DRI: Amendments to the Administrative Offences Code are repressive and reduce space for peaceful protests
The Democracy Research Institute shares the concerns of Georgian NGOs and the United States Embassy in Georgia about the changes made to the Administrative Offences Code of Georgia, and believes that the changes are repressive and serve the sole purpose of restricting freedom of assembly and expression.
The draft law submitted by the Georgian Dream MPs on April 26 was adopted by the parliamentary majority of the Georgian Dream in three days - April 29. The amendments concern two articles of the Administrative Code - Article 166 (petty hooliganism) and Article 173 (disobedience to the request of a law enforcement officer during the performance of official duties), which have been most often and unjustifiably used by the police to arrest protesters.
The monitoring of rallies by the Democracy Research Institute in 2019-2020 showed that law enforcement officers usually detain protesters on the basis of the above-mentioned two articles; in most cases - unjustifiably, on the basis of identical and formal protocols of violations.
The proposed changes have further aggravated the already disproportionately strict measures of liability. According to the explanatory note attached to the bill, the current penalty fails to prevent the commission of an offence; However, even before the changes, the amounts of fines were already disproportionately high, namely, in the case of Article 166, it ranged from 500 to 1000 GEL, and in the case of Article 173, it ranged from 1000 to 4000 GEL. In addition, the amendments deprived the judge of the opportunity, in the event of a repeated offence, to exempt a person from administrative liability and use only a verbal reprimand.
The amendments increased fines for repeated offences and made imprisonment of 5 to 15 days inevitable.
Given the content of the amendments and their rushed passage, it is clear that the government is trying to add even more repressive content to the norms that have been used cumulatively many times in practice. In addition, legislative changes ignored the demand of the civil society and academia - instead of carrying out a fundamental reform of the Soviet Code adopted in 1984, the norms repeatedly used against protesters in the country have became even more repressive.
Democracy Research Institute, Rallies under Observation, 2020, p. 6, available at: http://www.democracyresearch.org/geo/316