Dmanisi Events: Public Defender Calls for ‘Active’ Civic Integration Policy

Reacting to May 16-17 violent incidents in Georgia’s ethnically mixed southern town of Dmanisi, Public Defender Nino Lomjaria today said authorities should assess the causes of conflict and pursue a “more active policy” of civic integration to prevent similar incidents in the future.

The Public Defender also denounced a “statement of a high-ranking political official,” who referred to a foreign country in connection with the violent incidents, presumably referring to Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri who controversially stated that Azerbaijan is Georgia’s “strategic partner and ally,” when citing reasons for putting an end to the confrontation between the locals of Dmanisi.

The Ombudsperson slammed law enforcement agencies over their “ineffective” response to the disturbances, as those involved in the several confrontations assaulted each other in the presence of the police, who were unable to “defuse the situation.”

Expressing concern about “physical assaults” on media representatives during the incidents, the Public Defender called for holding the perpetrators responsible, and stressed that she will monitor the investigations.

Violence initially erupted in Dmanisi on May 16, during a shop incident between two groups of locals. The situation escalated the next day, with police attempts to defuse the tensions proving largely unsuccessful. Some two-day-long disturbance ended in a handshake on May 17 between ethnic Georgian and Azeri seniors of the town, following a negotiation at the Municipality Assembly facilitated by government representatives.

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