Parliament approved on July 11 with its first hearing a ruling party-proposed package of amendments in laws on rallies, police and administrative offences.
The parliamentary minority group refused to participate in the voting in protest against the package, which is also slammed by the non-parliamentary opposition saying that by these measures the authorities want to gain more levers for tackling the street protest rallies.
During the debates lawmakers from the parliamentary minority called on the ruling party to submit the draft amendment to the law on rallies to the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional and legal issues, Venice Commission, for an expertise and not to pass the document unless the Commission’s recommendations were available.
Lawmakers from the ruling party, however, said the package would be sent to the Venice Commission for expertise after it is passed.
On the amendments to the law on administrative offenses, the parliamentary minority group was mainly criticizing a proposal to increase prison term from the current 30 days to 90 days for number of offenses, including for resisting police orders, for petty hooliganism, for violation of law on rallies.
One of the concerns voiced by the opposition lawmakers was that it was unacceptable to increase the prison term, especially in the light of “inhuman conditions” in those detention centers, where convicts for administrative offenses are imprisoned.
On the amendment to the law on police, which after approval would legalize the use of less-lethal projectile launchers by the police, the lawmakers from the parliamentary minority said that the move was a confirmation that use of such weapons by the police twice – in November, 2007 and in May 2009, was illegal.
Currently the law on police does not include less-lethal weapons in the list of special means and equipment, which can be used by the police.
“For two years you have been claiming that the police had the right to use this type of weapons; if that’s true why it is now required to pass this type of amendment?” MP Levan Vepkhvadze of the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) told lawmakers from the ruling party during the debates.
The ruling party MPs, 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 Pavle Kublashvili, one of co-sponsors of the package, said the amendment was required to specify circumstances in which the police would be eligible to use less-lethal weapons.