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Police Criticized for Failure to Prevent Violence
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 17 May.'13 / 20:45

A group of six civil society and watchdog organization said in a joint statement that the police failed to take measures to prevent violence, that erupted after thousands of Orthodox activists thwarted gay rights rally in downtown Tbilisi, and accused law enforcement officer of being reluctant to secure holding of rally against homophobia.

The statement was joined by Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association; Transparency International Georgia; International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy; Georgian Democracy Initiative; Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center and Article 42 of the Constitution.

It says that the police lacked coordination and their actions to protect anti-homophobia rally from attacks of counter demonstrators were often meager.

“Impression was that the Interior Ministry was more focused on safe evacuation of [anti-homophobia rally] participants from the scene, instead of protecting the rally itself. The police did not show enough efforts to provide security of the participants in the process of the rally,” the statement reads.

After Orthodox activists broke through police cordon several buses were immediately deployed at the anti-homophobia rally by the police to evacuate its participants from the scene. But violence erupted as angry crowd, led by Orthodox clergy chased vans and buses, as well as those who tried to find shelter in some other places.

“After counter demonstrators took over the venue of [anti-homophobia] rally, the police became completely inactive, which allowed counter demonstrators to move unrestrained, increasing possibility of reprisals against individual [participants of anti-homophobia rally]; such cases indeed occurred,” the statement reads.

“Attitude of police towards participants of rally against homophobia and transphobia was especially alarming. Observers confirm that in conversations between each other policemen were referring to the participants of the rally cynically and derogatively and to some extent were sympathizing with counter demonstrators. Such stance was also felt in their actions,” the statement says.

It also says that counter demonstrators were moving freely in the streets of downtown Tbilisi and treating aggressively those whom they considered to be affiliated with the anti-homophobia rally; the statement says that in such situations police actions were limited only by trying to defense such tense situations.

The statement calls on the Interior Ministry to provide security and to raise the issue of responsibility of all those officials who failed to properly assess risks and who “either were not able or did not” secure freedom of assembly and safety of anti-homophobia rally participants. It also calls on the law enforcement agencies to bring perpetrators before justice.

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