Non-governmental organizations Transparency International – Georgia and International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), in response to the changes initiated in the “Law on Assembly and Manifestations” have stated that “Parliament should not adopt a draft law that is extremely restrictive of freedom of assembly and expression”.
The representatives of the third sector believe that such legislative changes will be a step backwards in terms of human rights and call on the Parliament of Georgia to refuse to support the mentioned initiative.
“In the Parliament of Georgia, on October 2, the majority deputies submitted a draft law which will be considered in an accelerated manner. The initiated changes will severely limit the freedom of assembly and expression guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia and international standards. We believe that such legislative changes will be a step backwards in terms of human rights.
“What is changing: the rules for arranging temporary constructions during gatherings and demonstrations are becoming stricter; In fact, it is forbidden for the participants of an assembly to set up a temporary construction in advance, in particular, it is forbidden to set up a construction if: there is a danger to the participants of the rally or other persons, it prevents the protection of public order and security by the police, or if it causes disruption of the normal functioning of an enterprise, institution or organization or is not related to the holding of an assembly or demonstration.
“The issue of granting the right to dismantle the constructed structure to the police forces is unclear, in particular, to dismantle the temporary structure, the law enforcement authorities will use the measures provided for by international law and Georgian legislation to eliminate the violation, open the way, restore traffic and/or dismantle the temporary structure;
“Sanctions are being introduced. In particular, the violation leads to the confiscation of the object and a fine in the amount of 500 GEL or the confiscation of the object of the violation and administrative imprisonment for a period of up to 15 days. If the violator is an organizer – confiscation of the object of the offense and fine in the amount of 5000 GEL or confiscation of the object of the offense and administrative imprisonment for up to 15 days.
“The initiators name the September 18 statement of the State Security Service as the reason for tightening the rules. According to the explanatory note, ‘the purpose of the presented bill is to create a legislative framework that will give the relevant state authorities a better opportunity to ensure the safe conduct of assembly and the more effective exercise of freedom of expression.’
“Freedom of assembly and expression is a fundamental constitutional and conventional right that is widely protected by our laws. Restriction of this right is allowed only if it is necessary for a democratic society. The vague records provided by the presented project actually impose such restrictions and prohibitions that prevent the realization of the right to assembly and demonstration and sharply worsen the standard of protection of freedom of assembly and expression in the country.
“The initiated legislative changes are a continuation of the vicious practice of administrative detentions, which the civil sector has been talking about for years. This indicates the government’s desire to limit freedom of expression and avoid public protests regarding the policies implemented by it.
“We call on the Parliament of Georgia to refuse to support the mentioned initiative, not to worsen the legislative framework of freedom of assembly and expression in the country, and to ensure the possibility of enjoying the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution,” the statement said.
The Legal Issues Committee of the Parliament supported the amendments planned to the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations in the first reading.
According to the draft, the participants of the assembly and demonstration will be prohibited from setting up temporary constructions if their arrangement: poses a threat to the participants of the assembly or demonstration or other persons; prevents the police from maintaining public order and protection of security; causes disruption of the normal functioning of an enterprise, institution or organization; is not related to the holding of an assembly or demonstration.
In addition, according to the draft law, “in order to avoid distortion of the appearance of the public space”, the participants of an assembly or demonstration are prohibited from setting up a temporary structure if the assembly or demonstration is not significantly hindered without its arrangement.
Violation of these new prohibitive norms will result in confiscation of the object and a fine of 500 GEL or confiscation of the object and administrative imprisonment for up to 15 days, and if the violator is an organizer – confiscation of the object and a fine of 5000 GEL or administrative imprisonment for a term of up to 15 days.