Amnesty bill for political prisoners postponed for two weeks
The Georgian parliament is on recess for two weeks, thus postponing the consideration of an important bill that would offer amnesty for all violations stemming from the June 20, 2019 protests for two weeks. The amnesty bill is a part of the newly signed agreement between the authorities and the opposition proposed by the President of the European Council Charles Michel.
Discussion of the amnesty bill was scheduled for Tuesday, May 11, however, it is now postponed because of the ruling Georgian Dream party’s decision to take a vacation. It is expected that bureau and committee meetings will not be held for two weeks.
“A national holiday has been announced in Georgia, and it also applies to the parliament. Therefore, when the nearest bureau sitting is held after the national holidays, the bills initiated by the Georgian Dream and the opposition will be registered”, said Guram Macharashvili, a member of the parliamentary majority.
The country’s opposition has criticized the decision of the authorities stating that taking a two-week vacation amidst serious problems that need to be addressed is inappropriate, and wondering whether the Georgian Dream is trying to deliberately drag out the discussions of the amnesty bill.
“We consider it important to clarify some fundamental issues before the parliament resumes full-fledged work with the participation of the opposition. If the authorities use this time to participate in the solution of fundamental issues we welcome it. Otherwise, if the state does not use this time productively, it will be a waste of time, which could lead to delays in resolving a number of issues”, says Saba Buadze, one of the leaders of the Lelo opposition movement.
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Currently, there are two drafts of the amnesty bill – one from the authorities, providing for amnesty for all those charged with violations related to June 2019 protests, and the other proposed by the opposition, which only offers an amnesty for several police officers, and only if the victims agree to it, as the opposition claims that amnesty should not apply to criminals, not even the high-ranking officials.
On April 19, the ruling party and a few of the opposition parties signed a document proposed by the President of the European Council Charles Michel.
The newly signed agreement implies an end to the boycott of parliament by opposition MPs, the release of opposition politicians from prison, as well as the appointment of early parliamentary elections if the ruling party receives less than 43% of the vote in the local elections in the fall of 2021.
The June 20, 2019 riot amnesty law is one of the most important clauses of the agreement. Leader of the United National Movement, Nika Melia, is among a number of other individuals who have been charged with violations related to the June 2019 protests. He was arrested on February 23 after the storming of the party’s office by special forces and is now being held in pre-trial detention.