The messenger logo

Venice Commission calls on full decriminalization for illegally entering the Occupied Territories

By Ana Robakidze
Wednesday, December 11
The Venice Commission adopted yet another recommendation on the draft amendments to the Law on the Occupied Territories of Georgia. The document was adopted at the 97th Plenary Session of the Commission.

Prior to discussing the new recommendations, consultations were held between council representatives and Nodar Tangiashvili, Head of the International Organizations and Legal Provision Department of the Georgian Ministry for Reintegration.

“The commission welcomes the full decriminalization of sanctions for the violation of the rules regarding entry into the occupied territories. The document states that amending the administrative code accordingly would have provided even more flexibility and would have encouraged the engagement policy with the occupied territories.”

According the current draft, citizens of foreign countries and persons without citizenship are allowed to enter the Occupied Territories only from the directions specified by the law. The commission recommends changing paragraph 2 of the article of the draft amendment, which states that:

“Violation of this requirement shall lead to punishment under the Criminal Law of Georgia”, with “violation of this requirement shall lead to responsibility according to the rule as defined by the laws of Georgia.”

The main idea behind the recommendation is to move responsibility of a person illegally entering the occupied territories of Georgia from the realm of criminal law to that of administrative law.

The document cites statistics provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia revealing that a considerable number of those punished for illegally entering the occupied territories of Georgia are foreign sailors “who could never have been aware of the situation in Georgia and of the existence of its Law on Occupied Territories,” either they entered the restricted marine space only due to situations of force majeure. Therefore, the commission sates that the punishment of such people cannot be justified.”

The Venice Commission also proposes modification of Paragraph 3, Article 4, which states that those who violate Paragraph 2, can be granted special permission by the Georgian Government with its order, “if doing so serves the protection of the state interests of Georgia, promotion of peaceful conflict resolution, de-occupation, confidence building or humanitarian purposes.”

The commission’s opinion on the draft calls on to change the wording “which is issued by the Georgian Government with its order” with the following text: “in compliance with the rules stipulated in the relevant normative document of the Georgian Government”.

The document states that the new draft amendments to the Georgian “Law on Occupied Territories”, is highly welcomed by the Venice Commission and considered that the draft serves relaxing the sanctioning regime of illegal entries into the occupied territories. However, the commission also concludes that “the limited character of these amendments, and considers that they can be further improved, as suggested above in the present opinion,” and there are number of articles in the draft requiring to be revise. The Venice Commission remains available to further assist Georgian government in improving the Law on occupied Territories.

The law on Occupied Territories was adopted on 23 October 2008, further to a request by the Committee on the Honoring of Obligations and Commitments of the Parliamentary Assembly. Since then number of amendments and recommendations have been issued by the Venice Commission.