We would like to respond to the restriction of freedom of expression of LGBT activists by law enforcement agencies based on the discriminatory motive, which took place at Dinamo stadium on September 9, 2018, during Georgia -Latvia game.
Members of society had decided to thank Guram Kashia because of his support to the LGBT community by bringing supportive banners and posters at the stadium. However, most of the LGBT activists were deprived of LGBT symbols by force and were not allowed to take them inside the stadium. The law enforcement officers were mobilized on the site, they searched the fans and in case of detecting LGBT symbols and flags, they forced the guests to leave them at the entrance. The guests were only allowed to take those banners inside, in which Guram Kashia did not have the LGBT armband. It should be noted that LGBT activists were acting in full compliance with the Georgian legislation and Dinamo stadium rules. Despite the censorship by the law enforcers, several activists at the stadium were able to take certain attributes inside the stadium secretly. However, as soon as the LGBT activists took out the rainbow flag, the police took it away forcefully.
Employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia exaggerated their official duties, which resulted in limiting freedom of expression of LGBT activists. This was committed on the discriminatory ground, based on the support to the LGBT community. It should also be noted that according to the MIA representatives, they were guided by the instructions of the Football Federation, which had issued a notice about the prohibition of any symbols at the stadium. However, as the football federation officially explained later, they never set such restrictions.
It is important to emphasize that the Constitution of Georgia does not afford such a basis for limitation of freedom of expression or of the freedom of manifestation. Moreover, as mentioned above, the restriction was not only unconstitutional but also discriminatory.
It is noteworthy that the restriction of freedom of expression for LGBT people has been remaining one of the main challenges for many years. LGBT activists have been trying to assemble peacefully and express their position against the existing oppression and violence. Unfortunately, this right guaranteed by the constitution is still inaccessible in Georgia for the only existing group – LGBT people. The state avoids fulfilling its obligations and strives to suppress the visibility of LGBT people. For ensuring the security, instead of holding violent citizens responsible, the state perceives the LGBT symbols as a provocation and restricts the expression of the oppressed groups. It is noteworthy that the restriction of the LGBT symbols had been demanded by the Neo-fascist groups before the game. They demanded to prohibit the LGBT flags on the stadium. They publicly announced that only in this case they would cancel their violent actions. Unfortunately, once again, the state put the equal sign between the oppressor and the oppressed group and silenced the LGBT activists.
With such approach, the Georgian authorities encourage violent activities of the neo-fascist groups in Georgia. Such actions of the MIA make us think that these neo-fascist groups are used to silence activists.
Based on the previous, we request:
1. Determination of the person responsible for issuing the discriminatory order and taking appropriate disciplinary measures against him;
2. Determination of the facts of violation of public order and holding relevant persons responsible;
3. Planning and implementation of civic awareness campaigns on LGBT human rights by the state authorities responsible for human rights protection.
Georgian Democracy Initiative
Media Development Foundation
Institute for Democracy and Safe Development
International Society for fair Elections and Democracy