We, the organizations and groups working on the protection of human rights, are utterly outraged by the beating, arbitrary detention, and inhumane treatment of members of the Equality Movement, Levan Berianidze and Tornike Kusiani. The beating occurred in Batumi and was perpetrated by police officers allegedly acting on homophobic motives. We call on the Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the case in a lawful and timely manner, so that the policemen responsible are punished accordingly. Moreover, we request the Ministry of Internal Affairs to suspend the authority of the respective police officers and, in the case the violation is proven, to dismiss those officers, while carrying out an effective policy for fighting hate crimes and implementing an equality-based police culture within the system.
At dawn on the 25 August 2017, in Batumi, an unknown person, allegedly acting on the basis of homophobia and transphobia, physically and verbally assaulted Tornike Kusiani, Levan Berianidze, and three other persons accompanying them. Other people also took part in this violent incident. The victims asked the police officers nearby for help, but, in spite of witnessing the criminal incident, the officers did not react at all and restricted the victims from calling the police. Furthermore, they arbitrarily detained L. Berianidze and T. Kusiani and used obvious homophobic language towards them. The police officers did not explain the procedural rights of the detainees or the reason of their detention, and also did not permit them to use the phone. During the transfer of detainees to the 6th headquarters of the Batumi municipal police, the officers committed violence against the detained activists. Moreover, during physical inspection in police headquarters, the officers demanded the detainees to strip and, along with derogatory treatment, verbally assaulted them. In addition to the above, the detainees noted that the doctor treated them indifferently during medical inspection in temporary detainment isolators, did not properly evaluate the degree of injuries inflicted on L. Berianidze, and did not document them.
In addition, a few days ago, officers of the 6th precinct of the Batumi municipal police did not take adequate measures with respect to violent acts committed against several members of the LGBT community and, instead of the perpetrators, detained the aforementioned members. There have been a few cases in the past (the arbitrary detainment of White Noise Movement activist, Paata Sabelashvili, on 20 August 2016 and the beating of one of the members by police officers on transphobic motives) which also show probable participation of police officers in arbitrary detainments and incidents of homophobic violence.
The factual circumstances presented above point to inhumane and derogatory treatment of L. Berianidze and T. Kusiani, including the beating of the latter, allegedly on homophobic motives and inflicting physical, mental pain and suffering on the victims, which, respectively, qualify as criminal activities envisaged under articles 126 and 1443.2 of the Criminal Code of Georgia (CCG), committed on the basis of sexual orientation (article 531 of the CCG).
Over the years, organizations working on protecting human rights have been pointing out the absence of a unified strategy and systemic policy for battling hate crimes, however, because of the lack of political will, the authorities have not even begun working on such reform. Crimes motivated by homo/bi/transphobia frequently remain without due attention and investigation from the police and the victims of such violations of human rights become subject to repeat victimization, due to homophobic policies and police culture. In such cases, the police are showing a tendency of shifting the blame onto the victims and arresting them. Even more, on certain occasions the police themselves turn to violence towards LGBT members and show their homo/bi/transphobic attitude in the cruelest ways.
The existing inefficient, discriminatory, and repressive law enforcement policy reinforces the predisposed homo/bi/transphobic notions entrenched in society, creates the environment of impunity, and excludes discriminated groups from political and social systems. Homophobia institutionalized in law enforcement authorities deepens the oppression of LGBT groups and makes it impossible to carry out equality-based policies. Police involvement in such violent incidents weakens the trust of members of the LGBT community and other minorities in state institutions and leaves them alone in the face of violence.
The case of L. Berianidze and T. Kusiani makes the issue of the lack of an independent investigative mechanism acutely clear, the existence of which should ensure impartial and efficient investigation of crimes committed within law enforcement authorities.
In consideration of all of the above, we, the signees of this document, call for:
- The Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia, to ensure
Timely, impartial, and efficient investigation regarding the beating of L. Berianidze and T. Kusiani by police officers and private individuals, including the assignment of respective status to the victims, adequate qualification of criminal activities, and with respect to the activities of the policemen, the application of article 1443.2 of the CCG (derogatory and inhumane treatment), as well as ensuring the appropriate punishment of the police officers involved. Additionally, considering the high degree of public interest in the case, to inform the public on the progress and results of the investigation;
- The Ministry of Internal Affairs, to ensure
The study of the activities of the police officers and, in case of confirmation of criminal wrongdoing, the dismissal of the officers from their positions. In the process of investigation, it is essential that the Ministry suspends the authority of said persons;
The carrying out of a systemic and efficient policy on hate crimes which, on an institutional level, requires the establishment of a strategic plan, specialized police services, and the commissioning of independent internal monitoring mechanisms;
- Government of Georgia, to ensure
The establishment of efficient policies and mechanisms for an appropriate reaction to hate crimes, as well as other criminal activities committed by law enforcement authorities, which includes the commissioning of independent internal monitoring mechanisms; and
- Parliament of Georgia, to ensure
An efficient parliamentary control of hate crimes and activities of law enforcement authorities that have committed such crimes;
The making of public announcements and the carrying out of policies condemning violence motivated by homo/bi/transphobia and supporting equality.