Even discussions of the topic will be similarly punishable.
According to criminal code amendments that were recently passed in the first reading by the Abkhaz parliament, ‘actions against the sovereignty of Abkhazia shall be seen as a crime and punishable by 10 to 15 years in prison’.
What qualifies as ‘actions against the sovereignty of Abkhazia’ are attempts to ‘hand over the entire territory of Abkhazia to a foreign state, or to cause a part of the territory to secede‘.
lso punishable would be ‘negotiations at any level with a foreign state, a foreign organization or its representatives with the aim of restricting the sovereignty of Abkhazia’.
Individuals found to have engaged in such activities will be imprisoned for 5 to 10 years, while also losing their right to hold certain positions for a period of up to three years.
Those who are caught ‘collecting, stealing or possessing Abkhazia’s state or military secrets with the aim of passing them to a foreign state, a foreign organization or its representatives’ would face a prison sentence of 10 to 15 years.
The amendments are expected to be adopted as early as autumn.
“So far, the law only stipulated the impossibility of challenging the status of Abkhazia as a sovereign state, even if it were done so through a popular vote,” says Tamaz Ketsba, a constitutional law expert. “There is a special constitutional law that forbids putting the issue up for a referendum or reconsidering the status of the Abkhaz language. Now, however, any such attempt will be considered a criminal offence.”