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Georgian Harm Reduction Network and NGO’s appeal to government

By Keti Arjevanidze
Wednesday, November 21
The Georgian Harm Reduction Network released a special appeal to the government regarding the changes in drug addiction legislation. The NGO representatives and Georgian Harm Reduction Network held a meeting with journalists on November 20.

According to Lasha Zaalishvili, a representative of the Georgian Harm Reduction Network, drug addiction in Georgia is criminalized and the government has to change the politics connected with drug addiction. The liberalization of the legislation was one of the main items discussed at the meeting. According to the presenters, the article in the criminal code that views drug addiction as crime should be abolished.

“Today drug in legislation, the basic principles of Georgian drug addiction law are repressive, and this repressive approach remains as the main instrument. Studies show that the punishment and arrest of drug-addicted people does not affect the behavior of drug-addicted people,” said Zaalishvili.

Zaalishvili also highlighted the inevitability of establishing a social healthcare system and the revision of the article about drug addiction. He added that the process of revision should be based on the principle of transparency and cooperation.

Georgian Harm Reduction Network representatives underscored that the usage of drugs and the realization of drugs should be delimited.

Koka Labartkava, the head of the NGO New Vector, stated that “only Georgia can a person be fined and transferred to prison for their own condition,” said Labartkava. According to Labartkava, today there are no elementary conditions for chronically ill people’s recovery.

Labartkava added that for the government, financially it is more convenient to rehabilitate the drug-addicted people rather than transmit them to the prison. Labartkava hopes that the new government will change the politics regarding the issue.

According to Tamar Gabisonia, the head of the constitution’s 42nd article board, for drug-addicted people, rehabilitation is essential.

Gabisonia stated that it is not acceptable to punish a person for the usage of drugs. According to her, drug addicts should be rehabilitated. “Because after going to prison, a person doesn't have the opportunity to be treated or receive any kind of rehabilitation, often after serving a sentence, a person returns to the drugs," said Gabisonia.

Gabisonia appealed to government to create a center in the Public Defense Department that will drug addiction issues.

According to Gabisonia’s listed demands, the participation of a Georgian Harm Reduction Network representative in the process of monitoring the prison system would be desirable.

Gabisonia also underlined the issue of the withdrawn drug list, which according to Gabisonia, needs to be revised, adding that it is not suitable according to international standards. She explained that they have already introduced the statement to the parliament.

Gabisonia concluded the demands by saying human rights should be defended as much as possible.