DRI: Amendments to the Law of Georgia on Public Health allow for disproportionate restriction of human rights
The Parliament of Georgia will consider draft amendments to the Law of Georgia on Public Health at today’s plenary session.

The Democracy Research Institute joins the concerns expressed by partner NGOs over the fact that the draft law contains unbalanced risks of human rights violations. Adoption of the above amendments will allow the executive branch of government to perform legislative functions and will weaken both parliamentary and public control over the activities of state institutions.

The submitted draft law significantly expands the definition of quarantine measures. According to the bill, quarantine measures will be not only the measures applied to a person who had contact with the contagious disease, but any measure that regulates, in a way that is different from legislation, the activities of public institutions, movement of citizens, property, labour, professional or economic activities of citizens, illegal migration/international protection, gathering of physical persons for carrying out any social activity, including by imposing restrictions.[1] In addition, the draft law authorizes the Government of Georgia or the Ministry designated by the Government of Georgia to establish temporary rules different from legislation relating to isolation and/or quarantine, administration of institutions subordinated to the executive government and legal entities of public law, as well as delivery of public services.[2]

Lack of parliamentary control and fulfilment of legislative functions

According to the draft law, the Government of Georgia shall be allowed to regulate or otherwise restrict, inter alia, the right of movement, the right to assembly and property, professional or economic activities in a way that is different from the currently applied legislation.

The fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of Georgia may be restricted only in cases provided by law and in accordance with the established rules, in order to achieve a legitimate aim, while by introducing new regulations under the draft law, the Parliament of Georgia delegates its legislative powers to the Government of Georgia, and in this part, in fact, refuses to perform its main function - legislative activity.

The transfer of the above powers to the Government of Georgia will deprive the Parliament of the opportunity to determine the legitimate aim of the restriction of a particular right, or to assess the necessity and proportionality of the measures to be taken. The adoption of the bill would also significantly weaken public control before the adoption of restrictive regulations, as unlike the Parliament's law-making activities, the public actually does not have adequate mechanisms for observing the activities of the governmental agencies or adoption of subordinate normative acts by them.

Dangers of abuse of power and use of disproportionate measures

The bill allows for disproportionate restriction of rights. The delegation of Parliament’s powers creates a risk of abuse of power by the government agencies, especially under the existing improper control.

It should also be taken into account that under current regulations, violation of the rules of isolation and/or quarantine shall result in a fine of GEL 2000,[3] while the repeated violation is subject to criminal liability.[4] The draft law authorizes the Government to interfere with human rights on the basis of subordinate normative acts and to enact different rules for quarantine and isolation. This raises questions about how clear and predictable it will be for the addressee of the norm which actions are prohibited, since the Government will be allowed to impose regulations that are different from the applied legislation.[5]

Given the dangers relating to the fulfilment of legislative functions by the executive branch, abuse of power and use of disproportionately restrictive measures, the Democracy Research Institute believes that the draft law poses a threat of abusing the proposed regulations.

[1] Legislative initiative (N07-3/450) of Members of Parliament Dimitri Khundadze, Ilia Nakashidze, Vladimer Kakhadze, Zurab Khachidze, Koba Nakaidze and Dimitri Mkheidze, article 1 (1 "l").
[2] Ibid., article 1 (2, b)
[3] Administrative Offences Code of Georgia, Article 4210.
[4] Criminal Code of Georgia, Article 2481.
[5] Legislative initiative (N07-3/450) of Members of Parliament Dimitri Khundadze, Ilia Nakashidze, Vladimer Kakhadze, Zurab Khachidze, Koba Nakaidze and Dimitri Mkheidze, article 1 (2 "b").