Statement of NGOs regarding the incident in Gardabani
We express concern about the incident that took place on the night of May 28 in Gardabani, when groups of citizens living in the Gardabani municipality got into a physical confrontation with each other. The clash was so serious (according to eyewitness accounts, about 300 people took part in the confrontation) that it became necessary to mobilize a SWAT team to diffuse the situation, according to news agencies.
The acting head of the Municipal Administration of Gardabani, Ambako Avaliani, has stated that the confrontation was provoked by a group controlled by the head of the Gardabani organization of the United National Movement (UNM).
Members of the UNM have another version of the incident. They say that their representatives in the said region were attacked by members of the campaign headquarters of the Georgian Dream.
Journalists and eyewitnesses have spoken about ethnic motives of the confrontation, pointing out that the incident started with ‘an argument between the Svans and Azerbaijanis’. Local residents also expressed discontent with the fact that law enforcement structures had failed to avert such a large-scale confrontation and to launch an investigation in a timely manner.
Unfortunately, the authorities have as yet to resolve the confrontation effectively. Regardless of causes of confrontation, any conflict that develops along ethnic lines may cause an irreparable damage to the State. It’s also noteworthy that such incidents may reemerge with particular severity in the run-up to elections, a clear example of which is the situation in Gardabani.
During the day on May 29, political forces disseminated various types of information about the conflict and offered the public various interpretations of its causes. We call upon all individuals involved in political activities not to use the confrontation, which might have an ethnic basis, for political purposes and not to escalate the problem artificially. Any such attempt is going to cause considerable damage to the society.
Provoking ethnic or other types of confrontation on political or any other grounds is unacceptable for us. We call upon law enforcement bodies to investigate the incident promptly and effectively and to impose relevant liability on the individuals who started the confrontation and were involved in the conflict. The Ministry of Internal Affairs should ensure the safety of the population and take all possible measures provided for by law which are necessary for diffusing the grave situation and punishing the perpetrators. It should also be noted that law enforcement officers are obliged not only to respond to offenses but also to avert physical confrontation or other types of offenses by effective preventive actions, which, in the view of eyewitnesses, the police were unable to do in the given situation. In addition, we believe that the Head of the Municipal Administration of Gardabani should exercise more responsibility with regard to his position and refrain from premature political statements.
Transparency International Georgia
Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association
Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)