South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders

Saytda axtarış
Urgent Appeal of Georgian Human Rights NGOs
Human rights defenders in Georgia are very concerned over the pending amendment to the Law on Police. If passed into the law, the amendment will authorize an ordinary policeman to stop any person at any time in the street and conduct an “examination on the surface of one’s cloths” based solely on the policeman’s “reasonable doubt” that a citizen might have committed a crime. Moreover, the amendment further eliminates the need for obtaining a prior authorization to conduct a comprehensive search upon an individual and lowers a legal threshold triggering the right for such a search. 

Human Rights defenders are particularly alarmed that this amendment comes as a next step and a confirmation of Georgian government’s policy  of continuously expanding powers of the executive (especially of law enforcement authorities), at the expense of restricting fundamental human rights and freedoms of the citizens, against the background of a widespread impunity of law enforcement officers for human rights abuses and a long-standing problem of executive control over the judiciary in Georgia.

By changing the legal regulation of search procedure, the pending amendment makes intrusion into one’s civil rights and liberties as easy as never before. In particular, to conduct a search procedure, existing legislation requires a policeman to obtain a prior permission from a judge, or, in case of emergency, from a prosecutor. The pending amendment introduces a somewhat new “surface examination”, as opposed to already existing “search procedure”, which does not require a prior permission and can be conducted if a policeman has a reasonable doubt that one may have committed a crime.

However, if the surface examination “reveals a basis for conducting a search” (this time a comprehensive one), a police officer is entitled to call an official (authorized as such) to perform the search procedure, while the need to obtain a prior permission either from a judge or a prosecutor before conducting the search is no longer stipulated in the amendment.

Thus, the pending amendment effectively eliminates the requirement of a prior authorization not only in case of a surface examination, but also in case of a search.

Moreover, while previously it was a judge or a prosecutor who was authorized to decide upon the need for conducting a search, the pending amendment grants this right to an ordinary police officer to determine such a need and call an officer to perform the search.

Furthermore, while the current legislation requires a “well-grounded assumption“to conduct a search, the pending amendment replaces it with a vague “basis revealed during a surface examination.” What can provide such basis is not specified in the amendment, leaving a room for arbitrariness and abuse.

The pending amendment contains other undefined and vague provisions as well. In particular it fails to explain what is “reasonable doubt” triggering the surface examination, or how it can be determined. No exact time limit is provided by the law during which the police officer can keep a citizen under “surface examination.” The pending amendment again sets out a vague standard of “reasonable time” necessary for confirming or rejecting the original reasonable doubt that one may have committed a crime. Again, no criteria for determining reasonableness are provided. In both cases the vague formulations provide an ample room for arbitrary interpretation and abuse of power by police authorities.

Although, the law provides for the right to challenge legality of the examination to court and seek compensation for unfounded examination, considering the situation in Georgia, it remains highly questionable whether the potential judicial control can effectively prevent arbitrary examinations by policemen and possible human rights abuses further linked with it.  Particularly fearsome in this respect are well- documented practices in Georgia of police planting drugs or charging people with the “resistance to the police,” tools often used to silence alternatively-minded people and the dissent.

Moreover, this provision gives a possibility to detain a person for an unidentified period of time, while the de facto detainee will not be granted an appropriate legal status and will be left without protection of law and procedural guarantees (e.g., the right to demand a witness to attend the procedure of surface examination, the right to a lawyer, etc.). Thus, in fact the amendment legalizes what is considered as an illegal detention under the current legislation and places the detainee outside the protection of the legal system.

The procedure followed for discussing these amendments further triggers concerns. As it became known, the amendment is considered to be a technical change to the law by the Parliamentary majority and is being discussed according to the procedure of technical change, which is much simpler, than in case of introduction of a legal amendment, which actually is the case.

In addition, while the initiators of the amendment have not presented any appropriate explanation for lowering the legal standards and granting a police officer such broad powers, the amendment has not been discussed with human rights groups or with a broader civil society and has been effectively kept outside the public discourse. The draft amendment has already passed the first hearing in the Parliament. 

We are particularly concerned that the pending amendment comes as a next step in continuous expansion of police rights in Georgia; last year police received the right to use non-lethal weapons, such as rubber and plastic bullets, pepper gas, etc. While no police or other authority, who used such weapons against peaceful demonstrators in November 2007 and Spring-Summer 2009 has been brought before the court. The proposed amendments were swiftly passed into law, hardly providing the possibility for opening a public discourse on this matter.

Furthermore, the same day the Parliament amended the Law on Assembly and Manifestation which disproportionately limited the right to assembly and manifestation as well as freedom of expression and created several loopholes for arbitrary application of the law. The same day the parliament further amended the Administrative Code of Georgia. The amendments made violation of the new Law on Assembly and Manifestation punishable, inter alia, by up to 90 days of administrative detention.

Practical implementation of those laws in 2009 and 2010 has demonstrated that the laws are used arbitrarily to silence and harass dissent.

We, consider that the new trend of expanding the rights of the executive (especially of law enforcement authorities) at the expense of restricting fundamental human rights and freedoms of citizens in Georgia, in a country where judiciary is practically incapable of exercising effective control over the executive, seriously endangers prospects of democracy and rule of law in the country.

Undersigned human rights organizations call upon:

 The Parliament of Georgia to:

- Abstain from adopting the pending amendment into the law;

The diplomatic missions accredited in Georgia as well as international organizations to:

- Closely follow this and similar processes restricting fundamental rights and freedoms in Georgia;

- Call upon the Georgian government to strictly abide by its Constitution and international human rights obligations enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Tbilisi, 20 September, 2010

Human Rights Centre

Human Rights Priority

Article 42 of the Constitution

Centre for the Protection of Constitutional Rights

Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights

European Partnership Foundation



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