HRW: "Harsh Punishment: The Human Toll of Georgia's Abusive Drug Laws"

Human Rights Watch, an NGO, published a report named “Harsh Punishment: The Human Toll of Georgia’s Abusive Drug Laws”.

The 67-page report of a study carried out over two years, outlines the impact of “overly punitive” drug laws and practices, forced plea agreements, automatically applied penalties, such as confiscation of driving licences or prohibiting users from working in an array of professions.

Even though Georgia has taken measures towards liberalization in recent years, the Human Rights Watch states that existing legislation is still too harsh.

“Every year, Georgian authorities needlessly detain thousands of people, subject them to forced drug tests and funnel them through the criminal justice system, for nothing more than drug consumption or possession for personal use. Locking people up for no more than using drugs causes tremendous harm and does nothing to help those who need and want treatment”, said Giorgi Gogia, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, and author of the report.

The report is based on more than 85 in-depth interviews with relevant people who have been prosecuted for drug related crimes, lawyers, family members, social workers, government officials and various advocacy groups and NGOs.

Human Rights Watch highlights the events of 2016 when the police arrested Kote Japaridze, 23, for the possession of the drug MDMA (“ecstasy”) and was given 20 years in prison. After a plea agreement, his sentence was reduced to six years, five of which were suspended. Kote was fined GEL 25,000 (about $9,800), lost his driving license and was banned from working.

The report highlights that Georgian law does not distinguish between small quantities of drugs and larger. Possession of even particles of these substances automatically means a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence. Holding as small as one gram of drugs is considered as a “large quantity” and can mean life imprisonment.

“The Georgian authorities should decriminalize personal use and possession of drugs. This means removing all criminal sanctions for use and possession of drugs for personal use,” said Human Rights Watch.

By Anna Zhvania

13 August 2018 13:23