MIA’s Actions Violate the Rights of Activists in Rioni Gorge
The actions taken by the state in the Rioni gorge grossly violate constitutional rights and freedoms namely, freedom of movement and freedom of expression.
Locals have been opposed to the construction of the hydroelectric station since 2018. The peaceful protest has been particularly intense since the end of 2020. Last week, the police blocked the roads leading to the village of Namokhvani without any justification or explanation. The organizers of the rally have been talking about the smear campaign carried out by the state against their protest. The previous steps taken by the state show that the only aim for using police force is suppressing the protest.
On the evening of April 11, alongside the blocking of the road, tents set up by activists in the Rioni Valley were seized by the police. The reason given by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) is inconsistent and unjustified. According to the official statement of the MIA, taking down the tents is connected with the possible increase of the water level of the Rioni River. However, local representatives of the MIA explained to the protesters that the tents were hampering the search for the man who went missing on April 10 in the Rioni River.
Other than this, the state has not yet pursued a proper policy and has not conducted an adequate dialogue with the population. It is alarming that the repressive police force has again been chosen as a way to address the issue. The police and the protesters have again been left face to face. By taking such steps, the state further deepens distrust of law enforcement agencies and damages their reputation in the eyes of the public.
We call on the authorities to end the unjustified, disproportionate, and arbitrary restrictions on the freedom of expression and freedom of movement, to give the “Rioni Gorge Defenders” the opportunity to protest peacefully, and to choose a way of dialogue with the protesters to address the issue.