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GD-Tabled Amnesty Bill Stirs Controversy

Controversy over the amnesty clause in the EU-brokered April 19 agreement continues as the ruling Georgian Dream party registered a bill that will grant clemency to any wrongdoers, both protesters and law enforcement officers, during the anti-occupation unrest outside the Parliament building in Tbilisi on June 19-21, 2019.

The proposed law pardons any crime done, planned, or attempted except for grave injury, torture, the threat of torture, and inhuman treatment. It will also cover concluded, ongoing, or possible future investigations. Those entitled to clemency will be allowed to refuse it, a move allegedly targeted at detained opposition leader Nika Melia who opposes being freed through the law.

CSOs, Opposition React

The bill has fallen under widespread scrutiny, with CSOs pointing the scale of the amnesty and specific provisions as some key issues. Georgian Democracy Initiative pointed out that it would be “unjustified” for the amnesty to cover abuse of power by law enforcement, which would present state institutions’ representatives as “a political side” in the events.

Social Justice Center, a human rights watchdog, slammed the bill for covering yet “unknown, unexplored acts, including possible crimes by [civil] servants.” It argued that the cases of dozens of protesters and journalists injured during the police dispersal have not been effectively investigated in the first place, and granting amnesty to the possible wrongdoers will exacerbate the political crisis, instead of resolving it. The watchdog stated with concern that the bill does not take into account the victims’ interests, as their approval is not necessary for a convict or a suspect to be freed.

Meanwhile, the opposition criticized the provision that allows persons to refuse being granted clemency, a move they said is targeted at detained United National Movement Chair Nika Melia. European Georgia’s Gigi Tsereteli said the provision is aimed at keeping those who oppose the amnesty, including Melia, in detention, a move he said would fail the fulfillment of the April 19 agreement.

First Vice-Speaker of Parliament, Gia Volski responded to the criticisms, noting that a person who opposes the amnesty cannot be “amnestied by force.” Otherwise, he said, the bill was penned in “full in accordance” with the EU-brokered deal.

Similarly to the Vice-Speaker, GD MP Rati Ionatamishvili said the bill is “fully harmonized” with the agreement, and instead accused the UNM of trying to sabotage its implementation.

The opposition MPs who signed the deal and entered the legislature have also registered an alternative amnesty bill, which does not cover possible future investigations into the June 2019 protests, however, the draft has not yet been made public.

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