Public Debate on Drug Policy
On May 27, 2016, the Public Defender of Georgia held another public debate – “The country's drug policy." Speeches were delivered at the debate by Giorgi Labadze, representative of the Public Defender's Kutaisi Division, Zviad Oqropiridze, Head of the Interior Ministry's Law Department, and Kakhaber Kvashilava, representative of the non-governmental organization Harm Reduction Network. The debate was moderated by the Public Defender.
Statistics about the detention of citizens for drug testing was presented at the debate; gaps in the legislation and court practice were also discussed.
According to the survey conducted by the Public Defender's Office, in 2014-2015 alone, Kutaisi police could not prove drug use in about 80% of detainees. It also should be noted that 85% were detained for drug testing under the administrative rule. Decriminalization of drug-related crime is categorically opposed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Zviad Okropiridze reviewed international drug policy and stressed that in the majority of countries the use of drugs is punished. He also talked about the Ministry’s approach to the liberalization of the law and presented the Interior Minister’s order of October 1, 2015, which explains in detail the grounds for drug testing.
The representative of the Harm Reduction Network reviewed the decision of the Constitutional Court of 2015 and stressed the need for liberalization of the law in order to allow judges to execute impartial justice. Kakhaber Kvashilava also presented statistics, according to which, none of the driver of the vehicles involved in road accidents in 2014-2015, which caused severe bodily injuries, was under the influence of drugs. However, the law enforcement agencies often talk about the use of drugs when considering the causes of crime.
The public debate was attended by Dimitri Gvritishvili, Chairman of the Court of Appeal of Kutaisi, which reviewed the existent practice and highlighted the fact that in some cases judges are not able to deliver liberal verdicts due to the strict law. The public debate was held in a question-and-answer format.
A short video, prepared by the NGO White Noise, was shown at the end of the event, which tells a story of an individual which became a victim of police pressure.
The public debates on important topics are held on last Fridays of each month. The project is supported by the EU project "Support to the Public Defender II".