US, Britain, call for probe into May 26 events in Georgia

Sat 28 May 2011 07:05 GMT | 07:05 Local Time

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US has called on Georgia to investigate incidents during the break up of the protest rally outside the Parliament in which at least two people died.

'We believe that the rights to peacefully express the aspirations of the citizens of Georgia, as in any country, should be respected. And we would call on a government investigation into the incidents of the last several days in which several people were killed,' Mark C. Toner, the US Department of State spokesman, said at a news briefing on May 27 when asked about the recent developments in Tbilisi.

US Ambassador to Georgia, John Bass, said hours after the dispersal of the rally on May 26, that he was concerned by reports that there was “potentially an excessive force” used by individual police officer.

'I think it is important for the government to investigate these allegations seriously,' he told journalists after attending a military parade marking Independence Day on Rustaveli Avenue, where about eleven hours before the rally was dispersed.

Echoing his May 25 remarks, Bass again reiterated that it was also important to remember, that 'there were clearly a number of people included in that protest, who were not interested in peacefully protesting, but were looking to spark a violent confrontation.'

British Minister for Europe, David Lidington, called on the Georgian authorities to investigate 'fully' events of May 26 involving break up of the protest rally, which led to death of at least two people.
 
'I was saddened to hear of violence on the streets of Tbilisi,' he said in a statement on May 27. 'Whilst there is a place for legal protest and demonstrations in any democracy, there can be no place for violence.'

'I hope that all  will renounce such actions. I encourage the Georgian Government to investigate fully the events of the past 24 hours,' Lidington said.

Amnesty International said on Friday that the Georgian authorities must investigate allegations of excessive use of force by police against protesters while dispersing a rally in Tbilisi shortly after the midnight on May 26.

'While some of the protesters were armed with makeshift shields and flagpoles and clearly intent on resisting attempts to disperse them, the police have no excuse for beating those offering no resistance,' said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.

“There must be a thorough investigation into these incidents, which must also examine the instructions issued to individual officers on the ground,” he added.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) co-rapporteurs for Georgia, Kastriot Islami (Albania, SOC) and Michael Aastrup Jensen (Denmark, ALDE) expressed their concern about reports of disproportionate and excessive use of force by the police during the breakup of the protest in central Tbilisi on 26 May, the official website of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe says.

'The rapporteurs do not put into question the apparent legitimate basis for the authorities' decision to disperse the protesters, given the fact that the Independence Day celebrations were planned on Rustavelli Avenue and that the protesters reportedly refused to relocate to an alternative location offered by the municipal authorities. However, they expressed their concern about numerous reports that the police used disproportionate and excessive force to break up the protests.

'We are concerned about the reports of excessive and disproportionate use of force by the police. The authorities should fully, credibly and transparently investigate these reports and present their findings to the public within a reasonable timeframe. In the meanwhile we call upon all sides to remain calm and not to further escalate the tense situation,' said the two co-rapporteurs.

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