Georgia President Calls for End to Police Crackdown on Protesters Opposing Foreign Agents Law

Clashes erupt in Georgia as thousands protest "foreign agents" law, raising concerns over democratic trajectory and EU ties.

Nasiru Eneji Abdulrasheed
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Georgia President Calls for End to Police Crackdown on Protesters Opposing Foreign Agents Law

Georgia President Calls for End to Police Crackdown on Protesters Opposing Foreign Agents Law

Clashes between police, gas, water, disperse, protest escalated in Tbilisi, Georgia on Thursday as thousands demonstrated against a controversial "foreign agents" law passed by parliament. President Salome Zourabichvili called for an end to the police dispersal of protesters near the parliament building, where riot police used water cannons, tear gas, and pepper spray to clear the area.

The proposed law would require organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as foreign agents. Protesters denounced the legislation as the "Russian law" due to its similarity to laws used by Moscow to target independent media and organizations critical of the Kremlin. They see it as an impediment to Georgia's prospects for EU membership.

Two leading watchdogs, Transparency International-Georgia (TI-Georgia) and Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (GYLA), condemned the violent dispersal of peaceful protesters. "The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) started breaking up the demonstration without any reason, and some protesters were beaten, and rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, and water cannons were used," TI-Georgia stated. GYLA said the tactics used by police to detain or surround participants and prevent them from leaving violated international norms and the right to peaceful assembly.

The U.S. and EU criticized the law, saying it would impact freedoms in Georgia. President Zurabishvili, who is at odds with the ruling, party, stages, mass, rally, counter, anti, vowed to veto the bill but parliament can override her veto. The government insists the legislation aims to boost transparency of foreign funding, while critics accuse it of steering the country towards closer ties with Russia.

Why this matters: The protests in Georgia reflect a broader struggle between pro-Western and pro-Russian factions in the country. The outcome could have significant implications for Georgia's democratic trajectory and its relationship with the European Union and Russia.

Mass arrests occurred during the protests, with reports of excessive force used by law enforcement. The Interior Ministry has been called on to ensure the safety of peaceful demonstrators and to investigate alleged crimes committed by police officers. The foreign agents bill, which passed its first reading in parliament, will be reviewed by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission before further readings.

Key Takeaways

  • Clashes between police and protesters in Tbilisi, Georgia over "foreign agents" law
  • Proposed law would require organizations with >20% foreign funding to register as foreign agents
  • Protesters see law as impediment to Georgia's EU membership, similar to Russia's laws
  • President vowed to veto law, but parliament can override; U.S. and EU criticized the law
  • Protests reflect struggle between pro-Western and pro-Russian factions in Georgia