Public Defender’s Opinions relating to Draft Law on Public Health

On May 21, 2020, the Public Defender of Georgia submitted opinions to the Parliament of Georgia relating to the draft amendments to the Law of Georgia on Public Health and the Criminal Procedure Code of Georgia.

The Public Defender is fully aware of the need of introducing certain restrictions for the protection of human life and health during the pandemic, although restrictions have their own constitutional standards, which are not reflected in the draft amendments in question. Accordingly, the Public Defender submitted recommendations to the Parliament of Georgia relating to the criteria and standards that should be considered in the draft law in order to make sure that the restrictions are constitutional and legitimate.

According to the draft amendments, the Government will be empowered to regulate the activities of public institutions, movement of citizens, property, labour, professional or economic activities of citizens, gathering of physical persons for carrying out any social activity, and other issues in a way that is different from legislation.

According to the Public Defender, it is important to clearly define the scope of authority granted to the Government/Ministry and to underline that the restriction must be necessary for a democratic society, non-discriminatory and proportionately restrictive, in order to make sure that the protected good exceeds the harm caused by the restriction. It is also necessary to substantiate all the restrictions and to clarify certain vague provisions in the bill. If these issues are not taken into account, we will receive unconstitutional regulations.

In a written opinion, the Public Defender emphasizes the importance of judicial control. (1) First of all, it is important that the procedure of decision-making relating to isolation and quarantine measures be clear, that the remedies of placed persons be strengthened and that an effective appeal mechanism be introduced. (2) At the same time, given that the draft amendments grant special powers to the Government, it is important for the legislator to provide appropriate guarantees for the administration of effective justice in case of interference with human rights by the executive government (by introducing shortened hearing terms).

The Public Defender of Georgia also submitted her views relating to the changes to be made in the Criminal Procedure Code, according to which, judges will be allowed to hold virtual hearings. We believe that it is necessary to modify the bill so that it allows for virtual hearings only in cases when the postponement of the hearing may cause irreparable damage.

We have suggested alternative formulations in our written opinions. The Public Defender of Georgia hopes that the Parliament of Georgia will take into account the opinions. In addition, we express our readiness to provide additional opinions to the Parliament of Georgia in a working format.

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