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The Georgian Government initiated the proposed amendments to the Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia. According to the bill, entry into the occupied territories by foreign citizens or persons without citizenship from prohibited territories for the first time is subject to administrative punishment (GEL 400). Repeat violation of this rule will result in criminal liability.

According to the current Criminal Code, criminal responsibility is imposed; namely, imprisonment or fine in the case of illegal state border crossing including entry into the occupied territories from prohibited directions.

Amendments to the Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia were presented by Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, First Deputy State Minister for Reintegration, on 2 May 2013 at the plenary session of the Parliament. The bill was reviewed in its first reading by the Parliament of Georgia on 15, 16 and 17 May.

The Parliamentary Minority is opposing the proposed amendments to the Law on Occupied Territories. According to them, the abovementioned amendments establish two different state border regimes.

Ketevan Tsikhelashvili did not agree with all the arguments provided by the Parliamentary Minority. At the Parliamentary session held on 17 May, she stated: “Our amendments are not establishing a different regime. Current legislation regulates two mainly different things with two different articles and sanctions. One is related to illegal state border crossing, which covers the whole perimeter of the Georgian border, including the occupied territories. The second one is related to the entry from a prohibited direction which is regulated by a different Article [Article 322]. The only way to charge a person under this Law is to find a stamp in his/her passport which proves that he/she has crossed our border with Russia which is equipped with border attributes and to punish the person only for this. If the issue concerns establishing the same regulation, why was a different Article adopted? Why does not one Article, namely Article 344, regulate all prohibitions if this really is not a different legal regime? This is established by the previous government. Why is there a special permission for humanitarian crossing in one Article, Article 322, but we do not have the same under Article 344?  Therefore, there were some differences. Substantial difference exists. One is the blanket rule, the other one is classical.”

FactCheck

wondered if the amendments to the Law on Occupied Territories establishes different regimes for state borders. We checked it out.

According to current legislation, different articles under the Criminal Code are regulating illegal state border crossing and entry into the occupied territories from prohibited directions. Imposed sanction is different; however, content is identical in both articles and both crimes are subject of criminal liability.

Violation of the rule for entry into the occupied territories, Article 322, under the Criminal Code:

“Entry into the occupied territories by a foreign citizen or a person without citizenship through violating the rule established by the Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia  is punishable by fine or two-to-four years of imprisonment.”

Illegal crossing of state borders of Georgia, Article 344, under the Criminal Code:

Illegal crossing of the state border of Georgia shall be punishable by fine or by imprisonment for up to three -to-five years.

The statement by Ketevan Tsikhelashvili points out that if current legislation has not established different regimes for the state border, then why does the same Article not regulate the illegal crossing of the state border on controlled and uncontrolled territories? FactCheck

conducted  research and found out that despite the fact that the same Article under the Criminal Code does not regulate state borders and imposed sanctions are different, one regime is established for illegal state border crossing in all cases and this is considered as a criminal offence.

Occupied territories are a special case which does not fall under the Georgian jurisdiction. A special case is regulated by special norms. That is why we have the Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia which was adopted by the Parliament of Georgia on 23 October 2008.

Amendments to the Law on Occupied Territories were made on 26 February 2010. According to them, based on the legal act established by the Georgian Government, special permission to enter the occupied territories from prohibited directions can be issued to persons.

Existence of special permission regarding the borders of occupied territories and allowing of humanitarian access imply different approaches but in the case of illegal border crossing (occupied and non-occupied territories), the same regime is established in both cases such as criminal liability.

Proposed amendments to the Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia set different responsibilities for illegal border crossing of controlled and uncontrolled territories. State border crossing regarding the entry into the occupied territories is punishable by administrative fine and in the second case by criminal responsibility.

Conclusion

According to current Criminal Code and the Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia, different approaches and different sanctions are established for illegal border crossing of the controlled and uncontrolled territories. Under the current legislation, illegal crossing of the state border including the occupied territories is subject for criminal liability.

Proposed amendments to the Law on Occupied Territories establish different regimes regarding responsibilities for illegal border crossing. Specifically, illegal crossing of the uncontrolled state border does not imply the criminal responsibility for the first time and it is punishable by administrative fine.

We rate the statement by Ketevan Tsikhelashvili: “Our amendments do not establish different regimes” as FALSE.