TBILISI, DFWatch — Georgia’s parliament on Monday started discussing a draft law on amnesty which will release thousands of prisoners and reduce the sentence of others to half.

The ruling Georgian Dream coalition and the minority National Movement party hold differing positions regarding the draft bill, and discussion broke out when it was brought up at the plenary session Monday.

Mariam Sajaia, the youngest MP from the National Movement, claimed that Georgia used to be the most criminal country years ago and now it is one of the safest countries in Europe.

But Eka Beselia, who chairs parliament’s committee on human rights, called on her not to use the term ‘criminal mentality’ in regards to Georgian society.

“You should be careful using such words. I advice you not to use them, do not assault our nation,” she said.

The Georgian Dream coalition decided to adopt a new law on amnesty in order to soften up the previous government’s policy of zero tolerance, which has led to Georgia having a record number of prisoners. There are currently about 24 000 prisoners in Georgia, while the population number is about 4 million, which has brought the country to the top of the list among European countries in terms of number of prisoners per capita.

A few weeks ago, the Justice Ministry presented a package of law amendments as part of a new justice reform, while the committee on human rights prepared a draft law for amnesty. https://dfwatch.net/thousands-of-prisoners-to-get-amnesty-in-georgia-62179

Former government officials are concerned about the changes and argue that it may lead to the release of thousands of prisoners. But Prison Minister Sozar Subari today explained that the amnesty won’t cause a worsening situation in regards to crime in the country.

The amnesty was necessary because many people were unfairly detained, he said after Monday’s government session.

Another problem he speaks of is the issue of pardoning, which is the prerogative of the president.

The prison minister, who earlier served as public defender, drew attention to how things used to work before: when the ombudsman’s office prepared a list of prisoners to pardon, it always changed and other people left jail, as the president used this prerogative to manipulate the election results. He promised that this will change.

The minister says it is too early to talk about the number of prisoners to be released.

“Amnesty applies equally to the ones who were detained yesterday or five years ago, but this is a way to improve the mistakes of the previous government. We have new effective plans to abolish sentence and to release before term is served. Both need individual approaches and is effective to unload the prisons.”

The Interior Minister also commented on this issue after the government session. He said the bill on amnesty needs a careful approach, because it may result in many undesirable persons being released.

“We should do everything not to create tension in regards of crime. We will be a guarantee not to let this happen.”

Review of the bill is not finished. Government officials plan to send their own views on the draft to parliament in a few days.