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"Georgian Drug Control System Needs Reform"

07 March 2011 [13:01] - TODAY.AZ
Georgia, whose drug control system is "in need of reform", is becoming "a major transit corridor" for drug trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of State's annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report covering 2010.

Transit Routes

It says that one major drug route runs from Afghanistan and Iran through Azerbaijan and on to Western Europe and Russia and drugs are also transited through Georgia to Western Europe from Greece and Turkey.

A long haul cargo trucks are believed to be one of the major means for drug smuggling through Georgia, according to the report. It says that in 2009 law enforcement agencies in European countries have intercepted "7 to 8 tons of illicit narcotics in long-haul trucks that had at one point passed through Georgia."

According to the report some arrangements for Europe frustrate drug control in Georgia, including the rule according to which customs officers may only inspect a long-haul truck under custom’s seal in the presence of the owner or his representative, which limits vehicles’ inspection possibilities.

"Rules and regulations that unnecessarily hinder the legitimate inspection of cargo should be reviewed and revised," the report says.

The report warns that visa-free agreement with Iran, signed by Georgia in November 2010, may "lead to still more drugs entering Georgia" if appropriate inspections and checks are not enforced.

"This seems likely as up to 40% of Afghan opiates pass through Iran. Smuggling of these opiates is a problem now along all of Iran’s borders to the South, West and North, so there is good reason to fear that easier passage between Iran and Georgia could invite traffickers to try the 'new' route," the report reads.

According to the report there are "speculations" that drugs flow through Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but his information "cannot be verified as there is little or no exchange of information on drug trafficking between the Russian occupying forces or the de facto governments of these territories and the Government of Georgia."

'Lack of Coordination'

The Georgian government has made combating the drug problem a priority, but "lack of coordination" between the agencies involved in drug-related issues "complicates achieving this goal," according to the report.

It says that the U.S. encourages solving this problem through development of an interagency task force model.

The report says that Georgia’s system for drug control "is in need of reform" with "the first and most pressing gap" involving absence of a detailed specific anti-drug national action plan.

Georgia adopted Anti-Narcotics National Strategy in 2007, but, according to the report, it now lacks specifics to guide the strategy’s implementation.

"Coordination among institutions involved in drug related issues is also a problem," the report reads. "There is a lack of systemic drug preventive measures; treatment methods are developed with little or no attention given to social rehabilitation following detoxification. Information about dangerous drugs is inadequate, and statistics about drug use are limited and unreliable. Current national legislation does not conform to UN drug conventions’ requirements."

The Special Operations Department (SOD) at the Ministry of Internal Affairs is the main body in charge of counternarcotics. The report notes that in 2010 a new head of the SOD was appointed and staff at SOD’s counternarcotics unit reshuffled “as a preemptive measure against drug-related corruption.”

Erekle Kodua, who was head of SOD, was moved to the post of head of criminal police department in April, 2010 and Devi Chelidze, who previously served as head of the criminal police, replaced Kodua.

"There have been no serious allegations that the new counter narcotics unit in the Ministry of Internal Affairs has engaged in corrupt behavior," according to the report.

The report also raises the issue of drug-related legislature. The current law does not provide differentiated approach to various drug-related offences and possession of very small amounts of certain drugs would mean prosecution for intent to distribute as a drug dealer. The report says that such approach has given rise to a movement to change Georgia’s drug possession laws, but the legislation initiated in the Parliament in 2008-2009 "remains stalled".


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