Freedom House Condemns Attack on Georgian Human Rights Group | Freedom House

Freedom House Condemns Attack on Georgian Human Rights Group

New York

Freedom House strongly condemns the violent attack July 10 on members of the Liberty Institute, a prominent Georgian nongovernmental organization. The Liberty Institute has advocated religious tolerance and respect for the rule of law in Georgia, and has played a leading role in drawing attention to police corruption and torture of those in police custody.

Ten to fifteen men entered the group's office in the capital city of Tbilisi at about 2:30pm on July 10. The attackers, armed with brass knuckles, severely beat six members of the organization, including Liberty Institute director Levan Ramishvili. Ramishvili sustained a concussion and multiple facial injuries. Office manager Giga Prangishvili also sustained a concussion, while other members were hospitalized suffering from severe bruising and other injuries.

During the attack, a member of the Liberty Institute ran to the office's balcony and called down to a police officer standing nearby. The police officer ignored her cries for help, and other police officials did not arrive on scene until twenty minutes after the attackers had departed. Officials of the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental organization of the 44 countries that have signed the European Convention on Human Rights, were meeting with members of the Liberty Institute at the time of attack, and witnessed it. None were reported injured.

The Liberty Institute has been subjected to a campaign of harassment for its work advocating for religious tolerance, and an end to the violent attacks against religious minorities that have occurred in Georgia over the past two and half years.

Members of minority religious organizations in Georgia, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentacostals, and Baptists have been subjected to over 100 violent attacks since 1999. In some cases, police officials have participated in the attacks or assisted perpetrators in carrying them out. Victims of the attacks have filed over 800 complaints with Georgian authorities in an attempt to restrain followers of Mkalavishvili, and his associate Guram Sharadze, an ultranationalist former member of the parliament.

In Freedom House's most recent Nations in Transit survey, Georgia registers a marked decline in democratization and the rule-of-law for the year 2001.

Freedom House calls on President Bush to condemn the attack on the Liberty Institute, and ongoing violence against religious minorities in Georgia. Freedom House urges members of Congress to contact Georgian President Shevardnadze to condemn the attack and the failure of the authorities to curb violence against religious minorities.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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