GD Slams Venice Commission Over ‘Unfounded’ Opinion on Foreign Agents Law

On May 21, after the Venice Commission issued its urgent opinion on the Foreign Agents Law, “strongly recommending” its withdrawal, the Georgian Dream party put junior MP Salome Kurasbediani on a podium to denounce the Venice Commission’s opinion at a press conference, calling the opinion “unfounded,” “false,” “manipulative,” “unjustified,” and even “paradoxical,” and staunchly defending the controversial law.

“…There are no legal or other arguments against the Georgian law on transparency,” Kurasbediani said, claiming that the Venice Commission’s opinion was another unsuccessful attempt to prove GD wrong.

“In the Venice Commission’s opinion, we are repeatedly confronted with unfounded and contradictory legal reasoning, as well as many grossly distorted facts,” Kurasbediani said, adding that this “further encourages the radicalization of certain groups.”

With regard to the first paragraph of the Venice Commission’s opinion, in particular where it is states that the additional changes to the law were not published immediately after its adoption in the third reading, GD states that this information is false. The Venice Commission was referring to the changes to the law providing for fines against individuals, which appeared in the law after its adoption in the final reading. Kurasbediani, on the other hand, claimed that the changes were not made in secret, but were discussed openly.

Kurasbediani also said that the Venice Commission was wrong to say that the time for discussing the law was limited and claimed that “radical opposition” and NGOs took part in the discussions around the draft law.

She also said that the Venice Commission’s opinion is “saturated with assessments as if the protest rallies were peaceful,” saying that there were “multiple facts of attacks on law enforcement, storming of the Parliament building, forcible blocking of [Parliament] entrances and property damage.”

She said: “It is inconceivable that the Venice Commission, which until now has carried out the legal analysis of documents, has turned to the political assessment of street rallies,” adding that “this very approach of the Commission also illustrates its so-called objectivity,” and for this reason “there is no space left for further legal analysis” of other parts of the Commission’s opinion.

Kurasbediani outlined three main directions of the GD’s criticism of the opinion:

First, she said, none of the existing norms in the Georgian legal system mentioned by the Venice Commission and recommended for use instead of the law that GD is so insistently pushing for, ensures transparency in the NGO sector. “Therefore, the Commission’s reference to the fact that the financial part of the grants received by NGOs is transparent does not correspond to reality,” Kurasbediani said.

Second, Kurasbediani brushed away the comparison made in paragraph 38 of the opinion, in which the Venice Commission states that Georgian legislation appears to be very similar to Russian, Hungarian and Kyrgyz laws. The GD MP called this a “manipulative and unjustified approach” and accused the Commission of “stigmatizing” the Georgian law.

Thirdly and finally, referring to paragraphs 31, 83, and 99 of the Opinion, the GD MP accused the Venice Commission of declaring that “it is not allowed to demand transparency from non-governmental organizations.”

“The Venice Commission’s opinion is saturated with political messages, lacks legal and professional reasoning, and contains a number of factually incorrect information,” Kurasbediani said.

“After all, they also got the Venice Commission to write that transparency of NGOs and media is bad and undemocratic,” she said, adding that this “undermines the credibility of this institute itself and the values it is supposed to serve.”

“The Venice Commission’s paradoxical position that information on the financial income and expenditure of NGOs should be kept secret is regrettable and disappointing,” GD MP concluded.

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


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