TBILISI, DFWatch — The new government in Georgia wants to do away with administrative detention.
This is a form of incarceration left over from the Soviet Union which allows authorities to put away citizens as a preventive measure without going through normal court procedures, and has been used extensively during periods of unrest in Georgia.
Representatives of the Georgian Dream coalition say administrative detention is an unfair and discriminatory practice in violation of international standards.
In spite of recommendations from the European Commission and demands by Georgian non-governmental organizations to abolish the practice, the Saakashvili government in 2009 increased the maximum length of administrative detention from 30 to 90 days. This was done after Tbilisi had been the scene of three months of protest rallies which saw some of the central streets blocked. After the protests, th government extended the maximum time limit for such detention, and expanded the violations for which a person can be convicted to administrative detention. People in such detention have no right to appeal and in many cases they do not manage to have a lawyer.
Civil society and the opposition evaluated this as a lever of government, which used administrative detention during massive protests and rallies, and arrested people for three months.
The coalition which won the election now claims that it will get rid of the whole system of administrative detention.
“A fine is enough to have administrative influence. Using additional arrests is probably not necessary,” Shalva Shavgulidze, a member of parliament for Georgian Dream. He added that abolishing administrative detention is the right decision.
“Detention is a serious restriction of human rights and should probably only be done under Criminal Law. Only during criminal law court cases is it possible to defend the rights of a person according to procedures, because it is a very serious restriction.”
Zaza Khatiashvili, head of the Georgian Bar Association, says that establishing 90-day administrative detention was a political decision and if it is abolished and if a person does something, then he will be fined, but not arrested.
Eka Beselia, a lawyer and member of parliament for Georgian Dream, says that the coalition in a few days will start reviewing this issue and prepare a draft law. She says there will be a moratorium on administrative detention until the the new law comes into force.