Statement of youth councils in connection with the law on “Transparency of foreign agents” in Georgia
We, The National Youth Councils of Belarus (RADA), Moldova (CNTM), Ukraine (NYCU), and Azerbaijan (NAYORA), on behalf of the National Youth Councils Network of the Eastern Partnership region, express our solidarity with young Georgian people, youth organizations and National Youth Council of Georgia (NCYOG) in their fight for freedom and democracy against the new law on “Transparency of foreign agents”. Civil society plays a vital role in upholding democratic values, and this law violates fundamental human rights and threatens freedom and democracy.
On March 6th, the law on “Transparency of Foreign Agents” was adopted in the first reading by the 76 members of the Georgian Parliament’s majority. The law, by its very nature, has the potential to pose a significant threat to the civil society of Georgia. It has caused extensive protests on the streets of Tbilisi, with thousands of participants gathering near the Parliament building to express their disagreement with the pro-russian legislation.
We believe that the issued law (in case it’s pushed forward) may have a significant negative impact on civil society in Georgia, including non-governmental organizations and the political opposition. We fully endorse and support the Georgian people in their efforts to safeguard their fundamental rights and freedoms through peaceful demonstrations and meetings. We wish to underline that the implementation of such legislation in Georgia would represent a considerable setback in its way to join the European Union, and could be perceived as emulating the practices of Russia, where similar legislation is being used as a tool of repression and control over civil society. The implementation of similar laws in multiple countries has been recognized as a tool to shrink the space for civil society and has a detrimental impact on society as a whole.
We would like to emphasize that the police force of Georgia has utilized a range of crowd control methods, including stun grenades, water cannons, and tear gas, in some cases all at once, which violates international law. Furthermore, it has been reported that in certain instances, the police did not provide sufficient warning to protesters regarding the use of force. Additionally, over the past few days, there have been numerous cases of mass arrests that have been described as brutal by witnesses. The Georgian Young Lawyers’ association (GYLA) has also noted that many legal representatives have been unable to contact their clients following these arrests.
It has come to our attention that today the ruling party in Georgia has withdrawn the ‘foreign agents’ bill following two nights of protest by young people. However, it is important to note that the situation is still ongoing and requires continued attention. We call on the Georgian government to respect the rights of civil society, media, and individuals to express their views and opinions without fear of reprisal. We support the Georgian young people’s efforts to build a free, democratic, and prosperous country, and we urge Georgian youth activists and civil society to continue their peaceful and non-violent protests to protect their rights.
We recognize that participating in protests may lead to some risks; therefore, we encourage the participants of the protests to prioritize safety by following the security guide provided by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee.
- We call upon the EU Delegation, International organizations, and Embassies in Georgia to monitor and support a democratic way for Georgian development and ensure that youth organizations play a crucial role in this process.
- We encourage other stakeholders and people from around the world to show their support and solidarity with young Georgian people and civil society by expressing their opinions on social media and by means of peaceful actions in their own countries.
We stand with the young Georgian people in this critical moment and believe that the Georgian youth and civil society have a crucial role in safeguarding democracy and human rights in the country. We will continue to advocate for your rights and freedoms both nationally and internationally.