Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, A/HRC/16/44/Add.1, 28 February 2011: Georgia
860. On 31 December 2009, the Special Rapporteur sent an urgent appeal to the government regarding the situation of the Inclusive Foundation, its staff and the members of its Women’s Club. Inclusive Foundation is a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender organisation.
861. According to the information received, on 15 December 2009, five armed men allegedly raided and searched the premises of the Inclusive Foundation. The raid allegedly occurred during a meeting of the “Women’s Club” where members of the LGBT community and the leaders of the Foundation were present. It is alleged that the armed men did not present a search warrant and refused to identify themselves, but some of them werewearing jackets with a police inscription when they entered the offices. The participants at the meeting were not allowed to leave and they were told that “only their chief was of interest to them”.
862. The bags of the participants were allegedly searched and their cellular phones seized. It is also alleged that they were subjected to humiliating remarks and called “perverts”, “sick persons” and “satanists”. Two women were allegedly forcibly taken to the bathroom, undressed and searched. Furthermore, the armed men allegedly threatened to kill Ms. Eka Agdgomelashvili, one of the leaders of the organization, and Ms. Tinatin Japaridze if they continued to ask them for a search warrant and for their identification documents. They also threatened to take photos of the women and disseminate them to reveal their sexual orientation.
863. Mr. Paata Sabelashvili, the Head of the Foundation, was allegedly arrested and detained in Tbilisi. After his arrest, and without the presence of a lawyer, Mr. Sabelashvili reportedly confessed being in possession of marijuana. It is alleged that his confession was forcibly made. Mr. Sabelashvili has been released on bail on 26 December 2009. It is also alleged that since the raid of the Foundation’s premises, its staff members have been under constant surveillance by cars full of men in plainclothes.
864. Concern was expressed that the raid of the Foundation, the acts of harassment and intimidation against its staff and members and the arrest of Mr. Sabelashvili may have been directly related to their legitimate work in defence of human rights.
Response from the Government
865. In a letter dated 8 February 2010, the Government responded to the communication sent on 31 December 2009. The Ministry of Internal Affairs confirmed that on 15 December 2009, the office of the Inclusive Foundation was searched, illegal drugs were found and as a result Mr. Sabelashvili was arrested for illegal transportation and possession of drugs. Mr. Sabelashvili and his lawyers have only challenged the amount of drugs found and not the possession, transportation, and consumption.
887. To conclude, it also must be noted, that the Georgian law enforcement authorities are fully aware that the Rule of Law is more about the process, rather that having a suspect arrested. Bearing in mind that the suspect represented a minority group, but most importantly to avoid questioning the reputation of the Inclusive Foundation because of its Head’s specific criminal charge, the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not make this case public, including through its daily TV police news programme. This decision was made acknowledging the important role that this organisation, as well as other organisations plays, in building a democratic, tolerant society. On the other hand we mush also highlight that holding a position, particular status, or membership of a religions, ethical, sexual or other minority does not safeguards a person against criminal responsibility.
888. The Special Rapporteur wishes to thank the Government for the detailed response provided to her communication sent on 31 December 2009. The Special Rapporteur encourages the Government to take the necessary measures to ensure the existence of an environment which is conducive to the work of all human rights defenders.
Link to the complete text of the Urgent appeal regarding Georgia: Summary of cases-SR Human Rights Defenders-Georgia-2011-eng
Link to full text of the report: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/defenders/docs/A.HRC.16.44.Add.1_EFSonly.pdf