The Georgian Parliament confirmed the presidential decree at an emergency sitting on March 21 with 115 MPs voting in favor, clearing the way for declaring a nationwide state of emergency effective until April 21. The lawmakers gave the government the go-ahead to temporarily restrict a number of rights and freedoms in an effort to contain the further spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We introduce certain restrictions which are not extreme in nature,” said the President, clarifying that the state of emergency would not extend to limiting basic individual rights, political liberties, and freedom of media and expression. The freshly approved decree does not impose nationwide curfew, though it envisages some limitations to freedom of movement.
As for the upcoming parliamentary elections in October, the President expressed hope that they should be conducted according to the normal timeline, six months after the expiration of decree. However, she noted, the elections might be postponed for a short period were it necessary to extend the state of emergency.
“The state of emergency may be stepped up if citizens show negligence [defy government’s containing measures regarding coronavirus],” stressed the President.
The presidential decree endorsed by the legislators envisages suspending certain constitutional rights granting the government following emergency powers:
- Relevant authorities (law enforcement officers) are empowered to forcibly transfer a person to a government-designated site [most probably quarantine zones] for breaching the self-isolation/quarantine protocol. The government is authorized to establish rules of isolation/quarantine for which natural and legal persons shall be held liable;
- State authorities empowered to restrict international air, land and maritime traffic except cases provided by the government’s decree (according to Prime Minister Gakharia, cargo transportation will be excluded from the ban – Civil.Ge’s note). Violating government-imposed restriction may lead to criminal liability;
- The right to make an appointment with inmates in the penitentiary institutions provided by the Code of Imprisonment is suspended;
- The government is empowered to determine/modify rules (distinct from the current legislation) for carrying-out public services and administrative proceedings;
- The government is authorized to restrict ownership rights of natural and legal persons for quarantine/isolation or other medical purposes and commandeer property for public health ends;
- State authorities are authorized to restrict freedoms of assembly and manifestation. According to the Prime Minister’s declaration, public gatherings of more than ten people will be banned;
- The government is empowered to restrict or order the exercise of certain activities by private law entities (companies and businesses) in accordance with the procedure provided in the regulation. The government may interfere in management of private companies and set them specific tasks for carrying out;
- The government is empowered to introduce rules for the protection of sanitary and hygienic norms which will be mandatory to observe by citizens and legal entities alike;
- State authorities are authorized to set or limit prices for products of basic consumption, drugs and medical service;
- The government is entitled to enforce rules different from those stipulated by the Georgian Law on Early and Preschool Education, General Education, Vocational Education, Special Vocational Education and Higher Education;
- The government is authorized to mobilize workforce with appropriate medical training and qualifications in accordance with the procedures defined by itself;
- Court hearings may be conducted remotely using electronic means of communication. In this case, no party to the litigation shall have the right to refuse to attend the hearing remotely for the purpose of attending the hearing in person.
Natural or legal persons failing to observe the conditions of the state of emergency are to face criminal responsibility. For breaching the law, the decree sets a GEL 3,000 fine for individuals and GEL 15,000 for legal entities. Repeat offenders may face up to 3 years of prison sentence.
The state of emergency may be extended with the parliament’s consent only.
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