- The General Prosecutors Office should conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the dispersal of protestors on November 7 on Rustaveli Avenue, at Rike, and outside of the Imedi television studios. The investigation should:
- Pay particular attention to allegations of assault and the excessive use of force by law enforcement agents;
- Make use of all available video and photographic evidence as well as witness testimony;
- Determine whether the use of force and firearms was consistent with national law and international human rights law and standards, including the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials;
- Examine the rules of engagement, including the risk assessment made in advance and resulting in the deployment of forces armed with rubber bullets, and orders given to the law enforcement units involved;
- Carefully examine not only individual responsibility for use of excessive force but the command responsibility of those overseeing operations in which force was found to be excessive;
- Undertake forensic investigations into the number of rounds of rubber bullets used by law enforcement officials, the number of persons sustaining injuries from the use of rubber bullets, and the nature of those injuries;
- In accordance with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights, the investigation should be open to public scrutiny and capable of leading to the prosecution of any determined to be responsible for causing injuries in violation of article 3.
- In conducting the investigation, the government should avail itself of independent expertise including that of the Council of Europe to ensure that the investigation is conducted in accordance with the applicable human rights standards, including European Court of Human Rights standards.
- The General Prosecutors Office should investigate with particular rigor all allegations of targeting of journalists, including assault on journalists and interference with their professional duties.
- The Ministry of Interior should immediately suspend from active duty any law enforcement personnel under investigation for possible crimes committed on November 7.
- All law enforcement personnel found responsible for crimes on November 7 should be promptly prosecuted in accordance with due process.
- The General Prosecutors Office should conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the assault and kidnapping of Koba Davitashvili. Given the seriousness of the allegations in this case and the apparent involvement of law enforcement agencies, the General Prosecutor should assume direct control of the investigation.
- Given the sufficient evidence indicating the involvement of law enforcement personnel in the assault on Ombudsman Sozar Subari on Rustaveli Avenue, the General Prosecutor should assume direct control of the investigation in accordance with article 62(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, which provides for exclusive investigative jurisdiction of the Prosecution Service with respect to any crime committed by particular persons including officials of the Ministry of the Interior. This step would also be consistent with the requirements for an investigation under article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
- The Ministry of Interior should conduct a thorough internal investigation into the conduct of the operations to disperse protestors on November 7. This investigation should seek to determine whether law enforcement agents acted in full accordance with Georgian law and regulations on the use of force. The results of the investigation should be made public.
- Without delay, to ensure full transparency and accountability for the actions of law enforcement officers on November 7, the Ministry of Interior should make public the exact composition of forces engaged in the dispersal of protestors on Rustaveli Avenue, at Rike, and outside of the Imedi television studios and in the special operation to close Imedi.
- Not a single witness interviewed for this report said that they saw police wearing visible identification. Without delay, the government should enact legislation that requires all law enforcement agents, including riot police and members of the special forces, to wear identification, and provide all law enforcement agents with uniforms that include appropriate identification.
- The government and Parliament should review all legislation related to policing and crowd control and ensure that all laws relating to use of force are in full accordance with the ICCPR, the ECHR and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
- The government and Ministry of Interior should make public the nature of the training in crowd control received by all of the forces on duty on November 7. They should review all such training given to law enforcement officials to ensure that it fully integrates established human rights principles and obligations. To this end the government and Ministry of Interior should consider drafting a Manual on the Use of Force, incorporating the obligations set out under the ICCPR, the ECHR and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, with the assistance of international and Georgian experts and members of civil society.
- The General Prosecutors Office should conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations of intimidation and ill-treatment of Imedi journalists during the raid on the Imedi television studios and should prosecute those found responsible for committing crimes.
- The General Prosecutors Office should conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations of destruction and theft of Imedi television equipment and property.
- The government should compensate Imedi television in full for the damage to the equipment and property.
To the United States and the European Union
Since President Saakashvili came to power four years ago, the United States and the European Union have been reluctant to openly criticize the president they hailed as a reformer and democrat. In response to criticism of the governments human rights violations and reform policies, the US and EU very readily sought to give the Georgian authorities the benefit of the doubt, frequently citing the authorities promises and good intentions to establish the rule of law and ensure human rights protection in the country.
The US and the EU must make clear to Georgian authorities that their future engagement with Georgia depends fundamentally on Georgias demonstrating its genuine commitment to the rule of law, human rights, and accountability for human rights abuses, including:
- A thorough investigation into the actions of law enforcement officials on November 7;
- A genuine commitment to freedom of expression by thoroughly investigating the actions of law enforcement officials during the special operation to close Imedi television and investigating all allegations of ill-treatment of journalists and preventing journalists from doing their professional duty on November 7;
- Ensuring that all law enforcement personnel receive practical training on the use of force and the limits with regard to established human rights principles.
Make available expertise and assistance to the government of Georgia to ensure that the investigations into the allegations of human rights violations that occurred on November 7, 2007, are conducted in line with the standards required by the European Court of Human Rights.
This report was researched by Jane Buchanan, researcher in the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, and Giorgi Gogia, consultant to Human Rights Watch. It was written by Jane Buchanan. Giorgi Gogia wrote parts of the background section. Sonya Kleshik, associate in the Europe and Central Asia Division helped research the background section. It was edited by Rachel Denber, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia Division, and Ian Gorvin, senior program officer at Human Rights Watch. Aisling Reidy, senior legal advisor for Human Rights Watch, also reviewed the report. Veronika Szente-Goldston, advocacy director of the Europe and Central Asia Division reviewed the summary and recommendations. Sonya Kleshik, Anna Lopriore, Grace Choi, Andrea Holley, and Fitzroy Hepkins provided production support. LEGI Maps Maker Company designed the maps.
Human Rights Watch expresses its sincere thanks to the witnesses and victims of the events in Tbilisi of November 7, 2007, whom we interviewed for this report. Human Rights Watch also thanks our many Georgian NGO colleagues and others in Tbilisi who provided information and support for this research. Finally, we thank Ombudsman Sozar Subari and his staff for their generous assistance.
Human Rights Watch is grateful to the Open Society Institute for its generous support for our work on the South Caucasus.