A group of opposition leaders met with representatives of foreign diplomatic missions to convey their concerns about the ruling party-proposed package of amendments in laws on rallies, police and administrative offences.
“If someone thinks that it is possible to return Georgia back to the Soviet times are very wrong and will end up very badly,” Nino Burjanadze, leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia, said after the meeting.
“I am sure that this draft of amendments will trigger very negative reaction from experts from Council of Europe and it will be a very clear signal to the world that Saakashvili is moving towards establishment of dictatorship in this country,” she added.
Viktor Dolidze, a close ally of Irakli Alasania, leader of Alliance for Georgia, said that representatives of diplomatic missions “expressed surprise” about some of the proposals laid out in the package, in particular about increase of imprisonment for administrative offenses from 30 to 90 days.
Salome Zourabichvili, leader of Georgia’s Way party, said that along with the proposed draft amendments, the opposition also raised at the meeting issue of series of arrests of opposition activists.
Sozar Subari, the public defender, who also attended the meeting, said proposed amendments “where a step backwards, a step in the past.”
He said that legalization of use of less-lethal weapons by the police was “not in itself illegal”; but he added the move demonstrated that the use of such means in the past, without having a relevant legal basis, by the riot police against protesters was illegal.
Subari also said that the current law on rallies required “some specifications and clarifications.” “But in direction of further liberalization and not in direction of tightening,” he added.
German Ambassador to Georgia, Patricia Flor, told journalists after the meeting that the issue required to be carefully weighed in order to keep the balance between the fundamental right of demonstration and inadmissibility of blocking the Parliament and other public buildings.
She also said that “it would be very well advised” to involve Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional and legal issues, Venice Commission, in evaluation of the proposed amendments.