October 2, 2023
The Center for Applied Nonviolent Actions and Strategies (CANVAS) condemns and denies the fabricated and absurd allegations published today by Georgian government officials and the State Secret Service of Georgia (SSSG). Allegations made by the Georgian government against CANVAS are false and are entirely unrelated to CANVAS’s work in the country.
CANVAS’s courses in Georgia, as well as all of our programs that have been implemented, are based on CANVAS’s Nonviolent Struggle 50 CP and Core Curriculum, which are publicly available on our website. Our curriculum has been taught in over 50 countries and at top academic institutions across the globe, including Georgia. Over the past two years, CANVAS has been implementing a USAID program in cooperation with the East West Management Institute to support civil society organizations in Georgia to better equip them with tools and knowledge on community organization and advocating for positive social changes.
Our most recent workshop, which the SSSG referred to in their allegations, was held at Tbilisi Hotel Ibis from the 26th to 29th of September. Details of the event were public with an open call for enrollment.
Unfortunately, the State Security Service decided to create a national controversy out of nothing and officially summoned three of CANVAS’s staff on September 29th for questioning. Without any legal obligation to attend, they still appeared for questioning and denied the absurd allegations. No legal documents presenting an investigation into our three colleagues or CANVAS itself were presented. No arrests were made, and they were able to leave the country on a previously scheduled flight on September 30th. They were unable to make an official statement as the interrogation was classified and they were bound by nondisclosure rules.
These latest allegations against CANVAS are part of a larger smear campaign that Georgian security agencies are conducting against civil society in Georgia and the CANVAS staff in Tbilisi. In response to the successful civic campaign carried out in Tbilisi from February to March of 2023 against the so-called “Russian Law”, Georgian high-ranking officials openly targeted our colleagues and activists. False allegations continued to pile on. On September 18th during a public briefing, security service representatives stated that CANVAS participated in an organized conspiracy against the state with the intention to overthrow the current regime.
Today, on October 2nd, in a further escalation of their campaign, security services invited one of CANVAS Georgia’s representatives, Nini Gogiberidze, for interrogation. We stand strong with Nini, our friend, colleague, distinguished academic, and amazing person who has committed two decades of her life to promoting education in the domain of civil rights and democracy.
CANVAS believes that these developments serve as a means to pressure not only the heads of the organization and its members but also all the civil society activists who cooperate with us and receive and spread the knowledge of strategic non-violent campaigns.
The right of citizens to freely voice their concerns and aspirations is foundational to any democracy. CANVAS has collaborated a wide spectrum of Georgian civil society organizations for more than two years, with the goal of helping people speak up for the issues that matter to their families and communities. Despite these unwarranted attacks, we will continue to support Georgian civil society organizations and the people of Georgia to secure the future they determine and deserve while securing their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Georgian constitution.
We urge international organizations and supporters of democracy and human rights in Georgia to take notice of the developments while communicating these issues and violations with Georgia’s relevant public and private institutions. We believe that such support will significantly aid the activists working to strengthen democracy in Georgia.