In Georgia, the right to freedom of assembly is regulated by the law No 763 «On Assemblies and Demonstrations» of August 14, 1997. That law requires prior notification regarding the holding of peaceful assemblies.
Procedure for organizing meetings
Citizens under the age of 18 are not allowed to organize an assembly in Georgia. Local authorities must submit a notification if the event is happening on the roadway or in any other way interferes with traffic. The authorities must be notified at least five days before the start of the event, but not earlier than four months. The organizers do not bear the costs of holding the meeting.
What is allowed?
Participants and organizers have the right:
- to hold a meeting near the buildings representing the authority of the State or its agencies.
Previously, protesters were forbidden to come closer than 20 meters to the buildings of the prosecutor’s office, police, penitentiary institutions and law enforcement agencies, but the court concluded this restriction was unconstitutional;
- to hold meetings in the night-time;
- to cover their faces;
- to conduct preliminary agitation campaigns before receiving authorization;
- to hold more than one public event at the same place and time, but the authorities can ask the organizers to change the time and location.
Restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly
It is prohibited:
- to hold spontaneous meetings;
- to hold assemblies or demonstrations near railway stations, airports, and military sites;
- to call for the overthrow of the constitutional order of Georgia or to incite hatred towards any social group.
Police are allowed to use non-lethal weapons to prevent crimes and maintain public safety.
- fines for the demonstration organizers can reach up to $1686, fines for participants — 10 times less, $169;
- non-compliance with the requirements for public assemblies that results in serious consequences shall entail criminal liability for organizers: fine or imprisonment for up to 2 years,
there is no criminal liability for participants;
- obstruction of a meeting shall entail fine, correctional labor, or imprisonment;
- officials can be held liable for obstructing the holding of an action or forcing them to participate in a meeting using their official position;
- If this was accompanied by violence or led to riots, death and other grave consequences, officials face criminal liability with imprisonment for a term of two to five years.
Commentaries of experts and participants of public events
Participants of public assemblies, human rights advocates, and journalists from Georgia say that in general, they do not see problems to exercise the right to freedom of assembly. However, in some circumstances, authorities unlawfully restrict the holding of peaceful demonstrations. They note most difficulties surrounding the organization of LGBT events and assemblies that criticize the government and its policies. Our respondents also say that the police fail to protect participants of assemblies from aggressive activists. Activists from Georgia note that Georgia’s authorities ratify all international laws on the freedom of assemblies but do not actually follow them.