UPDATED: Legal Committee Endorses “Foreign Agent” Laws

On March 6, the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs began and, after nearly eight hours of raucous debate, voted in favor of the ruling majority’s Russian-style bills on “foreign agents” and supported sending them to the Venice Commission. The discussion took place amid public protests and confrontation among MPs.

Against the backdrop of public protest, which accompanied the committee hearing, the Bureau meeting, which was supposed to send the bills to the plenary session, was postponed until 10:00 tomorrow, March 7. If the Bureau session is held, the Plenary may pass the bill in the first reading already tomorrow.

Chaotic session

Some opposition MPs, including Levan Khabeishvili, leader of the United National Movement, MP Giorgi Botkoveli of the same party, and Giorgi Vashadze of “Strategy Agmashenebeli,” were removed from the committee session after a scuffle between Georgian Dream and opposition lawmakers.

“They came on the orders of Anri Okhanashvili’s [chairman of the committee]; 12 people forced us to leave the room. All those who obstruct them will be forced to leave the committee meeting,” Levan Khabeishvili told reporters.

Giorgi Vashadze said that first, marshals and then special services tried to remove him from the chamber by force. “I did not see Georgian Dream deputies resort to physical violence, but they hid behind special services… This is the force that pursues Russian interests,” he said.

Meanwhile, civil society activists, students, and ordinary citizens are holding a protest rally in front of the Parliament building. Journalists were again barred from attending the committee meeting. Some of them were reportedly stripped of their accreditation.

Amidst strong public criticism, banners have appeared in the streets of the capital depicting representatives of civil society organizations as “spies who slander the Church” and part of the opposition as “uprooted traitors.”

Although the human rights committee is not responsible for reviewing the draft laws on “agents”, today the opposition MP requested the Committee’s review, citing regulations. Following a small verbal argument between the MPs, the chairman of the committee, Mikheil Sarjveladze, temporarily postponed the committee session, which was also being held today.

UPDATED: This news has been updated to reflect the draft laws being endorsed

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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