-Russian, aggressive “Alt-Info”. “Alt-Info”, which is known for its hate speech and homophobic statements, registered the political party “Conservative Movement” on December 7, 2021. The leaders of this party have repeatedly stated openly that they consider themselves an ally of Russia and want to integrate Georgia into the systems operating in the interests of Moscow. Last week, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and unprecedented military aggression, the party was denied office space in various parts of Georgia due to its open pro-Russian course.

Particularly disturbing are the openly threatening statements made by one of the leaders of the “Conservative Movement”, Konstantin Morgoshia. He threatened the owner of the office space in Khulo, Dato Solomonidze, Khulo activists and people who protested against renting an office for this party in Khulo, including members of organization “Solidarity Community”.

The state should also pay attention to the organized persecution and harassment of bloggers and supporters of the Facebook platform “Pəncərə/Window” carried out by radical groups, public servants, and religious organizations. Attacks of this sort interfere with the activities of human rights defenders and serve as a clear indication of the rising and dangerous trend in this direction in the country.

“Pəncərə/Window” is a Georgian-Azerbaijani platform founded by the women’s feminist organization Sapari. Its aim is to promote the integration of ethnic Azerbaijani citizens into society. The platform allows young representatives of the Azerbaijani community to discuss and cover relevant issues, including women’s empowerment, activism, raising awareness about human rights.

We call on the Georgian authorities to respond immediately to stop this dangerous trend. In addition, we call on the authorities to immediately and effectively investigate the specific cases of threats and insults against “Pencere” bloggers.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time when human rights defenders in Georgia, especially those working on the rights of LGBTQ+ and religious or ethnic minorities, have faced attacks, including those carried out in the media and the internet. “ Alt Info” was one of the organizers of a homophobic, aggressive rally on July 5, 2021. The stated goal of the rally was to prevent a peaceful “march of dignity”, which was followed by an unprecedented violence against human rights defenders and journalists.

In February 2021, the Network of Human Rights Houses called on the Georgian authorities to respond to the hostile environment towards human rights defenders in Georgia, including homophobic and xenophobic remarks made on „Alt Info“ TV.

Neither is this the first instance of an attack carried out against “Pəncərə” in particular. “Spaces focusing on female empowerment often become objects of attacks by radical individuals or groups.”[1] A number of reports conducted in Georgia point out the existing obstacles facing women human rights defenders. It is worth noting that “women human rights defenders are victims of a double stigma … their public criticism contains signs of gender discrimination. Women rights defenders are often criticized not for their work but for their appearance, personal life, sexuality or dress.”[2] The growing threat to women human rights defenders in various countries is defined by a number of international documents, including the UN Resolution of 18 December 2013, which obliges states to establish mechanisms to assist women human rights defenders to operate in a free and peaceful environment.[3]

It is important that the Georgian authorities take effective steps to ensure the free operation of human rights defenders in the country, to protect and support them. The obligation to protect human rights defenders is, first of all, the responsibility of the state. Georgia, in accordance with its international obligations, is obliged to protect human rights defenders.[4]

The growing trend of organized hate speech and harassment campaigns targeting human rights defenders by various actors, especially radical groups, is extremely concerning. The state is obliged to protect the legitimate activities of human rights defenders, including minority human rights defenders and women activists.

We call on the Georgian authorities to:

  • Immediately investigate allegations of threats against Khulo activists by „Alt Info“ members
  • Immediately investigate cases of threats, persecution, and harassment against the bloggers, activists, and human rights defenders from “Pencere”;
  • End impunity for individuals or organizations who attack, threaten, or incite violence against human rights defenders, especially minority right defenders;
  • Publicly condemn the attacks on human right defenders and support human rights work, which is crucial for democracy-building in the country.

Signatory organizations:

Human Rights House Tbilisi on behalf of member organizations:

➢ Human Rights Center

➢ Rights Georgia

➢ Media Institute

➢ Sapari

➢ Center for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims

 

[1] View the statement by Sapari. 

[2]  See Thematic Report “The Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Georgia – Obstacles and Challenges”, p. 14, 2020.

[3] UN resolution on women human rights defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 18, 2013, with resolution A/RES/68/181

[4] Resolution Adopted by the Human Rights Council in April 2013, (UN Doc: A / HRC / RES / 22/6); Resolution Adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2015 (UN Doc: A / RES / 70/161).

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