The Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary negatively assesses the package of draft amendments to the Code of Administrative Violations developed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This initiative significantly increases the fines for administrative violations. A fine for petty hooliganism increases from GEL 100 to GEL 500-1000, and a fine for disobedience to a policeman’s legitimate demands or other illegal actions against him increases from GEL 250-200 to GEL 1000-4000. The draft’s explanatory note says that the amendments aim to ensure obedience to the law by the population. We believe that public order and obedience to laws cannot be achieved by aggravating sanctions and repressions. Such an approach is inherently wrong and also ineffective in the long run. Violations are prevented not by stricter sanctions, but by uniform and just execution of laws.
The current Code, which dates back to the USSR, does not provide adequate procedural guarantees. Accordingly, stricter sanctions will intensify the illegitimate restriction of human rights enshrined in the Constitution.
The current Code of Administrative Violations does not meet the requirements of the fair trial and is used to illegitimately restrict the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Participants of peaceful manifestations are arrested as a rule based on these provisions of the Code. The individuals, “charged” with such offenses as petty hooliganism or disobedience to police’s legitimate demands, are not provided with minimal procedural guarantees. The courts do not control the legitimacy of administrative arrests. They do not apply the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard for substantiating decisions. Correspondingly, decisions are made based on only the testimony provided by representatives of law enforcement bodies. The time provided for trials and application of sanctions does not ensure effective representation (cases are often considered in 10-15 minutes).
The Government itself has been discussing the problems of procedural guarantees and the need for the implementation of reforms. For this reason, the Government of Georgia created the Governmental Commission to Reform the System of Administrative Violations. The Commission completed its work in 2016, and developed a draft Code of Administrative Violations. However, the draft Code was not initiated in the Parliament.
For the reasons described above, we believe that the only proper way to amend the Code of Administrative Violations is to reform it systemically. Preservation of the Code in its current form prolongs the abuse of fundamental human rights and gravely violates Georgia’s international commitments. In these circumstances an increase in the amount of fines will have a freezing effect on the realization of the rights to assembly and freedom of expression.
Correspondingly, we call on:
the Parliament of Georgia
not to support the draft law proposed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and not to aggravate sanctions for administrative offences;
the Government of Georgia
to timely initiate the draft Code of Administrative Violations.