Transparency International Georgia, a local watchdog, issued a statement on May 19 criticizing a draft law, which – if adopted – will grant the Government powers to restrict certain rights after the current state of emergency is lifted on May 23.
The watchdog argued that the changes to law “run counter to the Georgian constitution” and neglect the role of parliamentary oversight of the executive authorities.
The bill – amending Georgia’s Law on Public Health – was submitted on May 13 by six MPs, all members of the parliamentary majority of the Georgian Dream, who have demanded to fast-track the legislation.
Watchdog noted that the new legislation would enable the Government to limit freedom of movement, freedom of assembly in public spaces, as well as property, economic and labor rights – while enforcing lockdown measures.
TI Georgia maintained that the foregone rights are “essential human rights” and they could only be limited after declaring a state of emergency and by means of a presidential decree, confirmed by the legislative body.
“The Constitution does not foresee other grounds for restriction, and, therefore, limiting those rights beyond the state of emergency is unconstitutional,” reads the statement.
TI Georgia highlighted that the bill “equated quarantine measures to the state of emergency,” covering a wide range of activities, in a bid to justify the scale of powers conferred on the Government.
The watchdog further noted that the proposed legislation “excluded” any possibility of parliamentary oversight, reducing checks on the executive branch.
“It is not justified to adopt unconstitutional laws on the pretext of combatting the pandemic, which imperils country’s democracy and belittles parliament’s role for the sake of the Government,” wrote the watchdog.
TI Georgia called on Georgian MPs not to back the bill, “which would put at stake [Georgia’s] democratic governance,” and restrict major human rights and freedoms envisaged by the Constitution and international law.