The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) delivered the judgment in the Case of Makarashvili and others v Georgia.
The case refers to the November 2019 demonstration, when protesters blocked all entrances to the Georgian Parliament buildings during a protest against the failure of the electoral system reform. It also refers to a subsequent trial of an administrative offence, in which plaintiffs were found guilty and sentenced to 4 to 12 days in prison.
“In this regard, and as concerns the conduct of the authorities, the police negotiated with the protesters, including the first and third applicants, informing and warning them regarding the relevant rules and regulations concerning the conduct of demonstrations (especially the prohibition on blocking access to administrative buildings) with the aim of allowing access to the Parliament building rather than dispersing the demonstration as such. It has not been alleged that the police orders were unclear or inaudible. Nor has it been shown that the relevant rules prohibiting the blocking of roads and administrative buildings had not been formulated with sufficient precision or that their application had been unforeseeable. Even so, none of the three entrances were cleared by way of heeding the repeated requests by the police. Additionally, the protesters did not allow the police to proceed once the latter decided to clear access to the Parliament building. Within this context, the Court emphasises that the first and third applicants were not convicted of participating in the demonstration. Rather, the contested conviction and sanctions related to their eventual refusal to free the road leading to the entrances of the Parliament building.
As regards the extent to which the first and third applicants’ arrest and the sanctions imposed on them had been proportionate, the Court notes that these applicants were able to express their disapproval of Parliament’s failure to adopt the relevant legislative amendments and to voice their concerns (together with other participants in the demonstration), without the need for any prior notification, and without restraint or repercussions (even in respect of blocking access to the Parliament’s building), for at least a day and a half. Taking into account the fact that the blockade of Parliament was not limited in duration and appears to have been intended as a continuous disruptive protest tactic aimed at ensuring that the protesters’ demands were met by the government, the Court does not consider that the authorities failed to show a degree of tolerance towards the gathering. Additionally, had the first and third applicants obeyed the order to clear the road leading to the Parliament, nothing would have prevented them from continuing with the protest”, - reads the judgment.