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The Georgian authorities have armed themselves with the law2009-08-18 22:43
The autumn wave of confrontation that had been promised by the Georgian opposition did not yet come but the authorities have already taken preventive measures. Today, the amendments to the Meetings and Manifestations Law come into force, stiffening the sanctions against demonstrators. Besides, despite the promises of the ruling majority, the law has been put to effect without the expert opinion of the Venice Commission, which was demanded by the oppositions. Thus, the demonstrators may find themselves behind bars during the first protest action in autumn.
The amendments to the Meetings and Manifestations Law of Georgia have been adopted during the special parliament session on July 17. As GeorgiaTimes already mentioned, those amendments are aimed at stiffening the rules regulating the process of holding a meeting, as well as at increasing administrative fines and terms of arrest. The changes initiated by the authorities prohibit any political actions within a 20-meter radius of administrative and governmental buildings. The provision about blocking the streetway is also specified: blocking is allowed only if enough people are present at the meeting and if there is no other way to hold a manifestation. Of course, this will be defined only by the authorities. The term of imprisonment for a whole number of
offences, including resistance to the police, petty offence and violation of the Meetings Law is increased from 30 to 90 days.
It was before the voting that the oppositionists came out with fierce criticism of the amendments. For instance, Secretary General of the oppositional For the United Georgia Eka Beselia stated that these amendments will encourage a new wave of reprisals. According to Beselia, the amendments open the way to dictatorship, and they must never be adopted. Leader of the United opposition Levan Gachechiladze also stated that by making changes to the country law, the authorities are pushing the people towards civil confrontation.
However, the parliamentary majority ignored the opposition's opinion and voted for the amendments. In protest, the parliamentary minority refused to take part in the voting. In the course of the debates, the delegates of the parliamentary opposition suggested to submit draft amendments to the Meetings Law for the expert's valuation of the Venice Committee and not to pass the document without its recommendations. However, this did not happen either. It was decided to do without the advice of the European colleagues.
The Parliamentary minority, which keeps to a more compromising position that their non-parliamentary colleagues, believes that such actions undertaken by the authorities are aimed at weakening the protest zeal of the opposition. In particular, such opinion was expressed by Vice Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, one of the leaders of Christian Democrats, Levan Vepkhvadze in his interview to the GHN agency.
"The Meetings and Manifestations Law strictly regulates the rules of holding manifestations. In this situation, the relevant administrative law is very important, according to which, the term of administrative imprisonment is increased up to 90 days. Consequently, in case a new protest wave arises in September or October, it will be enough for the authorities to detain 100-150 people that will be released only by the next year. The same thing will take place if the actions start in spring and the detainees will be released only in summer. Accordingly, the authorities will try to neutralize politically active seasons that may contain certain threat", - Levan Vepkhvadze noted.