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Proposal to Tighten Law on Rallies
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 1 Jul.'09 / 23:17

It emerged on July 1 that the ruling party was considering a package of draft amendments to the law on rallies and manifestations amid ongoing opposition’s protest involving blocking of the Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare with improvised prison cells.

MP Pavle Kublashvili of the ruling party, who chairs parliamentary committee for legal affairs, said that the amendments, if approved, would fill gaps in respect of specifying and defining circumstances in which blocking of roads and streets would be qualified as illegal.

The law on rallies and manifestations now bans “to deliberately create obstacles to the work of public transport.” MP Kublashvili said that although this provision was “clearly defining that deliberate blocking of streets is not allowed”, it was decided to further specify it.

“We have decided what does a deliberate blocking of a street means,” MP Kublashvili said on July 1. “That means blocking of traffic through erecting some kind of constructions on the streets. Barricading streets is not allowed in any country.”

“In the future, blocking of streets with ‘cells’ or other types of constructions will be reacted upon and the law enforcement agencies will take appropriate measures,” MP Kublashvili said in remarks aired by the Maestro TV.
 
Also the proposed amendments would specify that blocking of a street would only be allowed if the number of protesters is large enough and holding of a rally requires space on traffic lanes.
 
According to the current law a group of protesters can hold a rally without any prior notification of the authorities if they do not intend to block the streets. In case protesters plan to block a street, organizers of a rally have simply to notify about their intention to the local municipality in advance and the municipality can reject the notification if some other event is already planned at the same venue indicated by organizers.
 
It also emerged on July 1, that the ruling party was considering amending law on police, allowing riot police to use rubber bullets and other types of less-lethal projectile launchers.

The law lists special equipment and appliances, which can be used by the police, including tear gas, water cannons and rubber batons, but rubber bullets and other type of projectiles are not listed.

Riot police used extensively rubber bullets while dispersing anti-government demonstrations on November 7, 2007. Rubber bullets and other type of impact projectiles were also used on May 6, 2009 against protesters outside the Tbilisi police headquarters. According to the Public Defender two protesters lost sight in one eye after being hit with projectiles on May 6.

The Interior Ministry and Minister Vano Merabishvili are regularly accused of violating the law for the use of rubber bullets and other projectiles against protesters.

Lawmakers from the ruling party, however, insist that the current law does not ban use of less-lethal weapons for riot control purposes, citing the provision of the law which reads that police can not use such equipment or means, which are banned by the international conventions and norms. MP Kublashvili said that the amendment would only specify the provision in order not to leave a room for speculation and double-interpretations.

The current law also says that use of such special equipment, which may cause serious mutilation of a person, is also banned.

The ruling party is also considering toughening administrative punishment for the offenses like resisting police and hooliganism and prison term for these offenses will increase from the current 30 days to 90 days.

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