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Public Defender Responds to Draft Amendments Pending Second Reading

The Parliament of Georgia has taken into account some of the opinions of the Public Defender relating to the amendments to the Law on Public Health and the Criminal Procedure Code.

The draft amendments were quite problematic and contained shortcomings. For the purpose of mitigating its negative effects on human rights and making a positive contribution to the improvement of the legislative package, the Public Defender submitted opinions to the Parliament of Georgia in writing within one day. Some of the opinions have been taken into account (before the second reading), which is welcome. In particular: 1) With regard to the delegation of the power of restricting human rights to the Government/Ministry, the criteria for the restriction of rights have been clearly indicated (the so-called three-step test); 2) Instead of subjecting an “alleged infected person” to isolation, it has been determined that a person, who allegedly had contact with a contagious disease, shall be subject to quarantine measures; 3) Certain remedies have been provided for persons deprived of their liberty due to isolation/quarantine; 4) The court hearings of criminal cases shall be held remotely, but not all of them unconditionally, but only in exceptional cases. These changes in the amendments and the fact that they are of temporary nature will significantly reduce the risks involved.

Despite the above, there remain some issues that have not been reflected in the draft amendments, including the provision of speedy judicial control over the restrictions on the rights provided for in the amendments, substantiation of factual circumstances when adopting a subordinate legal act and development of a special rule for appealing against isolation/quarantine decisions. According to the authors of the amendments, the mentioned issues are regulated by other legislative acts and therefore there is no need for their specific regulation.

Urgent consideration of the amendments made it impossible to assess all the risks in advance and despite some improvements in the text, it is extremely important to observe the effects of these legislative changes in practice. The Public Defender will observe the process in detail and, if there are relevant grounds, will use all legal mechanisms to further ensure the protection of human rights, including by applying to the Constitutional Court.

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