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Opposition to enter parliament next Thursday to register amnesty bill

By Khatia Bzhalava
Thursday, April 22
MPs who have signed the EU-proposed agreement will enter the parliament on April 27 to register an amnesty bill. The renewed proposal by the European Council President Charles Michel released on April 18, along with covering 4 other points, offers a pardon for all violations and convictions stemming from the 19-21 June 2019 protests as a way to satisfy the demand of the opposition and release the United National Movement chair, Nika Melia, from prison. Apart from the amnesty bill, the bail offer also remains available for Melia, which, in case of Melia’s consent, will be paid by the European Union, however, the UNM chair refuses to pay the bail. UNM leaders demand Melia’s unconditional release.

According to Giorgi Vashadze, leader of the Strategy Aghmashenebeli, on Tuesday, the opposition will jointly submit amnesty law in the parliament. As Vashadze stated, the opposition had received consent from Archil Talakavadze that the law would be adopted in the shortest possible time. As soon as the law is registered, the president of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili will pardon convicted Giorgi Rurua, a shareholder of the opposition-minded ‘Main Channel’. The president announced on April 19 that she would pardon Rurua if Georgian political parties signed the proposal of the European Council President Charles Michel since Rurua’s release was also one of the demands made by the opposition as a precondition to enter the parliament.

The amnesty bill has caused controversy inside the opposition. UNM member Zaal Udumashvili believes that the signatories of the agreement must ensure that the amnesty law does not apply to those ‘abusers’ (police officers who dispersed the rally) who committed unlawful acts on June 20 night. According to him, the fastest mechanism for Melia to be released is if the prosecutor’s office abolishes the detention, however, Udumashvili believes that the government will not take this step.

Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) has called on political parties not to allow the bill initiation aiming to extend amnesty for the crimes committed by the police officers during the 19-21 June 2019 protests. GYLA states that it has been defending the rights of the victims of the June 20 protests and claims that the police officers who dispersed the demonstration violated the rights of the protesters. According to GYLA, the Amnesty announcement for serious crimes against human rights committed by state officials, including inhuman/degrading treatment, is a violation of international law. GYLA says that such actions hinder the investigation of such crimes and lead to the impunity of those responsible for the crimes.

UNM chair was arrested on February 23 for his refusal to bail for his charges related to the June 2019 protests. The opposition who refused to enter the parliament claiming that the elections in October 2020 were fabricated demanded Melia’s as well as Rurua’s release, who they regard as political inmates. The European Council President’s renewed proposal, which has been signed by the ruling party and several opposition parties, covers electoral and justice reforms, offers a pardon for all violations and convictions stemming from the 19-21 June 2019 protests and the conduct of repeat parliamentary elections in 2022 if the ruling Georgian Dream party fails to receive at least 43 % of votes in upcoming municipal elections. Several representatives of the United National Movement and European Georgia as well as the Labour Party rebuff to sign the document yet. UNM member Salome Samadashvili, who has already signed the document, hopes that UNM will take action and join the agreement once the Amnesty bill is passed.