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OTHER / Report

Signs of Impunity and Government Loyalty to Alt-Info and Conservative Movement Leaders are Obvious


The Social Justice Center considers the state response to the crimes committed by the representatives of Alt-Info, an ultra-right extremist media outlet, and the Conservative Movement Party with the purpose of inciting violence and hatred in the country to be unequivocally  ineffective and believes that the turning of a blind eye to such violence by the state violates the fundamental principles of social peace, equality and democracy on the one hand, and undermines the achievements of the institutional reforms pursued by the government in the law enforcement system since 2018 for fostering equality policy on the other. The signs of impunity and the kind of legal and political immunity that can be seen in the attitudes towards the leaders of these groups cast doubt on the political loyalty of the government, which is particularly troubling given the Conservative Movement's sharply pro-Russian sentiments and a political agenda justifying Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine

Since March 2022, the Social Justice Center has been actively studying the facts of violence, threats and incitement to violence committed by the representatives of the ultra-right extremist media outlet Alt-Info and the Conservative Movement party in various localities of Georgia (Mestia, Khulo, Ozurgeti, Marneuli, Kobuleti, etc.). In our estimation, the detected cases not only qualify as criminal episodes of threat and violence, but also constitute the  crime of  incitement to ethnic and religious hatred by the leaders of the organizations in question. Therefore, it is critical that law enforcement agencies launch an investigation under Article 239 of the Criminal Code (Public Call for Violent Action) and study the issue of responsibility of leaders and legal entities. It should be noted that in accordance with the national legislation of Georgia, incitement to ethnic and religious hatred is the basis for the liquidation of a legal entity and the prohibition of a party. The Social Justice Center appealed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia as early as in March 2022 with an extensive and substantiated review of these occurrences and requested an investigation to be launched in these matters but to no avail [1]

  • Review of identified incidents

Leaders of Alt-Info, the Conservative Movement Party, and their affiliates have been openly expressing aggressive, xenophobic and Islamophobic attitudes towards non-dominant religious and ethnic groups, and civic activists in Georgia since 2020 [2]. Their name is associated with the disruption of the March of Honor on July 5-6, 2021 and the beating of and violence against media representatives working at the scene, as well as the brutal attack on the offices of the Tbilisi Pride and the Movement of Shame. Unfortunately, the leaders of the movement have not been legally held accountable for this mass violence even after almost a year.

The movement's rhetoric and actions have become even more aggressive and violent in the wake of Russia’s waging an unprovoked  war in Ukraine. At that time, the Conservative Movement Party busy with opening   local offices in various parts of Georgia, launched a campaign in support of the Russian war in Ukraine resulting in a series of a fair and peaceful protest of civil society activists in various regions. These peaceful protesst and their local leaders were confronted by members and leaders of Alt-Info and the Conservative Movement Party with criminal acts of threats, intimidation, (Ozurgeti, Marneuli), and violence (Mestia, Kobuleti) accompanied by open appeals for   violence (Khulo, Marneuli, Mestia). More specifically:

  • Mestia incident

On March 3, 2022, after civil society activists in Mestia (Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region) rallied in solidarity with Ukraine and protested the opening of a local office of a pro-Putin party, members of the Alt-Info and the Conservative Movement Party repeatedly physically assaulted several civil activists. Later, when assessing the incident in Mestia, representatives of Alt-Info and the Conservative Movement Party, not only admittedthe physical violence against the activists but also threatened citizens who expressed their discontent with the activities of Conservative movements. On March 16, one of the party leaders, Giorgi Kardava, made the following comment about the above mentioned development: „There has been a case in Mestia when they tried to damage our location, and they got punched in the face, and punched real hard.  This applies to men and it is a masculine approach: if anyone has any complaints with us, they will get hit as well. [Such] women can shout, cry as much as they want. [..] Those who want to speak to us in the language of violence, we will show what violence is. If we turn the issue to violence, no one knows violence better than we do. We are not going to take a step back.

The Ministry of ”nternal Affairs of Georgia has already been informed about the incident in Mestia as, according to media reports, police officers were also present at the scene of physical confrontation. However, no legal measures have been taken in response to the incident.

  • Khulo incident

On March 7, 2022, after members of the Conservative Movement Party had been forced by the locals to give up on their offices in Khulo and Shuakhevi, they former used a venue provided by the Alt-Info to openly express their aggression against the locals in a televised statement saturated with elements of hate speech on religious grounds.   On March 9, 2022, speaking to an Alt-Info host, the leader of the party Giorgi Kardava alleged that the local Muslim community had a say in the resistance to the opening of an office in Khulo: , "They are helping to increase Turkish influence in Adjara and the Christian cross is unacceptable to them.,” Kardava told the Alt-Info. In addition, Kardava made threats against the local Muslims saying that "their debauchery and their efforts against the national interests of Georgia will soon end." On March 10, 2022, Konstantine Morgoshia, speaking to the Alt-Info, referred to local Muslims as "terrorists" and "fanatics" noting that everyone would be given an appropriate response. An investigation has not been launched into the above facts.

  • Ozurgeti incident

Attempts to open an office of the Conservative Movement Party also stirred an outcry in Ozurgeti. Following this protest against the Alt-Info and the Conservative Movement Party in Ozurgeti, its organizer and a civil activist, Irma Gordeladze received threatening messages via social media. One of the members of the Conservative Movement Party posted a photo of several firearms on Facebook with a caption "This is how we treat those who are sick". An investigation has been launched into the incident, but no legal outcome has been established so far.

  • Marneuli Incident

Members  andsupporters of the Alt-Info and the Conservative Movement Party openly threatened to kill Marneuli activist Samira Bairamova after she painted the facade of the Marneuli Conservative Movement Party office in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. In addition to the death threat, members of the Alt-Info and the Conservative Movement  Party gathered in Marneuli on March 16, 2022, verbally abused Bairamova and gave her two days to restore the banners of the Conservative Movement, threatening that otherwise religious and ethnic strife would erupt. The founders of the Conservative Party and the Alt-Info commented on the incident, noting that everyone would be severely punished: “She painted our office. What did she think would follow? Samira Bairamova will not live it up," said Konstantine Morgoshia, one of the leaders, following up with the incident. Representatives of the Alt-Info and the Conservative Movement emphasized Samira Bairamova's religious affiliation and indicated that she was fighting against the Christian cross and the faith.

Despite the investigation into the incident, on March 20, members of the Conservative Movement Party and the Alt-Info allegedly painted the exterior of the United National Movement office in Marneuli  in red and made insulting inscriptions against Samira Bairamova.

An investigation has been launched into the above-mentioned facts andthe prosecutor's office has included Samira Bairamova in a special defense program.  However, the investigation has not yielded any other outcomes so far. No alleged culprits were identified and charged.

  • Kobuleti incident

In addition to resorting to threats and hate speech against civilian activists, on March 22, 2022, members and supporters of the Alt-Info and the Conservative Movement Party verbally and physically assaulted Ukrainian solidarity protesters in Kobuleti one of whom received serious body injuries and had to be taken toa medical facility. An analysis of the act of violence taking place in Kobuleti reveales that there were about 15 members of the Conservative Movement Party and theAlt-Info in Kobuleti at the scene of the incident. Reportedly they had learned about the upcoming rally through their networks and acting preemptively arrived in Kobuleti in advance. The assailants armed with sticks and special gloves  attacked the peaceful protesters shortly after their arrival. During the March 22 rally in Kobuleti, police detained five persons on charges of gang violence against protesters (Article 126, Part 2, Subparagraphs B and C of the Criminal Code of Georgia), who were later released on bail.

  • Legal assessment

Unfortunately, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia and the Prosecutor's Office  have failed to respond effectively to  the above described criminal acts. Although the Ministry of Internal Affairs launched an investigation into separate incidents in different regions, as shown above, the legal result only followed the fact of violence against activists in Kobuleti [3]. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has also launched an investigation into the identified threats against Bairamova in Kvemo Kartli and Gordeladze in Ozurgeti, although no legal action has been taken so far. The alleged perpetrators have neither been identified nor prosecuted.

Moreover, nor has the Ministry of Internal Affairs launched an investigation following our appeal, in which we drew their attention to apparent signs and evidence of incitement to violence on ethnic and religious grounds. By their inaction with regard to numerous calls for violence made explicitly through the Alt-Info either justifying or announcing upcoming acts of valence the law enforcement agencies have contributed to the violation of social peace, order, and equality. 

It is evident that the calls made by the leaders of extremist organizations in different regions go beyond the limits of freedom of expression and create an intimidating, hostile and unacceptable environment for various social groups through their statements and behavior, which is  qualified as a crime under Article 239 of the Criminal Code. The criminalization of this action  is the result of the reforms carried out in the field of anti-discrimination policy in 2015, and part of the fulfillment of a number of international obligations by the Georgian state, including the requirements of Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Unfortunately, the state does not make proper use of this article, thus violating its international obligations and the spirit of the current anti-discrimination policy under the Association Agreement with the European Union.

It is obvious that the investigative bodies, despite the presence of a body of evidence, seem to demonstratively refuse to evaluate the actions of this group in the context of organizing violence and inciting hatred, and also, refuse to aknowledge the motive of hatred in the identified actions. By doing so, they are effectively facilitating the concealment of the responsibility of the leaders of the Conservative Party and Alt-Info - the organizers of the violence - and are pursuing less harsh criminal policies. This approach creates a vacuum in the system of law and order and fosters a syndrome of impunity that creates a fertile ground for social conflict and controversy.

In the context of recent reports looking into the government’s financial support for the Alt Info and Conservative Movement Party leader, Margoshia, as well as the information about the activities of former State Security and Public Service personnel who are amongst the Conservative Movement local coordinators, the aforementioned state loyalty raises additional political suspicions.

Overall, this loyalty to far-right groups dramatically undermines the effectiveness and credibility of reforms that have been carried out in relation to hate crimes within law enforcement systems. Even more troubling is the fact that this exception and loyalty is linked to sharply pro-Russian, pro-Putin forces that are allowed to pursue unrestricted political and media activity despite their open support for anti-state propaganda, Russian war and violence.

The Social Justice Center calls for:

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor's Office to

Ensure an effective investigation into crimes committed by leaders and members of the Alt-Info and the Conservative Movement Party, including incitement to ethnic and religious strife, and hold the organizers of violence and authors of calls for violence criminally accountable;

The Government of Georgia to

Develop and implement a systemic policy to deal with ultra-conservative violent groups, which includes consistent measures to prevent both violence and anti-state propaganda.

Footnote and Bibliography

Footnotes and bibliography

[1] Although the Social Justice Center requested information about the response from the Ministry of Internal Affairs in April 2022, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has not yet provided about the launch of the investigation.

[2] Due to which, as far as we know, the State Security Service is investigating a crime under Article 142 of the Criminal Code of Georgia.

[3] Note: The interests of the victim in this case are protected by the Social Justice Center. After getting acquainted with the case materials, the organization applied to the Batumi District Prosecutor's Office with a request to change the criminal qualification of the case, continue the investigation into committing an act under the first and second parts of Article 225 of the Criminal Code of Georgia (organizing violence) and identify and prosecute the organizers. In addition, since members of the Conservative Party  and theAlt-Info abused civil activists because of their dissenting views, the organization demanded that the motive for hatred be identified and recognized in the case (Article 53  (1) of the Criminal Code). Unfortunately, the prosecutor's office did not comply with our request at this stage of the investigation.

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