PM calls for discussion on granting pardoning power to Patriarch

Patriarch Ilia II gifts his own cross to Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in Tbilisi, on December 5, 2015., 06 Dec 2015 - 14:44, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has appealed to the President and Parliament to launch discussions about granting the Georgian Patriarch the power to pardon inmates.

Garibashvili's call came after the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II said the Patriarch should have the right to pardon prisoners.

"I had a conversation with Mr. Prime Minister,” the Patriarch said after joining the PM and other Government officials to watch a theater play performed by female prisoners yesterday.
"The Patriarch should have the right to pardon inmates and probably the authorities will raise this issue,” Ilia II said.

Following this, the PM’s press service released a statement that said an increase of the Patriarch’s involvement in the process of pardoning could play a positive role.

"Therefore, based on the request of the Patriarch, the head of the Government appeals to the President and Parliament with a request to launch discussions on this issue,” the statement read.
"Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II is the spiritual leader of the Georgian nation and his advice is important and valuable for every person.”

The power to grant a pardon was prescribed by the Georgian Constitution, which said only the President of the country had this right. If the Patriarch’s initiative were satisfied, the Constitution would need to be amended and this would need to be supponeed by at least 113 members of the 150-member Parliament.

Parliament Speaker David Usupashvili commented the issue and said he had not heard of any instance when anyone other than the head of a country had the right of pardoning.

"One thing is forgiving sins – and it’s obvious whose prerogative this is – and the other thing is removing the legal responsibility from someone; and in this regard I cannot remember a single case where this burden has someone else rather than the head of a country,” Usupashvili said.

He added pardoning was not an easy and enjoyable task.

Meanwhile Minister of Corrections Kakha Kakhishvili believed the Patriarch should "really have the right to grant pardons”.

"He is the leader of the nation. I do not know anyone wiser than him,” Kakhishvili said.

Head of the Human Rights Committee of the Parlaiment Eka Beselia said the Patriarch enjoyed the "highest public confidence” in the country and she believed if there were a political agreement, the proposal of granting the Patriarch with the right to pardon would have many supporters in Parliament.