President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili today refrained from issuing a veto on the widely controversial amendments to the Code of Administration Offenses, arguing the changes did not go against the Constitution despite the expedited passage not complying “with the spirit” of the April 19 EU-brokered deal.
The changes cannot be deemed to violate principles of law and international standards either, President Zurabishvili highlighted, stressing that legal grounds for using her veto power “in this specific case proved insufficient.”
However, she said the adoption of new rules, that toughened penalties for police disobedience and petty hooliganism, “could be perceived politically untimely” as the Parliament has first to move forward on amnesty law, judiciary and electoral reforms.
The Georgian President also underscored that lack of communication with the public and the opposition on issues such as human rights and law enforcement “is harmful to everyone, as it gives rise to distrust.” “Sensitive issues such as this demands inclusion of everyone and broad discussion,” she added.
The decision followed two days of consultations by President Zurabishvili with the ruling Georgian Dream and opposition parties. On May 5, the Georgian President hosted MPs Salome Samadashvili of the United National Movement, Khatuna Samnidze of the Republican Party, also Davit Usupashvili and Kakha Kozhoridze of Lelo, Giorgi Vashadze of Strategy Aghmashenebeli, Levan Ioselani of Citizens and Iago Khvichia of Girchi in separate audiences. Today she also met senior Georgian Dream lawmakers Mamuka Mdinaradze and Mikheil Sarjveladze, and afterward hosted Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili.
The controversial changes, adopted on April 29, increased fines for both first-time and repeated acts of police disobedience, also for repeated petty hooliganism. It also expanded the valid length of administrative detention. Ruling party legislators cited rising cases of administrative offenses, arguing the changes would introduce effective measures to prevent future violations.
Opposition parties were vocal in criticizing the changes, as MP Samadashvili asserted the new rules “run contrary to the principles of freedom of speech and expression in the country,” while MP Ana Natsvlishvili from Lelo stressed the amendments aimed to “suppress the right to protest.”
As for the key watchdogs, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association warned before the bill’s endorsement the changes would tighten the “repressive aspect” of the Administrative Code. Meanwhile, the Social Justice Center argued the new legislation would “open up even more room for arbitrary use of repressive police mechanisms and sanctions.”
Later, the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi decried the “rushed passage” of the amendments as “unnecessary and unhelpful.” In the starkly worded statement, the U.S. Embassy underlined that “the lack of meaningful consultation with opposition parties, civil society and other stakeholders raises questions about the purpose of the amendments.”
- Parliament Toughens Penalties for Police Disobedience, Petty Hooliganism
- U.S. Embassy Deeply Disappointed by GD’s ‘Rushed Passage’ of Administrative Code Changes