Bill related to temporary restrictions on leaving the country is ambiguous and unjustified - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო
GEO

Bill related to temporary restrictions on leaving the country is ambiguous and unjustified

02 October, 2013

This week, the Bureau of the Parliament of Georgia registered a bill initiated by Irine Imerlishvili and Zurab Abashidze, members of the parliamentary majority. According to the bill, a Georgian citizen can be banned from leaving Georgia “for interests of state and/or public security”. The bill already caused public outrage and even reminded many of the Soviet Union. Transparency International Georgia thinks that the proposed amendment to the law is unjustified because such a provision poses serious risks for infringing on the freedom of movement of the citizens.

The proposed bill is to be an amendment to Article 10 of the Law “On Rules for Georgian Citizens on Leaving and Entering Georgia” which lays out the grounds for restrictions on leaving the country. According to the current wording of the provision:

“For the purpose of leaving Georgia, a Georgian citizen can be denied the issuing of a passport or the renewal of a passport, as well as permission to cross the border:

  1. If s/he is wanted by state law enforcement agencies;

  2. If s/he presents forged documents or uses invalid documents.”

The initiators of the bill want to add the following section to the provision:

“c) in order to protect state or/and public security”

The justification given by the initiators of the bill, that the proposed bill brings the law into conformity with and specifies Article 22 of the Constitution, is unconvincing. The said Constitutional provision stipulates that “Everyone lawfully within Georgia shall be free to leave Georgia”. Restrictions on this right are permissible

“only in accordance with the law, in the interests of ensuring national security or public safety, the protection of health, the prevention of crime or the administration of justice, that is necessary for maintaining a democratic society.”

The amendment proposed by the MPs is very general and makes the law more ambiguous instead of specifying anything. Such an amendment to the law would have been justified had the bill proposed specific grounds for restrictions on leaving the country. Otherwise, the relevant officials and representatives of the border police are given overly broad discretion, thereby creating unjustified risks of restricting human rights. We believe it is impermissible to create additional barriers to the freedom of movement of citizens and to restrict border-crossing without providing relevant officials with clear legal instructions.

The explanation provided by the initiators of the bill is even more alarming. Namely, the citizen who is banned from leaving the country will not be informed of the reasons for this restriction of his or her right. According to the bill, the decision on such a restriction is temporary and can be appealed in the court whose ruling can repeal the decision. We would like to state unequivocally that there must be clear legal grounds for decision-making in regards to restrictions on the freedom of movement aiming to ensure state and public security.

Transparency International Georgia calls on the Parliament of Georgia not to adopt such an ambiguous amendment to the law, as the state already has the discretion to restrict citizens from leaving the country in the cases provided by the law. If the intent of the initiators of the bill is to bring the law in conformity with Article 22 of the Constitution, it is reasonable to clearly specify all grounds for restrictions on leaving the country in this article of the law.

print