TBILISI, DFWatch — The government in Georgia is planning to give amnesty to thousands of prisoners. Some of them will be released immediately, while the rest will have their sentence reduced to half.

The Georgian Dream coalition has presented a draft law in parliament, signed by majority members Eka Besealia, chair of the human rights committee, Gedevan Popkhadze and Zviad Kvachantiradze.

There are about 24 000 prisoners in Georgian jails; the highest per capita number of any European country, and among the top five in the world.

In its annual report on the European neighborhood policy published in May 2012, the European Commission underlined the problem of the high number of prisoners in Georgia.

Human rights workers explain the high number of prisoners with the tough crime policy, while the international community has repeatedly recommended to ease the policy.

Such recommendations have not led to the problem being reduced in the past, but Georgian Dream coalition promised during the election campaign to fulfill these recommendations, as well as liberalize the crime policy.

The new government tries to achieve this through two different approaches. A few days ago, the justice minister presented a draft law package in order to liberalize current legislation. The other approach is to give prisoners amnesty.

According to the bill, the amnesty will apply to prisoners serving time for less serious charges. It will include articles defining sentences from 0 to 5 years.

According to the draft law on amnesty, the sentence will be reduced to half for persons serving time for serious crimes.

Parliament will review the draft next week. The Parliament Speaker asked members of parliament not to drag out the review process.