TBILISI, DFWatch — The planned mass amnesty in Georgia may apply to eight thousand prisoners and 19 000 on probation.

Giga Giorgadze, Deputy Prison Minister, said this Tuesday at a session of parliament’s committee of human rights during review of a draft bill.

The alarmingly high number of prisoners in Georgia – 24 000 according to the most recent figures – has been a permanent subject of discussion during the previous government. During the election campaign, Georgian Dream promised to liberalize the crime policy, including to introduce a law about amnesty.

A draft bill has already been prepared, but at the first hearing the process was postponed after loud discussion. The first draft suggested to give amnesty to people sentenced for all kinds of crimes, lesser and more serious. The party formerly in power criticized the draft, arguing that it would increase the crime level.

Lawmakers postponed the review and asked for an expert opinion from law enforcement bodies. Tuesday at the committee’s session, members stated that they will take into account remarks by the government.

Eka Beselia, chair of the human rights committee, says that there is an agreement on the majority of remarks from the government and accordingly they will soon present parliament with an edited version of the bill.

The prosecutor’s office agrees to the approach that persons who are charged with lighter crimes may be offered new advantages, as well as unwarned crimes, female prisoners and underage prisoners.

Representatives of the prosecutor’s office said at the committee session that all prisoners should get certain advantages, because they have been treated badly in recent years and been held in difficult conditions. The prosecutor’s office argues that repeat offenders should not be released.

As for drug addicts and dealers, the prosecutor’s office thinks that they should not be released and neither should their sentence be reduced to half.

The justice ministry does not agree to release all accused persons serving suspended sentence.

The deputy prison minister says yet it is hard to tell how many people the amnesty will apply to, but according to the first draft of the law it will probably apply to 2000 prisoners serving for less serious crimes. The sentence will reduce to half for 3500 prisoners. There will be established a committee which will consider applications and review candidates to be release earlier than their term. If the sentence is reduced by 1/3, 1500 prisoners will be released before their sentence is served.

Georgian Young Lawyers Association shares the government’s position on this issue.

Tamar Chugoshvili, chair of GYLA says the first draft on amnesty was large-scale and contained risks, but after the amendment, GYLA shares the government’s position. It is important that the process to restore justice is implemented through reviewing cases individually, where appropriate commissions make decisions individually, she said.