(Tbilisi) - The Georgian government should not abandon its obligations to protect human rights in its negotiations with the political opposition, Human Rights Watch said today. 

Georgia's political opposition has held continuous demonstrations in Tbilisi since April 9, 2009, calling for President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign. Human Rights Watch has documented a pattern of attacks on opposition demonstrators and concluded that the attacks appeared to be a concerted effort to intimidate the demonstrators and prevent them from exercising their right to freedom of assembly.

President Saakashvili met today for the first time with opposition leaders who have been holding continuous demonstrations in Tbilisi. Speaking in a televised address after the meeting, he said that he had offered the opposition a number of proposals, including discussions on constitutional reforms in the country. But he also said the proposals include a "moratorium on the subsequent investigation of all offenses which occurred during protest actions because of excessive political emotions."

"There can't be a trade-off on justice," said Giorgi Gogia, South Caucasus researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The government can choose not to prosecute demonstrators, if they've committed offenses. But it cannot choose to abandon its human rights obligations. There have been allegations of serious human rights violations in connection with the protests, and the government has to investigate them. "

In a May 7 letter to Georgia's ministers of interior and justice, Human Rights Watch called on the government to promptly and fully investigate the attacks on demonstrators, and bring the perpetrators to justice.

"Accountability for those assaults is essential to demonstrate the government's commitment to justice, and prevent any attempts to attack freedom of assembly," said Gogia.