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Civil Society In Expectation of Practical Implementation of the Law

08.05.2012

Salome Achba, www.religiebi.info

Amendments were introduced to the Criminal Code of Georgia short time ago. According to the new provision, aggravating circumstances will be applied to crimes committed on racial, religious, ethnic, sexual orientation and other discriminatory motives. Experts positively evaluate the law and hope it will act as preventive mechanism for various discriminatory actions.

The draft-law was worked out based on the recommendation of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) to Georgia. The ECRI recommended the Georgian authority to amend the national law in order to apply racial motive of any criminal offenses as aggravating circumstance.

“I would like to clarify that the introduced amendment does not envisage any new crime; or it has not designed a new type of offence. According to the changes, acting criminal offences will get grosser. For example, damage of property was punished by imprisonment up to five years. According to the new provision, if a person damaged other’s property based on any discriminative motive, his/her punishment will get grosser,” Giorgi Gotsiridze, lawyer of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) clarified.

Deputy Head of the Department for Justice at the Public Defender’s Office Sopho Benashvili positively evaluated the amendments and said practical implementation of the law might face some problems.

“Of course, we welcome similar positive legislative changes. However, the practice shows that if the law is not correctly implemented, similar amendments will not change anything. One point is to have perfect legislation and another point is to completely implement it. We have witnessed many facts of unimplemented legislative obligations. I, as a representative of the Public Defender’s Office,  see the only threat with regard to this law – incomplete or improper execution of this law,” Sopho Benashvili sad during the discussion in the Heinrich Boell Foundation.

She said it is urgently important to provide investigative bodies with correct information and knowledge in order to encourage them to detect discriminative circumstances in each incident. “I think, it will be difficult for the investigation group to estimate whether the crime was committed on any discriminative grounds – for example social affiliation. So, I think the investigation bodies shall be well-trained. They should have relevant information and knowledge to effectively use this mechanism in practice.”

Zaur Khalilov, executive director of the Civil Integration Foundation, positively evaluated the amendments too. “Recent incidents proved the necessity of similar legislative changes. You know, some legislative changes were introduced with regard to registration of religious organizations last year. Part of society had discriminative reaction about several religious groups after those amendments. The aggression against several religious and ethnic groups has increased. So, I think, the new provision in the law is very important and necessary.”

Georgian justice is already distinguished with its strict criminal policy and ultimate punishments for the convicted. So, we wonder – whether it was really necessary to introduce the mentioned amendments to the Criminal Code which made the punishment grosser.

Sopho Benashvili said the state shall be strict with regard to certain issues and discrimination is one of them. “There are issues, where the state shall implement strict policy in order to avoid significant human rights violation, like discrimination. Intolerance requires the state to implement correct policy.  The society should see that the state will never tolerate discrimination,” Benashvili said and added that when the state is strict with regard to this issue, the number of discriminative crimes significantly decreases.

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