Georgia: Authorities should immediately release Nika Melia and engage in a genuine dialogue with the opposition


Statement by members of the Civic Solidarity Platform

26 February 2020

We, the undersigned members of the international NGO network Civic Solidarity Platform, express our strong concern about the recent developments in Georgia that amount to a full-fledged political crisis provoked by the government. 

On 23 February 2021, the Georgian government sent law enforcers and riot police into the headquarters of the major opposition party United National Movement (UNM) and arrested its chairman Nika Melia. We consider these actions by the authorities as arbitrary detention and selective justice, driven by political motives.  

By the time the raid took place, representatives of different opposition parties, MPs, political activists and UNM supporters had gathered in the building. When storming the UNM headquarters and soon afterwards, the police administratively detained more than 20 peaceful protesters. The arrest of the opposition leader was preceded by numerous cases when the law enforcement officials disproportionately interfered with freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. 

The latest developments can be seen as a continuation of a dangerous and disturbing pattern of the Georgian government cracking down on the opposition, civil society and journalists, challenging their freedoms by limiting space for protests and expression, as well as engaging in aggressive rhetoric which encourages attacks against dissenting and opposition voices.

We are alarmed by the government’s decision to further aggravate the political crisis, which developed following the parliamentary elections in October 2020, the conduct and the official  results of which were strongly criticised by the opposition and civil society, by arresting the leader of the largest opposition party in the country. 

We call on the authorities to immediately release Nika Melia, refrain from actions that contribute to the escalation of the political crisis in Georgia, take all necessary measures to resolve it, and engage in a genuine dialogue with the opposition. We urge the government to adhere to its OSCE commitments and other relevant international obligations, to guarantee the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression and not use police force against peaceful protests.

We call on the OSCE executive and political bodies, institutions and participating States to contribute to preventing further confrontation in the country by giving an appropriate reaction to the events taking place in Georgia. Georgian authorities should abide by the country’s international obligations and work for the strengthening of democratic institutions and rule of law rather than undermining them.

List of organisations supporting the statement:

  1. Public Association "Dignity", Kazakhstan
  2. Human Rights Center (HRC), Georgia
  3. Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Norway
  4. Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Lithuania
  5. Crude Accountability, USA
  6. Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Russia
  7. DRA Berlin, Germany
  8. Human Rights House Zagreb, Croatia
  9. Public Verdict Foundation, Russia
  10. The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, Lithuania
  11. Promo LEX, Moldova
  12. The Swedish OSCE Network, Sweden
  13. Netherlands Helsinki Committee, Netherlands
  14. Human Rights Center ZMINA, Ukraine
  15. Association UMDPL, Ukraine
  16. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland
  17. International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), International NGO

Photo credit: Twitter / @UNMGeorgia