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European court condemns Georgia over inaction on gay rights march

AFP , Tuesday 12 May 2015
Georgia
File photo of a crowd swarmed a minibus carrying gay rights activists in Tbilisi, Georgia. (Photo:Reuters)
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The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that Georgian authorities failed to protect a 2012 gay rights march in Tbilisi, where demonstrators were attacked by religious detractors.

"Although given notice nine days prior to the march, the authorities... failed to protect the applicants' freedom to participate in the march from the bias-motivated violence," the court ruled in a complaint filed by the Georgian LGBT organisation Identoba and 13 of the 2012 Gay Pride marchers.

The demonstrators were carrying banners denouncing homophobia in one of the main streets of the Georgian capital when religious antagonists accompanied by Orthodox priests blocked their path and shouted homophobic insults.

As police looked on, the verbal assault quickly escalated into physical violence against the marchers, who were eventually arrested by security forces saying it was a protective measure.

"Instead of focusing on restraining the most aggressive counter-demonstrators with the aim of allowing the peaceful demonstration to proceed, the police had taken to arresting and evacuating some of the applicants, thus the very victims whom they had been called to protect," the ruling noted.

To add insult to injury, only two of the violent counter-demonstrators were sanctioned for their actions -- slapped with fines of around 45 euros ($50) for disturbing the peace, infractions the court called insufficient.

As a result, the court ruled authorities "failed to ensure that the march to mark the International Day against Homophobia could be held peacefully by sufficiently containing homophobic and violent counter-demonstrators," and ordered Georgian officials to pay the 13 individual plaintiffs damages ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 euros each.

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