ISFED: The Parliament should not adopt the draft law restricting the freedom of assembly and expression
On October 2, the majority MPs at the Parliament of Georgia submitted a draft law that is being considered in an accelerated manner. The proposed changes will put extreme restrictions on the freedom of assembly and expression guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia and international standards. We believe that such legislative changes will be a step backward in terms of the human rights situation.
- The rule of arranging a temporary structure at the time of an assembly and demonstration becomes stricter;
- Arrangement of a temporary structure for participants of an assembly, in fact, becomes prohibited in advance, specifically, arrangement of a structure is prohibited if it:
- poses a threat to participants of a protest or to other persons;
- interferes with upholding the public order and safety by the police;
- causes interruption of the normal functioning of an enterprise, establishment, or organization; or
- is not related to holding an assembly or demonstration.
- The issue of granting the police forces the right to dismantle an arranged structure is vague, specifically, the law enforcement bodies will take measures provided for by international law and the legislation of Georgia in order to eliminate an offence, unblock the traffic roadway, restore traffic, and/or dismantle a temporary structure.
- The draft law imposes sanctions, in particular, an offence causes the confiscation of the object of offence and imposition of a fine in the amount of GEL 500 or confiscation of the object of offence and administrative imprisonment for a term of up to 15 days; and if the offender is the organizer – confiscation of the object of offence and imposition of a fine in the amount of GEL 5,000 or confiscation of the object of offence and administrative imprisonment for a term of up to 15 days.
The initiators have named the September 18 statement of the State Security Service as the reason for making the rules stricter. According to the explanatory note, “the goal of the present draft law is to create a legislative framework that will better enable the relevant state bodies to ensure the safe conduct of an assembly and a more effective exercise of the freedom of expression.”
The freedom of assembly and expression is an extremely important constitutional and conventional right that is broadly protected by our legislation. Restriction of this right is only permissible when this is necessary for a democratic society. And the vague entries in the proposed draft law impose such restrictions and bans that interfere with the exercise of the right to assembly and demonstration and sharply deteriorate the standard of protection of the freedom of assembly and expression in the country.
The proposed legislative changes are a continuation of the malpractice of administrative arrests that the civil society sector has been talking about for years now. And the foregoing points to the authorities’ desire to restrict freedom of expression and to avoid public protest in connection with policies pursued by them.
We call upon the Parliament of Georgia to refuse to support the said initiative, not deteriorate the country’s legislative framework on the freedom of assembly and expression, and ensure the possibility to enjoy the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
Transparency International- Georgia