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Minority warns about increased criminal situation after amnesty

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, November 20
The draft on amnesty was discussed during the parliament’s Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee meeting on November 19. The list of possible political prisoners was also addressed by the special working group that had been studying the cases of more than 185 individuals over the past 2 weeks. A verbal confrontation took place during the meeting between the majority and minority representatives. The minority demands in-depth study of each criminal case which requires much time.

The Head of the Committee, Eka Beselia underscored that women, juvenile inmates and those who had committed light crimes will be easily given amnesty.

“As for serious crimes like murder, burglary and so on, we will collaborate concerning the cases with all interested sides and make the decision after. Crimes committed under certain articles might not be amnestied,” Beselia stated.

Minority representative, Davit Sakvarelidze predicted the “possible worsening of the criminal situation in the country,” after the draft is confirmed.

Sakvarelidze emphasized that a concrete figure is important for him on how many “murderers, burglars and robbers” will leave prisons.

“It is the majority’s initiative and I hope that you will be careful concerning the issue, as the responsibility is on you if the criminal situation radically changes in the country. Such a threat really exists,” Sakvarelidze stated.

The controversy between the majority and minority representatives went deeper after minority MP, Mariam Sajaia’s speech.

According to her, some years ago, Georgia was one of the most crime-infested countries in the world and due to the previous government’s actions; Georgia is currently named as one of the safest countries on the world.

She was responded by Beselia, who advised Sajaia not to use the term “criminal country" regarding the Georgian society.

”Don’t insult the Georgian nation through such sayings,” Beselia noted.

According to the representative of the Young Lawyers’ Association, Eka Popkhadze, Georgia's low crime rate should be preserved. According to her, it is important that several articles be discussed.

“There are definite articles related with serious crimes and it should be discussed how acceptable it is for those who committed crimes under these articles to be released,” Popkhadze said.

Interior Minister, Irakli Gharibashvili does not rule out that many “undesirable people” will leave prisons due to this amnesty.

“We treat this issue very carefully, as it may entail the release of many undesirable people from prison. We should do our best to avoid the escalation of crime in the country. We will not allow this to happen,” Gharibashvili stated, adding that he hopes the parliament will cooperate with the MIA and take the ministry's views into consideration.

Minister of Penitentiary and Corrections, Sozar Subari, believes that the amnesty will not worsen the criminal situation in the country. However, he thinks that there are better means in this regard than amnesty.

“Amnesty was much needed as lots of people had been arrested unfairly in the frame of the previous government. There are better means concerning the inmates than amnesty like pardons or the principle of consecutive sentences, which can also be used,” Subari stated, adding that the prisoners’ pardon was the president’s prerogative and has been used incorrectly for years.

There is a controversy concerning the list of possible political prisoners as well. The list that was presented at the committee meeting includes well-known cases. However, there are the names of the former officials as well that were wanted by the previous government. The parliament should decide to grant them the status of political prisoners or not.

After the granting of this status, they will be freed of charges and given an opportunity to return to Georgia from various countries where they were provided asylum in different periods.

The minority and specific NGOs (GYLA) also believe that more time is needed for the complete studying of all 185 issues.

However, member of the working group on political prisoners, Nana Kakabadze, does not share that position and states that a large part of those issue are known to the public and have been studied for years by various NGOs.

“Lengthening the period will have a negative effect on those who have already spent years in prisons illegally; it will be an unjust action towards them,” Kakabadze said.