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Shalva Papuashvili: “The US Department of State report on the 20 June events says that the Parliament building was stormed and the police’s response was adequate.”

Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Shalva Papuashvili’s statement is MOSTLY FALSE.

Resume: The US Department of State’s report says that some protesters attempted to force their way into the Parliament building which differs from Shalva Papuashvili’s interpretation that the Parliament building was being stormed. The Georgian Dream MP’s interpretation is intended to aggravate the real picture of the events and portray them as wide-ranging.

In addition, Shalva Papuashvili’s interpretation of the US Department of State’s description of the police’s response is somehow distorted and incomplete – that ostensibly the report says the police’s response was equal to storming. The 2019 report says that whilst the majority of the law enforcement officers held their positions, some fired rubber bullets at protesters from close range, resulting in serious injuries to protesters, including two who lost their eyes. Therefore, Mr Papuashvili’s statement is MOSTLY FALSE.

Analysis

Georgian Dream MP, Shalva Papuashvili, on air on Imedis Faqtori, made the following statement: “The US Department of State report on the 20 June events [1] says that the Parliament building was stormed and the police’s response was adequate.”

The MP did not specify the year of the report to which he was referring. Therefore, FactCheck consulted with US Department of State’s 2019 and 2020 reports to verify the extent to which Shalva Papuashvili’s statement is true.

US Department of State 2019 Report on Human Rights

The beginning of the report underlines that the government took steps to investigate some allegations of human rights abuses but shortcomings remained, including a“ lack of accountability for the inappropriate police force used against journalists and protesters during the 20-21 June demonstrations...“

The report describes the 20 June protests under the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly section.

The report states that the presence of the Russian Duma member, Sergey Gavrilov, in the Parliament of Georgia and his sitting in the Speaker’s chair in light of Russia’s occupation sparked protests of more than 10,000 people. According to the report, “the protests proceeded peacefully until some protesters attempted to force their way into the Parliament. Whilst the majority of law enforcement officers held their positions, some fired rubber bullets at protesters from close range, resulting in serious injuries to protesters, including two who lost their eyes.”

The report adds that according to the Human Rights Centre, the disproportionate and excessive use of force on the part of law enforcement officials in spite of the peaceful conduct of some of the protestors created the impression the law enforcement officials wanted to punish the protesters.

Of note is that the 2019 report also speaks about local NGOs reporting about arbitrary detention connected with the 20-21 June protests and the violation of respective laws during detentions (physically abusing detainees, not informing family members of detainees’ whereabouts) and intentionally harming media representatives.

The Public Defender’s Office (PDO) emphasised the importance of a transparent, objective and timely investigation; non-governmental organisations (NGOs) criticised the subsequent investigation as lacking integrity.

The report also reads that multiple local and international organisations strongly criticised the use of force by police against journalists and called for a prompt investigation into the incidents involving journalists.

US Department of State 2020 Report on Human Rights

The 2020 report of US Department of State also includes the 20-21 June protests and the subsequent developments.

The report includes the reports of Public Defender’s Office and NGOs on the police’s response to the June 2019 protests outside of the Parliament building and the lack of accountability for police abuses. In addition, it is also highlighted that the police used special equipment against protesters without warning and the force used in dispersing the rally could not be considered proportionate.

The report’s section on unsubstantiated detentions includes the detentions of protesters during the 20-21 June 2019 protests as an example. According to the Public Defender’s Office, the contents of the violations and the arrest reports are “mostly identical and formulaic.” It also contains the information of the Human Rights Centre that the court agreed to the pre-trial detention of “all accused protesters based on banal, abstract and often identical solicitations of the prosecutors.”

The report also contains information about journalists injured during the June 2019 protests.

The document says that 17 activists were charged with engaging in violence during the protests whilst three officers of the Special Tasks Department who were also charged in connection with the June 2019 events were released on bail.

As a conclusion we may say that Shalva Papuashvili’s statement is mostly false since it interprets the text of the US Department of State’s report incompletely and distortedly.

The 2019 report says that some protesters attempted to force their way into the Parliament building which differs from Shalva Papuashvili’s interpretation that the Parliament building was being stormed. The Georgian Dream MP’s interpretation is intended to aggravate the real picture of the events and portray them as wide-ranging.

In addition, Shalva Papuashvili’s interpretation of the US Department of State’s description of the police’s response is somehow distorted and incomplete – that ostensibly the report says that the police’s response was equal to storming. The 2019 report states that whilst the majority of the law enforcement officers held their positions, some fired rubber bullets at protesters from close range, resulting in serious injuries to protesters, including two who lost their eyes.

[1]FactCheck would like to remind readers that the 20 June events refers to the 20-21 June 2019 protests and their violent dispersal which followed the visit of the Russian Duma MP, Sergey Gavrilov, to Georgia and his sitting in the seat of the Speaker of the Parliament.


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