On September 27, Tbilisi City Court Judge Nino Shcherbakovi ruled on the cases of human rights defenders and activists who were arrested on June 2 for holding banners and wearing T-shirts with the name of Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, with only one letter of his first name changed to evoke an association with male genitalia.

According to the judge’s decision, the case against Saba Brachveli (lawyer of the Open Society Foundation – Georgia), Eduard Marikashvili (Chairman of the Georgian Democracy Initiative), and activists Nika Romanadze and Grigol Prangishvili was closed under Article 173 of the Administrative Code for disobeying a police officer. They were found guilty of petty hooliganism and fined 500-500 GEL. As for the activist Nodar Sikharulidze, he was fined for 2000 GEL.

This document examines the administrative arrests of six human rights defenders and activists who were detained during the rally held in front of the Parliament on June 2, 2023. The review relies on interviews conducted with the detained human rights defenders, along with publicly available sources. On the night of June 2, a total of seven activists were detained[1].

Human Rights House notes that conducted interviews, analysis of facts, and publicly available video recordings unequivocally establish that the activists exercised their rights within the bounds of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, which are rights protected by the legislation of Georgia, the Georgian constitution, and international law.

The act of expressing an opinion through the display of a banner, even if the conveyed opinion is disagreeable to others, is safeguarded by Georgian legislation, the constitution, and various international conventions.

The government of Georgia is responsible for providing a peaceful and enabling environment for human rights defenders and activists within the country. Protests, discussions, and the peaceful expression of dissent or occasionally contentious ideas are integral to the development of a democratic state.

Arbitrary detention of individuals is unacceptable, and human rights defenders should not be detained for exercising their rights or for defending the freedoms of expression or assembly of others. These rights are protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (A/RES/3/217), Article 9; the Human Rights Council resolution (UN Doc: A/HRC/RES/22/6), OP 10 (c); and the UN General Assembly resolution (UN Doc: A/RES/70/161), OP 8. It is the responsibility of Georgia to fulfill its international obligations.

We urge the government of Georgia to:

• Cease the administrative proceedings against all those who were detained at the June 2 rally.

• Put an end to the practice of employing illegal and disproportionate administrative detentions during protests.

Read a full document.

[1] Note: Human Rights House Tbilisi was unable to establish contact with one of them. Nevertheless, HRHT remains committed to closely monitor the proceedings of this particular case as well.