Markus Löning, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy, today (15 January) issued the following statement:
I welcome the Georgian parliament’s move to enforce an amnesty for some 3000 prisoners, including 190 political prisoners, and to cut the sentences of more than 10,000 others. The springboard for the law was in part the parliament’s recognition in early December 2012 of the existence of political prisoners and victims of political persecution in Georgia.
Georgia has the highest per capita incarceration rate in Europe. Given that fact, it is difficult to ensure humane prison conditions. The amnesty law will ease the burden on Georgia’s extremely overcrowded prisons. In my view, the amnesty law takes a considered approach. For example, sentences have not been reduced for particularly serious crimes such as murder, rape, etc.
I also find the legislative process especially worthy of praise. The wording of the law is the result of intensive debate by Government and parliament. Representatives of civil society were present at all hearings and readings and were able to give their input. That is encouraging for the evolution of democracy in Georgia.
I hope that the example set by Georgia will be followed and that the governments and parliaments of other states in the region will commit themselves to releasing political prisoners and improving prison conditions.
On 12 January the President of Georgia’s parliament, Usupashvili, signed an amnesty law preparing the way for the release of some 3000 prisoners, including political prisoners, and for reduced sentences for more than 10,000 others.
All political prisoners were released with effect from 13 January; all the others will be referred back to the courts, which are to alter the sentences within two months. The human rights committee had previously categorized 190 individuals as political prisoners and 25 as victims of political persecution.