09TBILISI1327, GEORGIA: PROTEST LAW PASSED – RAKLES OPPONENTS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1327 2009-07-20 12:31 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSI #1327/01 2011231
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 201231Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1931
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 001327 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/20/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: PROTEST LAW PASSED - RAKLES OPPONENTS 
AND CIVIL SOCIETY REPS 
 
REF: TBILISI 1250 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  The revision to the Law on Protests 
(reftel), which strengthens the Government's authorities, was 
passed July 17.  Critics have questioned the need to enact 
the law so quickly and raised concerns about the provision 
that extended the maximum term of administrative detention 
from 30 to 90 days; the provision that permits the use of 
"non-lethal" force; and the provision that makes the 
"artificial" blocking of roads an administrative offense. 
Once President Saakashvili signs the legislation it will 
become binding.  GoG officials have indicated to us and 
stated publicly that they will forward the law to the Venice 
Commission for review and comment.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C)  Comment:  The speed with which the law was passed 
has raised questions about the reason for the haste. 
Parliamentarians have told the Ambassador that the Government 
needs more authority to control protests should a new wave of 
demonstrations begin in September.  Notwithstanding the 
quickness of the legislative process, even NGOs critical of 
the amendments to the law acknowledge that they were given 
ample opportunity to voice their concerns to MPs, even 
gaining a concession on the ability to appeal administrative 
procedures.  Despite the criticism, in our reading of the 
text and that of our European diplomatic colleagues, the law 
appears to be within European standards and the voiced 
objections appear to have more to do with a mistrust that the 
GoG will abuse the provisions than a criticism of the nature 
of the provisions themselves.  We will continue to urge that 
the GoG submit the law to the Venice Commission for review 
and incorporate its suggestions if appropriate.  End Comment. 
 
The Controversial Provisions - Not So Controversial 
 
3.  (C)  The most controversial provision is the extension of 
the maximum term of administrative detention from 30 to 90 
days.  GoG interlocutors argue that the change only allows 
judges more discretion.  The GoG has clearly not convinced 
its critics as to why the change was necessary, largely 
skirting public discussion of the issue.  Executive Director 
of Open Society Georgia Foundation Keti Khutsishvili told the 
DCM that she had not received an adequate explanation of why 
the amendments needed to be adopted in the first place. 
Khutsishvili argued that the current law would have allowed 
the GoG to remove "cells", prosecute wrongdoers, and remove 
people from blocking major thoroughfares.  Khutsishvili 
opined that lack of political will and not the legal 
framework was the reason the GoG did not/could not disband 
the protesters and the cells quickly. 
 
4.  (C)  GYLA director Tamar Khidasheli explained that she 
was concerned about a lack of due process in the 
administrative penalty regime itself.  Khidasheli said that 
unlike ordinary detention which was governed by a clear code 
of procedures, administrative detainees did not have similar 
protections (such as access to lawyers, showers, exercise 
time, clergy, phone privileges etc.), and were subject to the 
whims of the MoIA.  Khidasheli said that an expansion of the 
administrative law regime, in the absence of clear 
protections for administrative detainees, represented a step 
backwards.  Khidasheli noted that the provision allowing 
appeals was positive though expressed doubt that it would 
provide adequate safeguards against abuse of judicial 
discretion.  According to Khidasheli, the provision only 
allowed appellate review if new evidence was presented, 
Qallowed appellate review if new evidence was presented, 
thereby limiting the ability of administrative detainees to 
appeal.  (Embassy Comment:  Both Khidasheli and Khutsishvili 
made rational, solid arguments about their concerns with the 
protest law.  The main thrust of their arguments was not that 
the law was objectively poor; but rather it expanded 
discretion which would likely be abused by the GoG without 
adequate safeguards.  End Comment.) 
 
5.  (C)  NGOs also raised issue with the provision regarding 
the use of non-lethal force in dispersing illegal 
demonstrations.  Khidasheli and Khutsishvili both expressed 
their concern that MoIA officers lacked the training to carry 
out the use of non-lethal force in an effective, professional 
manner.  Both also were concerned that the law granted the 
MoIA the authority to outline the types of non-lethal weapons 
and circumstances in which they would be used.  Neither 
Khidasheli nor Khutsishvili had seen a draft or were 
confident that the process in which the draft was written 
would be transparent.  Lastly, both said they felt the 
provision outlawing the artificial blocking of roads was 
insufficiently clear and could lead to arbitrary enforcement. 
 
Christian Democratic Movement Stages Walkout 
 
6.  (C)  A clearly frustrated Giorgi Targamadze (CDM leader) 
told Poloff that the law should not have been pushed through 
Parliament in such an expedited manner.  Targamadze, who met 
Poloff about one hour after CDM stage
d an impromptu walkout, 
said he was disappointed that the ruling UNM party did not 
address significant and legitimate questions about the law. 
Like Khidasheli and Khutsishvili, Targamadze was concerned 
about the administrative detention portion of the law above 
all else. 
 
7.  (C)  Targamadze expressed his disappointment and 
disbelief that Parliament could not have waited until after a 
Venice Commission review to pass the law.  Targamadze told 
Poloff that he would focus his attention on trying to 
convince President Saakashvili to veto the legislation, an 
eventuality he did not deem likely.  Khutsishvili and 
Khidasheli said that they were also likely to appeal to the 
President on behalf of civil society organizations o 
postpone signing the legislation into law until after the 
Venice Commission provided comments.  The Ambassador in fact 
asked several MPs why the legislation was passed so hastily 
before Venice Commission review.  The answer was quite clear 
- the GoG wanted the law on the books in anticipation of 
possible further autumn protests.  As a result, we believe 
that President Saakashvili is likely to sign the law in short 
order and then seek a Venice Commission review.  We 
understand that a Venice Commission review would likely take 
some time and probably not be completed until late fall at 
the earliest. 
TEFFT

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