The Parliament of Georgia continued discussing the amendments to the Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia on 15 May 2013. Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, First Deputy State Minister for Reintegration, stated: “This is not a decriminalisation of the Law. This is a modification of the sanction and liberalisation of the punishment. Criminal liability still remains.”
Ketevan Tsikhelashvili responded to Giorgi Gabashvili, Member of the United National Movement, who asked about whose interest decriminalising the Law feeds into. The Deputy State Minister explained to the Member of the Parliamentary Minority that the proposed amendments did not imply decriminalisation.FactCheck
decided to figure out whether or not the statement made by Ketevan Tsikhelashvili was accurate. We first learned what was meant under the term of "decriminalisation.''According to the report about drug use in Europe by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, “decriminalisation” means that the acts by decriminalising them no longer constitute criminal offences. The Council of Europe’s Resolution 1577
towards decriminalisation of defamation is also noteworthy. The Resolution urges member states to abolish criminal liability for defamation.It is interesting how the concept of decriminalisation is defined in Georgia. Merab Turava, Doctor of Law and Professor at the University of Georgia, provides us with the following definition in his book, Review of the General Part of Criminal Law: "
If the law completely abolishes criminality of the action and criminal liability, then this implies a decriminalisation of the law." Clearly, each of the aforementioned sources defines decriminalisation as the abolition of criminal liability of the action.According to the Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia administrative fine in the amount of GEL 400 is imposed in the case of violation of the rule for entering the occupied territories for the first time. In the case of repeated violation by the same person, criminal prosecution should apply. Proposed amendments do not abolish the concept of violation of the rule for entering the occupied territories from the Criminal Code. The action is considered as a crime if a person commits it for a second time. It is true that the scope of Article 3221
is narrowed and one of the characteristics is abolished (illegal entry for the first time does not constitute criminal offence), however, the crime of entering the occupied territory still remains under the Criminal Code, which itself implies that criminal liability still remains. Accordingly, it does not decriminalise the crime completely.
Nevertheless, the parliamentary debates were mainly on the issue of decriminalisation of illegal border crossing for the first time. If the bill is adopted, this action will be punished under the administrative law. This would mean that criminal liability is abolished for the first time violation of the law. Based on the aforementioned definitions, decriminalisation means abolition of the criminality of action. The Criminal Code contains only criminal conducts. According to the bill, crossing the border for the first time will not constitute criminal conduct but administrative offence. This means the decriminalisation of the illegal crossing of the border for the first time.Conclusion
Violation of the rule for entering the occupied territories is still considered as criminal liability under the Criminal Code. That is the reason why the initiated bill does not imply complete decriminalisation of the crime. Nevertheless, considering the context, the debates were related to crossing the border for the first time. According to the definition of decriminalisation, the new bill implies decriminalisation of the first crossing.We rate the statement made by Ketevan Tsikhelashvili: “This is not a decriminalisation of the Law. This is a modification of sanction and liberalisation of punishment. Criminal liability still remains," MOSTLY FALSE.