07TBILISI2893, HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS ARISING FROM THE NOVEMBER 7

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2893 2007-11-19 14:19 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO0037
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2893/01 3231419
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191419Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8219
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 TBILISI 002893 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/14/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM GG
SUBJECT: HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS ARISING FROM THE NOVEMBER 7 
OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 2774 
 
     B. TBILISI 2777 
     C. TBILISI 2802 
     D. TBILISI 02814 
     E. TBILISI 02813 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C)  Summary: Events before, during, and after the 
violence of the November 7 Opposition protest in Tbilisi have 
raised a number of human rights issues.  NGOs, participants 
in the demonstrations, and others have alleged abuses, 
including disproportionate use of force, abridgment of 
freedom of assembly, silencing of the media, and wide-scale 
arrests of participants.  The GoG denies that human rights 
abuses are wide-scale, arguing that law enforcement took 
appropriate measures when faced with a larger and more 
aggressive crowd than it was capable of handling without 
force.  This cable reviews many of these charges, and 
includes comments from NGO's, opposition members, and 
government officials.   End Summary. 
 
----------------------------- 
Disproportionate Use of Force 
----------------------------- 
 
2. (C)  Since the November 7 Opposition protest, some 
participants in the November 7 events, as well as the Public 
Defender's office, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and Transparency 
International (TI), have charged that police used a 
disproportionate amount of force to quell unrest that day. 
Television coverage of the events did show police using 
rubber batons, rubber bullets, tear gas, and beating 
protesters.  The Public Defender himself, Sozar Subari, was 
beaten with a rubber baton, even after he verbally identified 
himself and his function to police.  Several other members of 
his office who were observing the protests were also beaten. 
Two of them required a hospital examination (ref B). 
Numerous opposition supporters reported injuries, including 
the Republican Party's Tinatin Khidasheli, who was hit in the 
head with a tear gas canister when police began to use gas 
against protesters to get them to disperse. 
 
3. (C)  In one case, Koba Davitashvili of the People's Party 
said he was in a market making a purchase of equipment for 
the demonstration when a group he identifies as military and 
civilian police assaulted him and forced him into a car at 
gunpoint.  He said he listened to them make a twenty minute 
cell phone call, during which they discussed whether they 
should kill him or release him.  His captors transported him 
to Gori military hospital where he was treated for injuries 
and later released.  He has asked the Prosecutor General to 
investigate this incident.  The Gori Regional Criminal Police 
have contacted him to investigate, but he feels their 
involvement is not sufficient because the assault happened in 
Tbilisi (ref A).  Ambassador and DAS Bryza raised the 
Davitashvili case with Vano Merabishvili, the Minister of 
Internal Affairs on November 16.  Merabishvili said he did 
not know who had attacked Davitashvili.  The Ministry of 
Internal Affairs subsequently said it was investigating the 
incident and has told us that it was definitely not carried 
out by police. 
 
4. (C) According to HRW and TI reports, police pursued 
protesters down side streets and into shops and buildings as 
violence escalated on November 7.  HRW says police targeted 
journalists, particularly those from Imedi television, for 
beatings throughout the day.  Ministry of Internal Affairs 
representatives with whom HRW spoke said these were isolated 
incidents, but HRW believes similarities in the incidents 
indicates they were not coincidental.  As described by the 
HRW, the use of force on November 7 culminated outside the 
Imedi station when 100 police forced journalists outside of 
the building, firing rubber bullets and tear gas at the 
journalists as they ran. 
 
5.  (C)  According to Kakha Kukava, Chairman of the 
Conservative Party, criminal groups disguised as police took 
part in the beatings, wearing yellow rain slickers or black 
masks.  He alleges that these individuals are associated with 
MP David Kirkitadze, Secretary of the ruling National 
Movement.  He named some members of the Georgian Sports 
Federation as having criminal ties and assisting with the 
breaking up of the demonstrations.  David Gamkrelidze, New 
Rightists Party and Zurab Tkemaladze, Industrialist Party, 
have also mentioned activity by groups they deem to be "Nika 
Rurua's people."  (Rurua is an MP and Deputy Chairman of the 
Parliament's Defense Committee.)  The Public Defender's 
preliminary report of the events of November 7 identifies 
these forces as a special tasks group from the Penitentiary 
 
TBILISI 00002893  002.2 OF 004 
 
 
Department, and argues the unit has no authority to use force 
outside of the prisons. 
 
6.  (C) The GoG stressed that no action was taken against the 
protesters as long as they were peaceful.  It contends that 
it was only when demonstrators became aggressive - trying to 
enter Parliament
and then attacking police - that police used 
force.  Several Georgian officials have told us they were 
simply not prepared for such a large number of aggressive 
protesters.  They say there were only 600 trained special 
police in Tbilisi (many remain stationed hours away in the 
Upper Kodori Gorge) and other police on the scene were not 
trained or equipped to deal with rioters without resorting to 
truncheons and tear gas.  GoG representatives have said that 
they will take responsibility for any police misbehavior, and 
the police will conduct an internal assessment (ref D). 
Nevertheless, thus far they have not identified a case of 
abuse by police.  Georgian officials dispute opposition 
claims of large numbers of injured civilians, saying that in 
fact police bore the brunt of serious injuries.  On November 
9, the Ministry of Health announced that in all, 587 people 
were injured in the protests.  Of these 569 were released 
from the hospital after being treated for minor injuries. 
Only three required surgery.  Reportedly, 34 policemen were 
injured, two of whom reportedly received knife wounds from 
demonstrators.  No deaths were confirmed. 
 
----------------------------------- 
Abridgment of the Right to Assemble 
----------------------------------- 
 
7.  (C) Opposition members have complained that their right 
to freely assemble was violated by the imposition of a State 
of Emergency.  During the State of Emergency, television and 
radio stations other than the state-owned channel were not 
permitted to broadcast news programs (ref B), and citizens 
were not allowed to assemble in large groups.  The Georgian 
NGO Human Rights Center (HRC), cites efforts by the 
government to limit peaceful assembly, even prior to November 
7 .  According to its report, persons identified as law 
enforcement officials assaulted opposition MPs Bejan Gunava 
and Bidzina Gujabidze on October 28 in Zugdidi as they tried 
to lead an anti-government demonstration.  Other reports 
state the attackers were not police, but hot-headed 
government supporters.  In an interview, influential MP Giga 
Bokeria said that other than the incident at Zugdidi, the 
opposition carried out a vigorous campaign for nearly a month 
before November 7 without experiencing problems.  He stated 
that all persons who participated in the Zugdidi incident had 
been identified and the two people who participated in the 
scuffle with Gunava had been sentenced to two months of 
detention. 
 
8.  (C)  The HRW report alleges that cars attempting to make 
their way to Tbilisi from other towns in Georgia to 
participate in the November 2 demonstrations were met with 
serious obstacles.  The government allegedly seized cars, 
keys and car registration papers from drivers, blocked 
motorways and slashed car tires.  Some drivers were 
reportedly assaulted and roads coming into Tbilisi were 
blocked.  Poloff heard the same from some embassy employees 
and other Georgians.  Evening news broadcasts showed a 
blockage at the Chakvi Tunnel, the most direct route from 
Western Georgia to Tbilisi. 
 
9.  (C)  Early on, there was confusion related to the State 
of Emergency and to which regions it applied.  On November 7 
Prime Minister Noghaideli announced that the State of 
Emergency applied only to Tbilisi.   On November 8, Giorgi 
Arvaladze, Minister of Economy, announced that the 
restriction was country-wide, which was the case.  According 
to GYLA, this confusion affected protesters in Batumi and 
Telavi, who appeared not to know about the State of Emergency 
when they gathered and then were forcibly dispersed by the 
police on November 8.  GoG officials told us that as the 
events on November 7 turned violent, there was serious 
discussion within the cabinet as to what actions the 
government should take and the decision to impose the State 
of Emergency was not taken lightly (ref E).  Parliament 
approved lifting the State of Emergency on November 15, 
effective 1900 hours Tbilisi time on November 16. 
 
------------------- 
Silencing the Media 
------------------- 
 
10.  (C)  The opposition's most important complaint has been 
against the closure of the Imedi television station.  The 
GoG's State of Emergency banned all TV and radio stations, 
other than the state-funded Georgian Public Broadcasting 
 
TBILISI 00002893  003.3 OF 004 
 
 
television, from broadcasting news programs.  Three media 
outlets were closed under the State of Emergency: nationwide 
broadcaster Imedi, local Tbilisi station Kavkazia, and 
Batumi's Channel 25 (ref A).  Although the restrictions did 
not apply to newspapers or the Internet, most newspapers have 
a small circulation and only seven percent of the country has 
Internet.  Imedi was the country's most watched television 
station and its shut-down silenced the most outspoken critic 
of the government.  Even those opposition members who 
privately admit that Imedi's coverage was biased are 
concerned that free and open elections cannot occur under 
such conditions.  Along with the U.S. government, the OSCE 
Representative on Freedom of the Media, EU Foreign Policy 
Chief, NATO Secretary General, and Parliamentary Assembly of 
the Council of Europe have all expressed their concern about 
the limits on dissemination of information by independent 
media.  Human Rights Watch quotes media reports that police 
prevented journalists from filming the riot police in action, 
forcibly broke up peaceful protesters, and confiscated and 
destroyed several television cameras.  HRW reports list two 
journalists as being hospitalized with severe injuries due to 
police brutality.  Imedi's Managing Director, Bidzina 
Baratashvili, said the police who raided Imedi on November 7 
were "well behaved, though a few were quite aggressive." 
According to Lewis Robertson, Imedi's General Director, the 
Imedi control room was "completely destroyed" (ref A).  The 
OSCE Human Rights Officer told Poloff that OSCE media 
monitors present at the demonstration on November 7 saw 
police confiscate cameras from journalists.  Cameras were 
later returned without film. 
 
11.  (C)  GoG representatives accuse Imedi of inciting 
violence and the overthrow of the government.  In one 
incident, an Imedi reporter allegedly claimed on air on 
November 7 that police were preparing to storm Tbilisi's 
Sameba Cathedral and religious people should go there to 
defend it.  Officials also allege that Imedi journalists had 
been overheard discussing provoking the killing of 
demonstrators in order to inspire people to overrun the 
Parliament building. 
 
---------------- 
Surprise Arrests 
---------------- 
 
12.  (C)  Opposition members allege that the fallout of the 
November 7 actions included large scale detention of 
participants.  Opposition leader Kukava said he and other 
opposition leaders are personally concerned about possible 
retaliation by the government.  Kukava said the government 
has been quietly arresting opposi
tion members who 
participated in the protests, especially in the regions. 
GYLA representatives told Poloff that they too had heard 
this, and family members had approached them with concerns 
about family members being arrested.  When GYLA offered free 
legal counsel, the families told them that they were too 
frightened of the consequences, and did not want their names 
released to the international community for fear of 
reprisals.  GYLA also told Poloff that community police 
canvassed neighborhoods with photographs of protesters asking 
about identities. 
 
13.  (C)  The Public Defender, Sozar Subari, gave a press 
conference on November 12 in which he appealed to the 
President and the Parliament to stop "political persecution" 
of November 7 participants.  Subari has given the Embassy 
specific examples of protesters, including both civilian and 
government employees, who were dismissed from their jobs for 
their participation in the demonstration on November 7.  He 
said the head of the anti-government Equality Institute in 
Kutaisi was arrested and some Okruashvili associates were 
dismissed from their jobs as well.  Subari called for the 
government to stop arresting protesters and to examine the 
activities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Constitutional 
Security and Special Operations Departments, which he alleges 
have a past history of illegal activities.  Reports of the 
number of demonstrators arrested vary widely.  Opposition 
estimates range from 80 to 1000, while MOIA representatives 
told us that approximately 30 people were detained in 
connection with the violence, of whom 10 still remain in 
jail.  EUR DAS Bryza and Ambassador have raised many of these 
cases with Georgian government officials. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
14. (C) The use of force to prevent demonstrators from 
retaking the street in front of the Parliament was a shock to 
Georgia, which has not seen the government use force against 
 
TBILISI 00002893  004 OF 004 
 
 
its own citizens since the civil war in 1992.  Georgian 
police have had little or no experience in controlling large 
crowds.  Government officials defend their actions, but have 
also admitted in various conversations with the Ambassador 
and Matt Bryza that some police went too far in assaulting 
and beating demonstrators.  They have vowed that 
demonstrators who provoked violence will be prosecuted, 
although for the most part it appears that they are receiving 
relatively light sentences.  Parliament Speaker Nino 
Burjanadze told Western Ambassadors on November 19 that 
allegations of excessive use of force by police would be 
investigated. 
 
15. (C) We will monitor carefully reports by human rights 
organizations and the Georgian government Ombudsman as well 
as investigations by the government into police misconduct. 
Clearly the most damaging step taken by the government from 
the point of view of the functioning of democracy was the 
shutdown of all news reporting on television and radio under 
the state of emergency, other than the government channel. 
With the ending of the state of emergency, media outlets are 
open and functioning again, with the exception of Imedi TV 
(septel). 
 
TEFFT

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