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Opinion on the Law on occupied territories of Georgia adopted

13/03/2009

At the request of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe the Venice Commission examined the above-mentioned law which has been in force since October 2008. This law is based on the premise that Abkhazia and South Ossetia belong to Georgia ; this position has been supported by the Parliamentary Assembly in its Resolution 1647(2009).

Among other things, the law criminalises irregular entry into Abkhazia (Georgia) and South Ossetia (Georgia) without explicit exceptions for emergency situations or for humanitarian aid; it also penalises irregular economic activities in these regions. These provisions, in the opinion of the Commission, should be modified as they risk to limit the access of humanitarian workers and the distribution of humanitarian aid in these occupied territories; as a result, this could adversely affect the well-being of the population.

In addition, the law retroactively applies as from 1990; this is in contradiction with the principle of non-retroactivity of criminal law and could also infringe the European Convention for Human Rights, even if it is meant to be merely declaratory, as according to the Georgian authorities the legal situation prior to the entry into force of the law was the same.
Under the law the transactions and certificates issued by the authorities of these territories are null and void; the Commission recommends that the Georgian legislation guarantees clearly simplified procedures of recognition of those documents and certificates.

Equally, the Commission would recommend that this law contain a provision stating the transitory character of the whole regime set out in this law and that it shall be reviewed periodically taking into account the progress in the settlement of the conflict.
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