Pardon – a chance for a new life. What’s next?03.11.2009 | 16:54
New pardon is expected in Georgia. This time the authorities suggest releasing incarcerated drug users with a reservation that drug dealers are not subject to mercy. GeorgiaTimes correspondent asked the opinion of Elene Tevdoradze, a rights defender, on the president's initiative.
In the near future the parliament of Georgia will examine a draft law "On amnesty of drug users" proposed by the president, Speaker David Bakradze said at the parliamentary bureau session. The draft law is supposed to be considered by the parliament in first reading on Friday, November 6 to be ratified next week.
Under the applicable legislation the use of drugs is punished by max 10 years' imprisonment. As News Georgia reports the draft law stipulates reduction in prison term twofold for this kind of convicts.
According to David Bakradze the keynote of the coming pardon is that "delinquent drug addicts must be brought back to the society that had a lot of problems because of them". Bakradze emphasized it could be a step toward a new policy on formation of a new attitude to drug users, Caucasian Knot reports.
At first sight Saakashvili's initiative looks quite useful. The opposition and rights defenders constantly criticize the authorities of overloaded prisons and their condition which is far from European standards in spite of the penitentiary reforms.
Quite recently Georgia's new ombudsman Georgy Tugushi highlighted in his report that there is acute shortage of beds in prisons, and the convicts have to sleep in turns. There are serious problems with food and observance of personal hygiene rules.
Looks like Mikheil Nikolayevich who took pains to restore relative calm in the country found a way to set prisons in order. Will the criticism of penitentiary system subside? It's hard to say.
At least the latest pardon decreed by Saakashvili in September forced a new turn of domestic crisis.
At first the opposition and parliamentarians were crossing swords because of Rati Rekhviashvili, an amnestee, who tried to commit another crime and offered resistance at the time of detention. As a result two policemen were taken to hospital and their colleague died of wounds.
The opposition even organized a protest action, resentful at Saakashvili's statement that the pardon policy had to be made more stringent, and the police should be entitled to use arms. He also remarked that the policeman was killed by one of those whom the opposition so fiercely defended during their rallies.
Hardly had this scandal died away when a new one started. As a result of the amnesty declared by the president of the country four persons convicted of the murder of Sandro Girgviliani, a bank clerk, were released. Remarkably, before the previous amnesty in March 2009 their sentence was abridged making the opposition rise in indignation. But in September four Interior Ministry officers - Alania, Bibiluridze, Gachava and Aptsiauri - were set free on parole. The opposition organized a protest action in condemnation.
Less than a month had passed as the ruling majority started planning a new amnesty. Generally speaking they have good things to state: why should young people (who are sick and committed no crime) be kept in prison? No matter what changes the penitentiary system can undergo this kind of punishment will hardly be good to anyone.
Besides, as we have already mentioned, there will be less criticism against the authorities. Ex ombudsman Sozar Subari expressed his resentment recently: "The pardon policy Saakashvili is pursuing is wrongful. There are people who serve their terms for having stolen 2 laris or 2 kg of aluminum but the president refuses to set them free considering them dangerous for the society".
International monitors observe that after Mikheil Saakashvili's advent to presidency in 2003 the number of prisoners has increased 2.5 times. Law-enforcement bodies are a source of pride of the young revolutionary president who managed to create the police force that doesn't take bribes and helps business people get rid of "criminal protection".
There is another question: if now drug addicts are released who expect for the authorities that will score more political points will gain? Will the state be in charge of their adaptation to the society?
This is what GeorgiaTimes correspondent was discussing with Elene Tevdoradze, a rights defender, deputy state minister for reintegration.
- This is not the first amnesty that's been held. Last year the pardon was more large-scale with one of its part being the article on drug addicts. Now the prisons are packed with people convicted on part 1 of art. 260 of the Criminal Code. These are people who use minor quantities of drugs. So I'm positive about cutting their sentence.
They have to be provided with medical help, and not taken to prison where they will be psychologically wounded.
- And does the parliament set aside funds to cure them? - I ask.