Venice Commission Issues Interim Opinion on the Draft law on De-oligarchization

Council of Europe Venice Commission issued on March 13 its interim opinion on the draft law on de-oligarchization. The law has been elaborated in response to one of the 12 conditions put forward last year by EU for Georgia to be granted EU candidacy status.

The Commission states that “an analysis of the measures of the draft law demonstrates that these may lead to violations of fundamental rights protected under the ECHR and that the draft law gives the Government too much influence over the process.”

The Venice Commission considers that the “personal approach” taken in the draft law, which defines and stigmatizes persons on the basis of unclear criteria, carries a high risk that will lead to human rights violations without achieving the aims pursued.

Moreover, the Commission says that “the risk of arbitrary application of the Law is even higher in the light of public statements, indicating that once adopted, it will be applied to the opposition.”

The Venice Commission outlines how, in particular, the process of collecting, assessing, storing and processing personal data on persons potentially designated as “oligarchs” by the Government, the stigmatization associated with the publication of information on persons designated as “oligarchs” in the register of the Government, the requirement for persons designated as “oligarchs” to submit declarations of assets and the requirement upon public officials to declare their contacts with persons designated as “oligarchs” and/or their representatives may constitute an infringement of the enjoyment of rights under Article 8 ECHR.

Similarly, the Commission considers that prohibiting persons designated as “oligarchs” from financing political parties, election campaigns, other political campaigns and rallies and demonstrations “with political demands” may infringe their rights under Articles 10 and 11 ECHR.

The Venice Commission issues a number of specific improvements to be made in the draft law, including clarification of key provisions and procedures, such as “being involved political life”, “exerting significant influence on mass -media” etc; inclusion of procedural safeguards and effective remedies; and ensuring proportionality of certain consequences of designation as “oligarch.”

The Commission also makes a number of recommendations as regards systemic measures to be adopted, such as deepening structural reforms of the judiciary to strengthen its independence and integrity; addressing the distortive effects of “oligarchs” on competition (for example, by strengthening the National Competition Agency and improving anti-trust legislation); further supporting the recently created National Anti-Corruption Bureau, in particular, ensuring transparent media ownership; reforming tax legislation, and others.

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