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Rubber bullets in law2009-07-13 23:18
It was not for nothing that poets and writers of various epochs admired Georgia in their literary works. However, it will obviously be long before the people have a chance to enjoy the noise of the Kura River, the waters of sulfur baths and the sun rays... The problem lies in politics. The parliament is voting for legalization of rubber bullets used by the police, as well as for stiffening the rules for holding the meetings, while the president refers to the oppositional meetings as to nothing but "a storm in a teacup". Now, that is the paradox.
The question is, whether the president of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili is right when calling the oppositional protests just "a storm in a teacup". That is the way he referred to the three-month anti-government actions at the meeting with the governors and the regional administration heads. According to the Georgian media, Saakashvili has pointed out that the opposition was unable to create large-scale problems in the country. But then, if the oppositionists are that harmless, why stiffen measures against them?
However, on July, 11, the parliament in the first reading has voted for the package of legislative amendments prepared by the ruling party. These amendments are aimed at stiffening the rules for holding the meetings, as well as at increasing administrative fines and the term of arrest. The innovations initiated by the authorities prohibit holding any political actions within a 20-meter radius of the administrative and governmental buildings. The paragraph regarding roadway blocking is also specified: road blocking is allowed only in case a sufficient amount of people takes part in the meeting, when holding a manifestation in any other way is impossible, as Civil.ge reports. The term of imprisonment for a whole number of infringements, including resistance to the police, petty crime and violation of the Meetings Law, is extended from 30 to 90 days.
It was before he current voting that the oppositionists came out criticizing the amendments. As GeorgiaTimes has already reported, Secretary General of oppositional movement For United Georgia Eka Beselia stated that these changes are going to encourage another wave of reprisals. According to Beselia, these amendments open the way to dictatorship and must not be adopted. Leader of the United opposition Levan Gachechiladze has also pointed out that the changes in the law push the public towards civil confrontation.
However, the parliamentary majority ignored the opposition's remarks and voted for the amendments made. In protest, the parliamentary minority refused to take part in the voting. In the course of the debates, the delegates of the parliamentary minority suggested submitting the draft amendments to the Meetings Law to Venice Commission for an expert evaluation and to suspend the adoption of the document until any of its recommendations. However, the delegates of the ruling party announced that the package will be submitted to Venice Commission only upon its being passed.
During the discussion of the amendments, no one listened to the parliamentary minority's proposal either. For instance, according to GHN, Jondi Bagaturia demanded reducing the term of punishment for administrative offence to 15 days. As the delegate pointed out, "even in the days of the communist regime, the administrative punishment was 15 days, and this term cannot be anyway extended in a democratic country". Bagaturia said: "I would like you to realize the kind of situation in which common pensioners, the young, or drivers, who will accidentally violate these rules, might find themselves in". He also stressed the fact that the "violators" may become an object of political revenge.