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UNM against liberalizing Georgian law “on occupied territories”

Leaders of the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party have come out against the initiative of the parliamentary majority represented by Georgian-Dream - Democratic Georgia Party suggesting to liberalize the law “on occupied territories.” According to UNM leaders, the bill “runs contrary to Georgia’s national interests” and “facilitates annexation of the occupied territories by Russia.”

According to leader of the parliamentary minority David Bakradze, with the planned amendments to the law, Georgia acknowledges that the “Russian-Georgian state border near Psou and Roki is not a border,” which does not help integrate the people residing “in the occupied territories” into the Georgian space. In his words, the bill contradicts to the national interests of Georgia and the UNM will not support it.

“…The introduced bill has two serious defects. The first is that it facilitates the entry to Georgia from Russia, which will contribute to annexation and will not contribute to the territorial integrity of Georgia. In addition, because of these changes, we will have two different types of borders. Actually, if you illegally leave Russia for Georgia via Abkhazia, you will be fined only. However, if you illegally enter Georgia from Russia via Kazbegi, you will be jailed. That is why we do not support the amendments,” David Bakradze says. In his words, the law enables the Georgian government to allow the people violating the law to enter Georgia for once in a way.

Another leader of the opposition party Giga Bokeria says the parliamentary minority will take all legal measures to kill the bill.

“Once the National Movement did everything to block amendments to the law ‘on occupied territories’. It was a success, since the government’s amendments are harmful for the national interests of our country. It is very bad that the government and the parliamentary majority do not refuse from legislative initiatives damaging the country,” Bokeria told reporters.

On November 28, the Georgian Committee for Defense and Security called it inexpedient to resume parliamentary discussions on the government-initiated bill suggesting liberalization of the accountability for violation of the entry rules to the so-called “occupied territories.” The ruling party Georgian Dream –Democratic Georgia seeks to remove the provision on imprisonment as punishment for violation of the above rules.

“Some provisions of the law on occupied territories will be improved to facilitate the relations of the two peoples. When it is time for unification of Georgia, we must remember that people live in these territories. We must return the people, first, and the law must not hold us from doing it,” Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani told journalists.

Earlier, the Venice Commission welcomed the amendments with some recommendations and the EU Delegation in Georgia urged their implementation. Parliament of the previous convocation passed the bill in the first reading in May 2013. Then the process was suspended. Parliamentarians need to vote for the bill in two readings.

According to the amendments prepared by the staff of the State Minister for Reintegration in 2013, the foreign citizens and the persons having no citizenship will face an administrative fine (400 lari) for violating the entry rules to Abkhazia and South Ossetia instead of the criminal persecution stipulated by the law at present (2-4 years in prison). In case of a repeated violation of the given law, the person will face a higher administrative fine (at least 800 lari), instead of 3-5 years in prison.

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