Police Circle around Rustaveli Avenue
01 June, 2011
Police Circle around  Rustaveli Avenue

“Law enforcers crossed our way and ordered us to get down on our knees”

“Their task was to encircle the area, beat people severely, detain them, humiliate and treat them inhumanely, harass them, engender more nihilism and instill fear among the political opponents.”

 

 

We talked to the security police expert Irakli Sesiashvili on specifics, objectives and tasks of the 26 May crackdown on opposition rally which was characterized by excessive violence. At the same time our journalist narrates about the events that

unfolded on Rustaveli Avenue that night.

Q: Today many say the crackdown operation was pre-planned…

A: The positions of law enforcer units and their number clearly spoke about the pre-defined objective. The rally activists numbered 1000 at most, whereas execution squads had more than 3000 men. Such disproportion meant every activist was to be executed by several men from special force. If law enforcers conceived to arrest leaders, they failed to achieve the aim tactically. Even more, they could not arrest them on the second day either. It means that if the law enforcers had acted in a civilized manner, no chaos would have ensued and the Burjanadze’s escort cars would not have driven so fast….The crack-down continued in police stations. One of such disturbing examples brings us to Murman Dumbadze who looked sound during his detention but emerged in an extremely bad shape after the ordeal in the police.

It must be noted that there were no women among the arrested people. This too goes to show the pre-defined nature of the operation and how the law enforcers were selective in choosing only the men below the age of 45.

Darejan Paatashvili, a Palitra Media journalist, suffered in the same way as the protesters did. One more correspondent of the media house Malkhaz Chkadua was completely out of the sight for several hours. Darejan tries to recall details of the feelings and happenings of that night:

“On 25-26 May, I was reporting from the protest rally taking place on the Rustaveli Avenue. I was trying to find a safe spot somewhere there but everything was in vein. Law enforces crossed our way and ordered us down or to our knees. Yet, today representatives of the Authorities claim the way towards the Freedom Square was open at the time. In reality, it was the fact that they did not allow the people to run away (The videos filmed on the spot shows several members of the special forces standing at the Freedom Square, from where the Burjanadze’s escort cars left the scene hastily. Later this group attempted to enter the Youth Palace. Then I found myself plastered on the road. I asked the member of the Special Forces standing by to consider that I was a journalist showing my vest with specific media marks and the badge. One of the executioners with a scar on a lip asked me if I wanted to get bashed exactly because I was a journalist. With these words, he ominously raised the club in his hand. Suddenly, tear gas was released in the area and simultaneously I felt a strong hit on my back. The Special Forces were chasing the runaway protesters in groups and were repeatedly hitting them with clubs, then forcing them down and putting handcuffs on their hands. Whatever the official explanation, I would always make it clear that the people did not have a chance to leave the area towards the Freedom Square. They arrested all the men whoever they managed to catch. If two or three men were together running away, the Special Forces would shoot something that was exploding instantly on reaching the ground near the running people and was generating smokes. I do not know what sort of gas it was. Despite the fact that I was wearing a veil soaked in the Nabeghlavi mineral water nausea and dizziness lingered for quite a time.

Next I turned up near the Courtyard Marriott Hotel. I remember the whole street was full of handcuffed people lying on the ground, the ground itself being dotted with blood pools. The law enforcers used to collect arrested protesters near the hotel and fill with them the yellow buses stationed in a row nearby.

Special Forces would receive instructions about who was supposed to be beaten up from men in common civilian outfits. I was recording all these with my flip camera. Meanwhile, one of the members of the Special Forces caught an interest in my camera. I quietly explained to him that I was a journalist and that I was not doing anything extraordinary. Yet, two of them, with masks or helmets on their heads dashed towards me, screaming and demanding my ID. I produced my badge which they immediately ripped away from my neck. Then they asked me if I also wanted them to grab my camera from me. I stopped recording and tried to abandon the place but I could not because they reached to my camera forcefully. I resisted them.

I used to always defend Georgian Special Forces but since I saw there how they were beating a woman and an old man with clubs, I felt extreme disappointment. It was not a dispersion of the rally. It was punishment for those who – as those guys from the Special Forces were shouting – stood by Nino Burjanadze. I was at the rally since eight o’clock in the evening but I did not see any “Burjanadzist”. I saw only people who believed they were fighting injustice.”

Irakli Sesiashvili: “One squad of Special Forces was positioned on the street between the Parliament and Gymnasium buildings and had a role of encircling the rally activists and not to let the people pass through. Another squad on the Chitadze Street started to move down to the Rustaveli Avenue slowly. At the same time, other squads which were oiling streets along the Rustaveli Cinema and State Museum started to either run towards the Rustaveli Avenue or shoot rubber bullets and gas weapons. According to eye witnesses, these guys were carefully aiming directly in the face or neck of protesters. What is more, they were shooting each protester several times. The objective of the operation was to squeeze the rally into the smallest circle possible so that the rally activists did not have a chance to spread out.”

International Law – Excessive Use of Force is a Crime!

International Law does not accept trapping and then attacking protesters for their punishment. Dispersion of manifestations and gatherings is allowed only with moderate, adequate and proportional use of force. Use of water cannons is allowed in such situations. When a protester is running away law enforcers should not chase him or her. If a protester has a club and shows aggression, the policeman encountering him or her has the right to respond with similar aggression. If the protester falls, loses the club and his or her aggression is neutralized but the policeman continues beating, this would represent the revenge punishable by law as a crime. The policeman is supposed to use only the type and extent of force which is absolutely necessary to neutralize the aggression of the protester, nothing more. The excessive use of force is a crime. This is indicated in the Georgian law on Gatherings and Manifestations and Article 11of the European Convention on Human Rights. According to these laws, if the May 26 protest rally participants will try to defend its violated right at an international level, the Strasburg Court would examine not what Burjanadze was planning for them but what they were doing at the moment. This very Article 11 obliges States to observe principle of tolerance even in case of non-sanctioned gatherings.

 

 

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