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Statement of Human Rights Center regarding the possible emergency situation in the country

20.03.2020

 
World Healthcare Organization evaluated the spread COVID 19 as pandemic. The number of the people infected with the COVID 19 is increasing every day in Georgia. Considering that, it is high possibility that the Government of Georgia will announce emergency situation in the country. 

One of the grounds to announce the emergency situation in the country is natural or technological disaster or epidemics, when the state bodies are deprived of the possibility to normally exercise their constitutional authorities. 

In accordance to the Constitution of Georgia, the emergency situation can be announced in the country, if the number of the COVID-19 infected people will drastically increase and the threat of mass spread of the virus will be real. 

Nowadays, the Government of Georgia carries out several restrictive measures, which may be applied in the moment of emergency situation. However, there are no emergency regulations in the country yet. If we review the practices of other countries, where emergency situation was announced for the prevention of the spread of the new COVID 19, various restrictions were introduced: all markets, shopping and entertaining centers were closed, theatres, cinemas and museums were closed; mass events were prohibited; public transport movement was stopped; quarantine was announced in schools and kindergartens; medical centers started working in emergency mode; entry from the countries, which are hotspot for the spread of the COVID 19 was prohibited. The Government of Georgia has already introduced similar restrictions in the country that may be already evaluated as emergency situation. At the same time, these restrictions are relevant to the situation and aims to protect the health and lives of the population. 

Human Rights Center believes the emergency situation in the country shall be announced only in the case of extreme necessity because emergency situation, considering its purpose, most probably, will restrict universally declared human rights and freedoms, and in some cases, it may result in non-proportionate interference in human rights. 

The principle of the just state demands to restrict the basic human rights in accordance to the proportionate principle based on the decree of the President of Georgia. What we have today, the spread of the virus is still under control but if the country faces higher risk of the spread, it will be necessary to announce the emergency situation throughout the country. 

The emergency situation does not mean that the institutions will fail to function and the rights guaranteed under the Constitution will be permanently humiliated. Just the opposite – the purpose of the emergency situation is to normalize the situation rapidly and to restore the order and lawfulness. It is temporary measure which is applied for the best interests of the citizens of Georgia. At the same time, emergency situation influences the functioning of all institutions in the country and it may negatively impact the economic stability. Moving to the emergency regime means that the State establishes strict restrictions, which are obligatory to follow. In the case of emergency situation, any individual is disabled to continue ordinary life because based on the President’s decree it is possible to restrict all basic human rights guaranteed under the Constitution of Georgia. 

According to the current legislation, President of Georgia is authorized to announce emergency situation in the entire territory of Georgia or in one part of it upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister of Georgia. The order of the President of Georgia about emergency situation is immediately handled over to the Prime Minister of Georgia, who immediately makes decision to co-sign it. The co-signed order of the President is immediately announced and enforced. The President presents the co-signed decision on emergency situation to the Parliament of Georgia for approval. The Parliament of Georgia approves it as soon as it gathers. If the Parliament of Georgia fails to support the order on emergency situation, the order loses its force. The emergency authorities are exercised in the territory where the emergency situation is announced.

Considering the situation, the State may intervene in the basic human rights because the supreme law of the country – Constitution, authorizes the President of Georgia to restrict the rights ensured under the Articles 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 21 and 26 of the Constitution of Georgia by a decree. The listed rights are: right to freedom; right to movement, right to personal and family life, right to personal and communication inviolability; right to opinion, information, right to have access to mass and online information sources; right to property; right to assembly, labor rights, freedom of trade unions, right to go on a strike and freedom of entrepreneurship. 

In case of emergency, in accordance to concrete circumstances, the supreme governmental bodies of Georgia may determine special regime for the entry and depart of the citizens of Georgia into and from the country; may introduce amendments into the plans of production and supply of the products produced by state enterprises and organizations; also, the State may decide the issue related with their production; establish specific regime for the operation of state and private enterprises, companies and organizations; to engage citizens in the work of enterprises, factories and organizations with average salaries; to introduce marital status, and more. 

When declaring the emergency situation it is important to consider the issue of 2020 Parliamentary Elections, which may be questioned because of the spread of the COVID 19. Nowadays, it is difficult to foresee what time we will need to defeat the virus. If the emergency situation is announced and the State will remain in the regime of emergency until October 2020, it will be impossible to hold the Parliamentary Elections according to the Constitution determined timeframe because according to the Constitution of Georgia, in case of emergency or marital situation the elections cannot be held in the country. If the date of the elections coincide with the emergency or marital status, the Elections are held no earlier than 45th day and no later than 60th day of declined emergency situation. 

The emergency situation enables the Government to be more flexible in the restriction of the constitutional rights of citizens. At this stage, the recommendations issued by the Government of Georgia are not obligatory. If there is emergency situation, the recommendations will be obligatory for everybody. 

Naturally, announcement of the emergency situation largely depends on the demonstration of high civic responsibility and accurate fulfillment of the government’s recommendations by the population of the country. The emergency situation may cause significant backdrop both economically and politically. Therefore, it is very important that the Government and every citizen of the country acted in coordination for the prevention of the epidemic situation caused by the COVID 19 to avoid more dramatic developments that will make announcement of the emergency situation necessary. 

Human Rights Center

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