Tbilisi, 15 July 2021
H. E. Mr Vakhtang Gomelauri
Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia
Dear Minister Gomelauri,
We are addressing you this letter to share our concerns about recent events that have cast a shadow over EU-Georgia relations and Georgia’s image as a country upholding basic human rights. Recognising the wider responsibilities of the Government of Georgia, we are also copying the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Justice and Foreign Affairs.
The right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression constitute key universal human rights and are assured under the Georgian Constitution. Yet, on 5 July, the participants of LGBTQI+ Tbilisi Pride were unable to exercise these rights in the face of imminent threats to their safety.
The counter-demonstrators conducted organized violence targeting civic activists and journalists. Physical infringements on the safety of both groups were alarming. We recall in this context that journalists must be able to carry out their job safely and securely in any democracy. Violence is unacceptable and can never be excused. We mourn the tragic death of TV cameraman Lekso Lashkarava and await the results of the investigation into the cause of his death.
We regret that the authorities did not call publicly for the protection of those peacefully marking Pride events, take other necessary actions to prevent or deter hate driven speech or, in the end, provide sufficient protection as violent acts against activists and journalists were carried out.
The European Union and Georgia share a commitment to the universality and indivisibility of human rights for all, without distinction, including on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. We share a fundamental belief in upholding every citizen’s constitutional right to the freedom of expression and assembly and the freedom of the media. These shared values are enshrined in the EU-Georgia Association Agreement and the European Convention on Human Rights. They unite us and make us proud, but also oblige us to take action in their defence and to protect the most vulnerable persons in our societies.
Intensified rhetoric against these values also poses a national security risk, increasing the vulnerability of Georgia’s democracy, already faced with significant disinformation challenges.
Against this background, we call for further immediate and appropriate political and legal actions. All violent incidents and criminal acts need to be effectively and quickly investigated and duly prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Furthermore, we call on all relevant authorities to uphold the rule of law and to act in effective prevention of any future attempts at such criminal acts. Further efforts to address hate speech, incitement of hatred and intolerance need to be an integral part of these efforts.
In parallel, we call on all sides to act responsibly and refrain from actions that could further aggravate the situation.
Finally, we note with alarm the desecration of the flag of the Council of Europe/European Union outside of the Georgian parliament. This flag represents the fundamental values on which the European Union and EU-Georgia relations are built. The attacks on the flag on two occasions are, therefore, also direct attacks on Georgia’s democratic and pro-European aspirations.
Delegation of the European Union to Georgia
Embassy of the Republic of Austria
Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium
Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria
Embassy of the Czech Republic
Embassy of the Kingdom of Denmark
Embassy of the Republic of Estonia
Embassy of the Republic of Finland
Embassy of the French Republic
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany
Embassy of Greece
Embassy of Hungary
Embassy of Ireland
Embassy of the Italian Republic
Embassy of the Republic of Latvia
Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania
Embassy of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Embassy of the Republic of Poland
Embassy of the Republic of Portugal
Embassy of Romania
Embassy of the Slovak Republic
Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia
Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain
Embassy of the Kingdom of Sweden
cc: H. E. Mr Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister
H. E. Mr David Zalkaliani, Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs
H. E. Mr Rati Bregadze, Minister of Justice