09TBILISI1250, GEORGIA: PROPOSED PROTEST LAW FURY – MORE SHOW

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1250 2009-07-08 15:16 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO0026
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1250/01 1891516
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 081516Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1882
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001250 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/08/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: PROPOSED PROTEST LAW FURY - MORE SHOW 
THAN SUBSTANCE 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary/Comment:  A proposed draft law to clarify 
the existing law on protests has been subject to extensive 
criticism by the non-parliamentary opposition.  A preliminary 
assessment by Post and our Tbilisi-based European diplomatic 
colleagues reveals the law to be well within the European 
standards to which it aspires.  Nevertheless, a proposed 
increase for administrative detentions from 30 to 90 days 
concerns both Post and the Europeans.  Post will follow up 
with GoG officials to clarify the issue and express our 
concern about the proposed expansion of administrative 
detentions.  End Summary/Comment. 
 
Long Briefing - Little Merit 
 
2.  (C)  On July 8, the non-parliamentary opposition gave a 
briefing to the Diplomatic Corps calling the proposed draft 
law "Another Step Towards Dictatorship".  They circulated 
what purported to be a legal analysis of the proposed law 
which concluded that it was significantly more restrictive 
than European standards allow.  In general, the 
non-parliamentary opposition objected to certain clauses that 
prohibited the ability to block roads with objects (such as 
cells or vehicles); limited the area in which a protest could 
be staged to outside of 20 meters from enumerated public 
buildings (such as Parliament, the State Chancery, and the 
Presidential Residence); and an explicit clause allowing the 
use of rubber bullets and other similar crowd control 
devices.  The draft law also contained a clause which 
permitted the blocking of roads only in the event that the 
number of protesters were numerous enough to require space on 
traffic lanes to stage.  The last clause was criticized as 
too vague by the non-parliamentary opposition.  (Embassy 
Comment:  The clause is somewhat vague but can be clarified 
in subsequent readings.  Additionally, the issue could be 
handled through the existing protest permit procedure which 
could still grant protesters the right to stage on streets. 
Finally, courts could always rule on whether the law is 
constitutional or correctly applied if the government uses 
the provision to arrest people.  End Comment.) 
 
3.  (C)  Western diplomats at the meeting uniformly found the 
non-parliamentary opposition's criticisms of the law 
unfounded, except for concerns about the proposed change for 
administrative detentions.  (Embassy Comment:  With the 
exception of the administrative detention clause, the clauses 
at issue outline restrictions consistent with Time, Place, 
and Manner restrictions envisioned by American Constitutional 
Jurisprudence.  As described, the draft reflects a content 
neutral approach to application consistent with principles of 
U.S. law.  End Comment.)  The only diplomat who spoke at the 
briefing was the Swedish Ambassador who told the 
non-parliamentary representatives that exaggerated 
descriptions of reality do not help their cause.  He further 
added that diplomats should not be summoned and requested to 
get involved in every detail of every issue to which the 
non-parliamentary opposition objects.  He noted his concern 
about the administrative detention provision.  He suggested 
that the non-parliamentary opposition could discuss the issue 
with Swedish FM Carl Bildt who is scheduled to arrive in 
Tbilisi next week, if they chose.  His comments were then 
distorted by Manana Nachkebia (New Rights) who told the press 
that the Swedish Ambassador agreed with the non-parliamentary 
opposition that the law "in no way conforms to Council of 
Europe Standards" and insinuated that the Swedish Ambassador 
QEurope Standards" and insinuated that the Swedish Ambassador 
supported Carl Bildt's intervention on the issue. 
Representatives of the Swedish Embassy told Poloff that 
Nachkebia completely distorted their Ambassador's comments. 
 
What the Europeans Think 
 
4.  (C)  Apart from the noted concern about the clause 
raising administrative detention from a maximum of 30 to 90 
days, no other clause bothered European diplomats.  Council 
of Europe Special Representative Borys Wodz told Poloff that 
he had no problem with the current draft but had suggested 
and would continue to push for Venice Commission review. 
Wodz said that some in the GoG were considering having the 
Venice Commission review the law in parallel to the 
parliamentary approval process.  Wodz told Poloff this 
process would not be ideal, but the law could still be 
changed if necessary to make it conform to Venice Commission 
standards.  EU representative Francois Massoulie told Poloff 
that they viewed the draft as conforming with European 
standards and that the only potentially troubling issue was 
the administrative detention clause.  Deputy to the EU's 
Special Representative to the Caucasus Kaupo Kand echoed 
this, noting that he saw nothing concerning other than the 
administrative detention clause.  Diplomatic contacts in the 
German, British, Dutch, and Swedish Embassies all concurred 
with this assessment. 
 
TBILISI 00001250  002 OF 002 
 
 
TEFFT

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