HRW: Impunity for Abuse by Law Enforcement Officials Remains a Problem

"Impunity for abuse by law enforcement officials remains a persistent problem," reads the Human Rights Watch Report 2020.

“Authorities twice postponed the launching of the State Inspector’s Office, created in 2018 to investigate abuses committed by law enforcement and other public officials, citing lack of financing. It became operational on November 1.

By September, the Ombudsman’s Office had received 54 complaints of ill-treatment by prison staff or police and petitioned the Prosecutor’s Office to launch investigations in 52 cases. None resulted in criminal prosecution”, reads the report.

According to the document, on the night of June 20, riot police fired rubber bullets and used tear gas against thousands of protesters outside the parliament building in Tbilisi. “The protest was sparked by the presence of a delegation from the Russian Duma in the parliament’s plenary chamber, as part of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy.

"Some protesters repeatedly tried to break through the police cordon, grabbing and damaging some riot gear. Otherwise the crowd was largely nonviolent. While riot police showed restraint initially, around midnight, without prior warning, they opened fire on the crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets, chasing and arresting people who tried to gather.

"Some 240 people, including 80 police officers and 32 journalists, sustained injuries and sought medical attention. Many civilians sustained rubber bullet injuries to the head, legs, and back; two people each lost an eye.

"Police arrested hundreds, and courts sentenced 121 protesters to up to 15 days in jail on misdemeanor violations.

"Authorities pursued largely one-sided accountability. They launched a mass rioting investigation, charging at least 19 protesters, 15 of whom remain in pretrial custody at time of writing. Opposition parliamentarian Nika Melia was released under house arrest. The Prosecutor’s Office designated 67 police officers and only four civilians as victims, depriving many of the injured protesters the opportunity to review investigation files. Following civil society criticism, three more people received victim status in November.

"Meanwhile, the Prosecutor’s Office charged three police officers with exceeding their powers and assaulting a detained protester; courts released all three on bail. The Interior Ministry reprimanded 11 law enforcement officers for misconduct and sent two cases to the prosecutor’s office. The Prosecutor’s Office authorized the Public Defender to monitor the ongoing investigation into police conduct”, reads the report.

By Ana Dumbadze 

Photo courtesy: Ana Dumbadze 

15 January 2020 11:45