Public Defender Visits Mikheil Saakashvili
On March 19, 2023, Public Defender Levan Ioseliani visited third president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili and 13 other prisoners who are also being treated at the VivaMedi clinic.
"The former president and I talked for almost an hour on various topics.
Since I am not a doctor and do not have the relevant qualifications, I will not go into the details of his medical condition, which is the competence of specialists.
However, I confirmed to him that all the monitoring mechanisms that the Public Defender has, including the medical council, would be maintained and that I would not hamper the process. I also told him that the Public Defender would continue to supervise his health within the scope of his mandate.
Of course, the condition of other prisoners being treated in this clinic is also important. They also have specific needs, which will be studied in more detail by the Public Defender's representatives in the future.
I wish all the prisoners to have good health and to be released soon", said the Public Defender.
Public Defender of Georgia Echoes March 7-9 Developments on Rustaveli Avenue
The Public Defender of Georgia Levan Ioseliani and his authorized persons were continuously monitoring the rallies held on March 7-9 against the draft laws initiated by People's Power in the Parliament of Georgia. The Public Defender and employees of the Public Defender’s Office made visits to various divisions, departments and temporary detention centers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia to meet the persons detained during the rallies.
The Public Defender of Georgia emphasizes that freedom of peaceful assembly is enshrined in the Constitution of Georgia. According to the definition of the UN Human Rights Committee, "violence" implies the use of physical force by participants against others that is likely to result in injury or death, or serious damage to property. Accordingly, according to the Committee, mere pushing and shoving do not amount to “violence”. At the same time, it is important that verbal or physical acts of aggression or violence by an individual or a small number of people does not remove the right of those who continue to act in a peaceful manner. In similar cases, any intervention should aim to deal with the particular individuals involved rather than dispersing the entire event.
Based on the mentioned international standards, continuous monitoring and the information and video recordings released by the media, the Public Defender of Georgia is presenting his evaluations to the public:
On the evening of March 7, the situation became tense after some of the participants in the assembly tried to approach one of the entrances to the Parliament building, the road to which was blocked by the law enforcement officers. This was followed by a statement from the Ministry of Internal Affairs that the assembly became violent, that there was an attempt to block one of the Parliament entrances and that there were incidents of violence against the employees of the Ministry. Soon, a small part of citizens moved towards the second entrance. Clashes occurred at both locations.
According to the Public Defender's assessment, at the time of the warning made by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia in the evening hours of March 7, 2023, the assembly had a peaceful character and there was no reason to terminate it or use force against it. As for the cases of violence by individual participants in the rally, if there were any, individual - necessary and proportionate measures should have been taken against them. Contrary to this, the law enforcement officers started using special equipment against the participants in the assembly, including peaceful demonstrators, which contradicts the standard of necessary and proportionate interference with the right.
The violent actions started by individual participants in the assembly at the Parliament’s back entrance became the basis for the unjustified termination of the assembly with the use of force by the law enforcement officers on March 8. After some of the participants started breaking the windows and damaging the Parliament building at the back entrance, the police took appropriate actions, although the said use of force continued in a completely illegitimate manner against the peaceful participants in the assembly standing in front of the Parliament of Georgia.
It should also be noted that, in both cases, and especially after the first use of force in the night hours of March 8, the situation became tense several times and special equipment were repeatedly used against the participants in the assembly, including when there was no such necessity. According to the Public Defender's assessment, unjustified cases of the use of force in a similar situation always contribute to the artificial escalation of the situation, which law enforcement officers are obliged to prevent.
The media footage shows cases when special equipment was used against the participants in the rally without any reason, including by targeting their faces, when they just approached police officers peacefully. This clearly represents a criminal act. Several video materials released by the media clearly show gross physical violence against citizens.
As a result of the measures used by the law enforcement officers in order to manage the rallies, media representatives were also injured. Information was spread about interference with their activities, whereas, legislation puts them under special protection during assemblies.
At the same time, before and during the termination of the assembly, the law enforcement officers actively resorted to the practice of mass detention of demonstrators in an administrative manner. The relevant footage makes it clear that in some cases, the above was not a measure against the existing offence, therefore, it failed to meet the requirement of necessity and had the form of an unjustified interference with the right.
On March 7-9, the Public Defender and his authorized persons visited various divisions, departments and temporary detention centers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and met 96 detainees. The authorized persons worked intensively not only in Tbilisi, but also in the regions in order to visit the detainees. At the same time, several detained persons appealed to the Office with a request to study the legality of their detention.
The detainees indicated harsh forms of detention and in some cases, injuries. In relating to several detainees, with their own wish and consent, the Public Defender’s Office immediately applied to the Special Investigation Service with a request to start an investigation.
The case of Zurab Japaridze is particularly noteworthy. According to him and one of the witnesses, several representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs physically assaulted him. He was beaten with hands, feet and batons, as a result of which he sustained multiple injuries in the head and neck area, as well as in the wrist area.
In addition, according to the reports, in a number of cases, family members and lawyers of the detained persons, could not get information about the whereabouts of the detainees, as the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not provide the relevant information. Several Persons applied to the Public Defender’s Office for help. The above violates the detainees' right of defence, as they were not given the opportunity to meet with lawyers on time or develop a defence strategy.
The Public Defender’s Office will continue to study the cases of persons detained at the rallies. In addition, he will monitor the investigation launched by the Special Investigation Service into the ill-treatment of persons. The Public Defender calls on the investigative agencies to conduct an effective investigation into the use of disproportionate force, as well as the damages suffered by representatives of the media.
PARLIAMENT ELECTING LEVAN IOSELIANI AS PUBLIC DEFENDER OF GEORGIA
The Parliament endorsed the candidacy of Levan Ioseliani for the post of the Public Defender of Georgia with 96 votes.
According to the Rules of Procedure, the voting was held without discussion. The Speaker, H.E. Shalva Papuashvili congratulated Levan Ioseliani on his election as Public Defender and wished him fruitful work.
Levan Ioseliani addressed the MPs.
"It is a significant day in my life because, at this time of great difficulty for our country, I was given a great duty. I want to convey my gratitude to everyone who placed their trust in me for this opportunity", - Levan Ioseliani noted.
European Parliament urges Georgia to pardon and release ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili
On 15 February, the European Parliament expressed its grave concerns about the deteriorating health of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been detained in his home country since October 2021.
While noting reports of his dramatic weight loss and suggestions that he might have suffered from heavy metal poisoning while in detention, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) call on the Georgian authorities to release Saakashvili and allow him to receive proper medical treatment abroad. They also urge current President Salome Zourabishvili to use her constitutional right to pardon him. This would also reduce the political polarisation in the country, say MEPs.
They added that the way prisoners, such as the ex-President, are treated in the country is a litmus test for the Georgian government’s commitment to European values and its declared European aspirations, including EU candidate status, which has so far not been granted to Georgia.
Moreover, the resolution, adopted with 577 votes in favour, underlines the fundamental role that oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili has played in Saakashvili’s ongoing detention “as part of a personal vendetta”.
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L. Ioseliani calls Droa's statement disinformation and states that he supported the CoE resolution, but did not support the fourth amendment, where M. Saakashvili is referred as a political prisoner
Levan Ioseliani, one of the leaders of the Citizens party, responds to the statement of the Droa party. According to Droa, Levan Ioseliani and representatives of Georgian Dream did not attend the PACE voting procedure where Russia was declared a terrorist regime. Levan Ioseliani calls this statement disinformation and explains that he supported the resolution, but did not support the fourth amendment of the resolution, where Mikheil Saakashvili is referred as a political prisoner.
"Yesterday, the resolution adopted in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe against Russian aggression was followed by a lot of responses. Obviously, I supported this resolution, although I did not support its fourth amendment, where Saakashvili is referred as a political prisoner. Since my vote does not appear in the results of the unanimous vote, someone assumed, that I did not support the text of the resolution. Of course, in this voting list, my vote would not appear, because if you want to support the resolution, without any amendments, you must announce it verbally at the plenary session and then your support will be attached to the record of the results of the resolution. So, if you have any doubts, friends, you can find my support in the verbal notes of October 14 on the website of the Assembly. On the day of the vote, my vote was technically not recorded, so I asked in the session the next day to correct, this is also considered as an official vote. Voting in this manner is an accepted and frequent practice in the Assembly. Therefore, the resolution has the support of Levan Ioseliani in the form of a record, which can be seen in the records on the official page of PACE," says Levan Ioseliani.
According to Droa, L. Ioseliani and representatives of Georgian Dream did not attend the PACE voting procedure where Russia was declared a terrorist regime
"On October 13, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted to declare Russia a terrorist regime. The voting process was attended by 100 representatives of the member states, of which only one abstained from taking a position, and 99 unanimously declared Russia a terrorist regime.
The representatives of Georgian Dream, as well as the member of the Citizens party, the deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, Levan Ioseliani, did not attend the mentioned vote and, therefore, did not support the declaration of Russia as a terrorist regime.
Only Khatia Dekanoidze (UNM) attended the voting from Georgia, who supported the said decision. This is confirmed by the data of the voting archive of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
This step once again emphasizes the loyalty of Georgian Dream to Putin's regime and the fact that Russia is a natural political and civilizational space for them.
For Georgia, as a state occupied by Russia and a country with a Russian colonial past, the mentioned fact and the pro-Russian rule of Georgian Dream are not only shameful, but also pose a danger for us to stay in the ruins of a defeated imperial state. We must do everything to get our homeland back and finally establish a place for it in the Euro-Atlantic family," Droa says in a statement and shares the relevant link: https://pace.coe.int/en/votes/39122