TBILISI, DFWatch–President Mikheil Saakashvili’s party is critical to a process to amend the law on the occupied territories.
The amendment deals with rules for how to travel to the breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia and punishment for breaking the rules.
The new draft simplifies the sanctions for entering the territories without permission from Tbilisi. The current version of the law applies criminal responsibility for this, but the draft suggests to first issue a fine and in case of repeated offense, apply punishment under the criminal code.
Parliament is now reviewing the draft amendment, which concern an article adopted by Saakashvili’s government after the Russia-Georgia war in August of 2008.
After Russia occupied the breakaway territories, Saakashvili’s government established new regulations and sanctions according to which, if a person enters the occupied territories without permission from official Tbilisi, he or she will be punished under the criminal code.
If a person then visits these areas without such permission and afterwards arrives in Georgia, he or she will be immediately detained. Bidzina Ivanishivli’s new government considers this incorrect.
The ministry of reintegration has prepared a draft bill based on the argument that a citizen of any other country, including Russians, may not now that they may be punished for visiting Abkhazia and South Ossetia and that they may be jailed.
According to draft amendment, if a person visits the occupied territories without permission from official Tbilisi, he or she will be fined with 400 lari (nearly USD 240), instead of being jailed. But if the person repeats the crime, the next step will then be detention.
In addition, they draft says that only the Georgian government may issue permission to enter the occupied territories. Such a permission may be granted before or after entering the occupied regions.
Saakashvili’s party members claim that those changes are unacceptable for them, as the draft doesn’t set any conditions for ending the occupation, and they therefore do not plan to support the draft.
Keti Tsikhelashvili, Deputy Minister of Integration and co-author of the draft, says the argument by UNM ‘is not strong’ and they cannot assure authors of bill to re-amend the bill.
Tsikhelashvili explains that this crime will still be punished, but punishment will be modified. The majority of persons who entered those territories in violation of the law didn’t know that they were committing a crime; that’s why they will be fined, and this way will be made aware that they violated the law, but in case they repeat such an action, this time they will be jailed, she added.
“Our argument is that our proposal is more configured and on the other hand it’s fair. It is proportionate to charge. In addition, this is more acceptable form for the country with European values and even more, this is instrument for peaceful process,” she says, “we already got positive evaluation from the West.’