Georgia to simplify pardoning rules for non-violent crimes
The President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili has initiated a change in the pardoning rules for individuals convicted of non-violent crimes, simplifying and making the rules more humane.
The simplified procedure will apply to those who have been sentenced for drug use.
Under the new regulation, a person convicted of a non-violent offence is entitled to apply for a presidential pardon immediately upon completion of the final hearing of the court case. In other words, an applicant seeking a pardon is no longer required to serve a punishment term, as was the case until now.
The President is expected to endorse the new regulation in the near future.
The procedure will also apply to individuals who have committed crimes in the property sector, or official, financial and economic crime.
“Through this initiative, the President has once again demonstrated his attitude to non-violent crimes, making the pardoning procedure more humane,” said Zviad Koridze, the Pardon Committee Chairman.
In his words, the procedure shall not apply to individuals sentenced for selling drugs and psychotropic substances, as well as to those serving their sentence for the procurement, possession, smuggling and transit of particularly large amounts of narcotics.
The opposition and the ruling team have already assessed the Georgian President’s initiative.
The ruling Georgian Dream party doesn’t see any problem in the matter, though it blames him for populism.
“It’s quite possible that he [Margvelashvili] has started his pre-election campaign with those statements,” said Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze.
The presidential election in Georgia is scheduled for October 2018. The incumbent President Giorgi Margvelashvili hasn’t specified as yet whether he is going to run for a second term or not.
The Georgian Interior Minister, Giorgi Gakharia, commented on the President’s initiative as follows:
“We don’t see any problem in this initiative if the matter concerns drug users. Moreover, we have a specific proposal, a legislative amendment aimed at making the law more humane with regard to drug users. There is nothing controversial in it. However, if it concerns drug dealers, we will be completely against it. Let me put it another way, our humaneness shouldn’t contain the risk of encouraging crime,” stressed Gagharia.
The opposition has approved of Margvelashvili’s initiative.
According to Nika Rurua, a member of the United National Movement, ‘it’s a move in the right direction’.
“However, this measure is hardly enough. It’s necessary to decriminalize drug offences. In other words, drug users shouldn’t be sent to jail,” said Rurua.
Giorgi Tughushi, a member of the European Georgia party, termed the President’s initiative as ‘absolutely acceptable’.
Georgian NGOs and civic groups that sharply criticize the government’s harsh drug policy have long been demanding that the pardoning rules for individuals convicted on drug-related charges be amended.
Civil activists organized a rally in December last year, calling for liberalization of the country’s drug legislation and a ‘mass pardoning’ of those convicted of drug crimes.
Under the present-day legislation, pardons are granted to convicts who have served part of their term and those who completed their sentence and/or have not been expunged from their sentence.
According to the Georgian Constitution, the President enjoys the exclusive right to pardon prisoners.
There is a special commission tasked to consider the convicts’ pardon applications. The commission issues its recommendations to the Georgian President. It’s up to the President to make the final decision.
The President is also entitled to pardon a convict bypassing the requirements set under the pardon procedure.
A total of 3 671 convicts have been pardoned in Georgia during Giorgi Margvelashvili’s presidency.