EU Heads of Mission appeal to Georgian gov't on July 5 Pride-related events and their follow-up
EU Heads of Mission appeal to Georgian gov't on July 5 Pride-related events and their follow-up

The European Union Delegation to Georgia and foreign embassies accredited in the country addressed a letter to the Georgian government over the July 5 developments in Tbilisi and the follow-up.

Georgian Minister of Internal Affairs Vakhtang Gomelauri is the primary addressee of the letter, while courtesy copies are sent to the Prime Minister, Justice and Foreign Ministers.

The signatories are concerned about the “recent events that have cast a shadow over EU-Georgia relations and Georgia’s image as a country upholding basic human rights.”

“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,” reads the letter.

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