Amendments in the Law on Occupation
By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, February 12The Georgian government plans to introduce amendments to the Law on Occupation. This issue has already become the subject of debates in the parliament and among the public. The Law on Occupation stipulates that any person entering the territories of Abkhazia or the Tskhinvali region from abroad will be considered a criminal according to Georgian law and would be detained, sued and sentenced to up to four years if they were not entering from Zugdidi to Abkhazia and Gori to the Tskhinvali region.
Several dozen people are already serving sentences or were fined. All of them were the victims of ignorance because citizens of Armenia or Azerbaijan who travel to the neighborhood did not know about this law thus entering Abkhazia from the Russian side and while returning to their homelands through Georgia they faced problems. As soon as Georgian border guards find an Abkhazian or South Ossetian entry stamp or visa, they are immediately considered criminals in Georgia.
According to the initiators of the proposed bill, Minister for Reintegration Paata Zakareishvili suggested that for a first time violation the person would only be fined, but for repeated offenses prison is generally the penalty. Those who are against the proposed changes have expressed their concern that the current administration was planning to abolish the law completely on the occupied territories.
Head of the European Democratic Party, Paata Davitaia, mentioned that most people who violate the law are military experts and advisers who enter the disputed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from different borders other than Georgia and mostly conduct anti-Georgian policy in those territories. Davitaia said these people are criminals.
It is known beforehand that discussion of the law will be followed by serious debates and most probably the oppositional minority will not support the amendment. It should also be mentioned that at the beginning of 2012 when Georgia made entry for Russian citizens visa-free, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Georgia should abolish the law on occupied territories.
On February 11, several Georgian NGOs protested the idea of introducing the amendments to the law. They recommended that the parliament not support the government's initiative and not to make concessions to the Russian occupiers.