(Brussels, Oslo and Tbilisi, 9 October 2016) During the Georgian parliamentary elections on 8 October 2016 a violent incident occurred in Western Georgia. A group of unidentified men broke into polling station 79 in the village of Jikhashkari in the Zugdidi district, disrupted the counting procedure and physically attacked international election observers, who represented the joint mission of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE).
The NHC, IPHR and EPDE joint international election observation mission was established in Georgia on 12 September. On Election Day, 36 accredited international observers were deployed around the country. A preliminary statement summarizing our findings will be released later this afternoon. The Mission’s final report will be published after the run-off election which will take place no later than on 2 November.
The incident in question took place around midnight on Election Day, approximately four hours after the polling station had been closed for the vote count. Our observers had been on the premises since 19:45, and noticed that the door to the polling station had no lock. Just before midnight between six and ten men forcibly entered the premises and started to disrupt the counting procedures in a violent manner. Our observers filmed the incident and were attacked. Two of our observers had their phones taken from them by force. Our observers were not seriously hurt, but one female observer had bruises on the head after being tripped and hit with an elbow. Police were present in and around the polling station, but did not intervene in order to protect our observers and their property.
The observers stayed overnight in a Zugdidi Central Police Station filing a complaint and having medical examinations. The observation mission would like to remind Georgian authorities that the participation in the electoral process of international election observers is enshrined both in Georgia’s election code and in politically binding international documents such as the OSCE Copenhagen Document. The Georgian government consequently has an obligation to protect international observers. We therefore request that Georgian authorities investigate the incident swiftly and effectively, in order to identify and punish the perpetrators and restore the stolen property (which included footage of the incidents and other materials related to the election observation) to our observers.
For further information:
- Aage Borchgrevink, Senior Adviser, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Oslo (Mob: +47 90751150)
- Simon Papuashvili, Project Coordinator, International Partnership for Human Rights, Brussels, (Mob: +32 494 753942)