NGOs urge that arrests of activists and journalists in Georgia be stopped
NGOs contra arrests
Georgian NGOs have called on the Ministry of Internal Affairs to stop unjustified arrests of activists and journalists in response to the arrest of 36 people, including two journalists, at a rally against the “Foreign Agents Law” in front of the Georgian Parliament on March 2.
The rights of some detainees are being defended by NGO lawyers, but they face significant obstacles. According to available data, at least fifteen people are currently in temporary detention centers. It is reported that some of the detainees were kept all night in the cars of the post-patrol service, and were placed in the isolation ward only in the morning. It is difficult for lawyers and family members to determine the exact whereabouts of detainees, which hinders the possibility of meeting with a lawyer and, consequently, defending their rights. Some detainees report bodily injuries they received during detention.
NGOs emphasize the fact that the Ministry of Internal Affairs has not yet made an official statement about why some of the detainees are still in isolation and why they were not released on their own recognizance.
NGOs call on the Ministry of Internal Affairs:
- All detainees should be given the opportunity to contact their family members;
- Lawyers for detainees should be informed in a timely manner as to which detention centers the persons under their protection have been transferred to;
- Detainees must be immediately brought before a court and detention must not be unreasonably extended to 48 hours.
- The Special Investigation Service should investigate the facts of detention and alleged injury to media representatives and demonstrators in a timely manner and respond accordingly.
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Yesterday, March 2, a spontaneous protest rally was held in front of the Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi against the discussion of the draft law on “transparency of foreign influence.”
The Georgian government intends to pass a law according to which non-governmental and media organizations that are funded from abroad must be registered as “agents of foreign influence”.
There are two versions of this bill. The first was registered in parliament on February 14 and is similar to the Russian law on foreign agents. The second version was registered as an alternative after the first was heavily criticized. The second version, according to the authors, is similar to the American law (FARA).
The authors of both versions of the bill are the People’s Power movement, formed by deputies who formally separated from the ruling party. “People’s Power” makes sharp anti-Western statements. Moreover, its members directly admit that their movement was created in order to “tell people the truth about the West, which is trying to drag Georgia into the war.”
The bill is also sharply criticized by Georgia’s western partners from various international organizations, American senators and European deputies. The American ambassador, Kelly Degnan, bluntly called it “Russian law.”