Statement by Sozar Subari, Public Defender of Georgia - September 25, Tbilisi
English translation provided by the Public Defender's Office
As a result of Russian barbarian aggression, the situation in Georgia today has become extremely difficult. Many civilians and soldiers have been killed during the war in August and thousands of our fellow citizens have become victims of ethnic cleansing and have been forced to flee their homes, their property has been destroyed.
Notwithstanding optimistic statements made by the government, the severe reality is, that nobody knows, when they will be able to return to their homes. The population of nearby villages of the conflict zone is unprotected and is under constant threat to be killed, robbed and their homes burned down – numerous evidences of this are in place. Russian occupants have set up control posts in Abkhazia, Shida Kartli, Imereti and Samegrelo, where Georgian citizens are stopped and are restricted to travel, their documents are being checked, they are being searched and humiliated.
Notwithstanding the promise of Georgia’s President, that he would dedicate his presidency to the unification of Georgia, Ksani gorge – Akhalgori district, Kodori gorge – so called Zemo Apkhazeti, Didi and Patara Liakhvi gorges and Prone gorge have now been added to the list of already lost territories – in total around 100 Georgian villages.
The Georgian population of Akhalgori is forced to either accept South Ossetian or Russian citizenship or leave their homes. Cities have been bombed, people have been killed and the population has received terrible psychological trauma.
Speaking out the truth has become extremely important and vital especially today, when significant part of Georgian territory is occupied by Russia, as facing the truth can be the only solution for overcoming the crisis
Georgia’s defeat has been stipulated by the authoritarian rule in the country;
in case the authoritarian governance continues, additional catastrophes are feasible.
The Russian model of authoritarian rule - solving internal and external problems solely and by force, has proved to be the fifth column, which has conditioned Georgia’s defeat.
Georgian authorities have decided to counter Russian aggression and to prove its “anti-Russian” sentiments to the world not by defending human rights and by building European democracy in the country, which would have been the shortest way towards Europe; rather, they have established authoritarian regime in the country and ignoring numerous warnings, have chosen the sphere of confrontation, where the whole world tries to be very cautious with Russia. Such reckless decisions step from the mere character of the authoritarian governance.
The government that is locked within it[self], which listens only to itself and respects only [its] own judgment, has lost the capacity for [right] decision-making;
Russia took advantage of this and has executed its long plotted perfidious plan of conquering our territories. Our country and its people have fallen prey to these processes.
Main cause of the tragedy that happened in Georgia is that the government deliberately violates human rights. Human rights are constantly violated in Georgia in all spheres and this has already [become] systematic and constant.
Authorities constantly declare that its aim is integration of Georgia with Europe, but in reality, it acts just the contrary and denies all main European values.
There is no independent court system in Georgia. Ministry of Internal Affairs, Procuracy and Financial Police have become repressive instruments in hands of ruling political groups. Citizens’ rights are being violated by infringement in their private life, systematically carried out by Ministry of Internal Affairs by searching their flats and telephone tappings, spying and other means; these unlawful actions are later legalized by the courts retrospectively.
Persecution and oppression, physical violence of persons, having different opinion has become a [a usual thing] in the country. Illegal group of armed civilians, not belonging to any official state structure has basically become an informal punishing squad of the authorities.
Procuracy and Ministry of Interior are often involved in decisions of private sector, affect their human resources policy, head slanderous propaganda in the media and put pressure on the court decisions. No laws have control over these actions and citizens do not have slightest possibility to defend themselves.
Fair elections are not conducted, as the election process - through fraud, threats and bribery - is controlled by state administration upon the orders of ruling political group.
Violation of property [rights], unlawful demolition of buildings and confiscation [of property] has become a normal practice in Georgia. An unprecedented practice has been introduced: citizens visit prosecutor’s office during night-time and give their property as a ‘gift’ to the state. Declaration by authorities, that property rights are well protected by the constitution and by law sound in fact cynical.
“Elite” corruption has been established. One group of people has all privileges. They can use services of official structures upon their wishes; they can appoint, arrest, destroy businesses to whomever they wish, confiscate, prohibit, sequestrate etc. All that is prohibited to others is allowed to them or their close environment.
Georgian legislation provides right of meetings and manifestations. Those, not happy with the current situation, on the first sight are able to express their protest, but citizens pay a high price for using this rights. They are being attacked, beaten, their cars looted, drivers are deprived of their licenses and are being forced not to provide their services to the demonstrators. Lists of protesters are drawn and not only they, but also their family members are forced to leave jobs. Those that overcome all these obstacles and still reach the manifestation are met with rubber bullets [reference to November 7, 2007 break up of anti-governmental demonstration], although their use is prohibited by the Georgian legislation. Nobody is being charged with these violations.
Except several exceptions, TV media is completely controlled by the State.
As a result of numerous illegal acts and pressures, the broadcasting frequencies and private TV companies become owned by some fictional personalities. High-ranking state officials are controlling and heading the informational policy, while the small part of independent media is under constant attack and pressure. As a result, instead of receiving real information about the actual situation, from dawn to sunset we are doomed to listen to the propaganda that “Misha is cool”, everything is fine, that we won and that Georgia will soon flourish.
Non-tolerance towards the dissent opinion, self-willfulness, violation of laws and constant arrogance has become the rule of today’s’ governing system.
Ability to listen to different opinions, to judge, to argue, to discuss, to analysis and to debate, as well as culture of dialogue have even been lost within the government itself.
This is not freedom and justice, this in not democracy, this is not the road to Europe.
The form of governance, that suppresses information space and substitutes it with propaganda, can not and will not protect human rights, because it will be interested only in PR and not in a citizen.
Probably no one ever has been defeated with such pomposity as Georgia has been in the August war,, because, even in those most difficult days, the authorities only cared about that ill-fated “PR”.
Even if there had been smallest ground for optimism for the government - as if human casualties, loss of new territories, burned villages and new wave of IDPs account to the victory of the authorities, accelerating the process of unification of country and its prosperity - common sense requires to postpone shouting “we’ve won”, as well as to postpone concerts and celebrations to the period, where at least patterns of this victory will be visible.
Usually, in such circumstances the best way to overcome the crisis is to think, to judge, to analyze mistakes and to listen to each other.
Such important institutions as the parliament, government, court, and local self-government – are only formally part of state life, because whole authority is concentrated in hands of the President and several political leaders.
Functions of the state institutions are being determined by single will and wish.
This is why, it has become a normal practice, that Minister of Defense is responsible for selling wine, Minister of Internal Affairs is controlling the construction process, Prosecutor General is being announced as “General of Grape Harvest”, Tbilisi Mayor unexpectedly is becoming an army commander [a reference to the widespread allegation that Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava was among those key civilians figures who were giving military commands during the combat activities in August] and so on.
These are small parts of those details, from which the authoritarian chaos is made of.
Oral ordinances and orders from superiors have power over constitution and laws. The system, wherein all state institutions and bodies are subject to orders of the ruling party and to decisions of powerful people is a source of restraining and often abolition of civil rights. Georgian constitution, laws and legislative norms do not regulate the forms and substance of this type of decisions, neither the adoption nor implementation of the process. These orders are given orally, are unknown to the society and are not subject to its control.
Public information is practically inaccessible for a citizen; that means that authorities have become uncontrolled – they are not any longer responsible before the society;
Constitution and laws are often amended based on how much this concrete change is needed to preserve power of ruling party’s political group in the given moment and not according to the principle, whether this change is needed for people, for the country, for the future of our state and its further development.
The main characteristic of a free society is being free from fear, while in our country, terrorizing citizens and establishment of the syndrome of fear has become a way of life and a lever in the hands of the authorities.
A person is doomed to loose job, to become a target physical violence or even more severe punishment, if his thought does not coincide with those of the authorities. This practice is equally distributed to state officials, as well as to those working in the private sector.
Especially cynical is the fact, that all the above mentioned is being implemented under the umbrella and in the name of democracy.
The fact, that the country is governed in an authoritarian manner and not by rule of law, deepens further the issue of social injustice. Notwithstanding authorities’ populist messages - fight against poverty, acting instead of talking [deeds instead of words] - unemployment has reached its critical edge, inflation is growing. A state bourgeoisie has been established; merger of big businesses and state structures is inevitable. Citizens are absolutely unprotected on the labor market in their own country.
All these have brought total disappointment all over Georgia.
The authorities though, have a strong feeling of being unmistakable; all their actions or steps are presented to us as another big victory without questioning, without any analysis or discussion.
Our state is governed in a wrong manner!
The present system, rules and form of governance, has brought the country to a deplorable condition and if the situation is not changed dramatically, we can well face a complete catastrophe.
Georgia is now property of the authority, it belongs to each and every citizen and it is our only motherland. We have rights and have obligations, to think about our country, about the solution, to asses events, to request answers to our numerous questions and to take decisions.
To accept present situation means to be taken into the abyss, to the edge of which the authoritarian regime has brought us. Staying silent and taking no actions at this point amounts to crime.
At this difficult time for the country, unity is necessary, but the unity is strong, valuable and positive only when it is build on free will, reason and great ideals. Unity must be based on those moral principles and values, which are corner stones of building a democratic state. Unity around democratic principles and for their protection, not around sheep, led by a ram and guarded by dogs will save our country.
I have addressed the President of Georgia and the Parliament on several occasions, stating, that human rights are brutally violated in Georgia and democracy is oppressed. Regardless promises, that the situation will improve, it has only become worse. The “new wave of democracy” announced by the authorities, those pseudo democratic changes transformations were only meant to decorate the façade, and not bring in-depth changes. This means, that human rights will continue to be violated, that rule of law will not be established. I consider it to be my civil and official duty, to inform the society about this.
Protecting human rights in the state is obligation of state bodies in the first place. But not only theirs’. Each citizen shares the responsibility for the situation in the country. Our responsibility grows when the ruling power of the country and efforts of its’ political leaders are channeled to ignoring human rights and to finally establishing authoritarian governance in the country.
This responsibility must be reflected in self organizing and unifying of society with the aim of protecting each citizen and thus – freedom and dignity of the whole society. We, citizens of Georgia, represent the society and are responsible – each member for the whole society and the whole society for each of its member.
In order to establish free and fair environment, indisputable and irreversible democracy in the country, for unification of state and for its prosperity, it is necessary:
- To stop persecution and oppression of people having different views;
- To establish free and fair court system;
- To give way to rule of law in the country;
- To establish freedom of speech and expression; to abolish state control over televisions; to make media completely free from state intervention;
- To elaborate fair election code; to establish appropriate setting for conducting free and fair elections;
- To establish free and competitive political space;
- To depoliticize law enforcement bodies and procuracy;
- To establish constitutional balance between government branches and to distribute presidential powers.
- To give real functions to the local self-government bodies;
- To establish the principle of being responsible before and report to the society; to make access to public information available for each citizen.
- To protect property rights;
- To establish of durable5, free and competitive business environment;
- To guarantee freedom of assembly, manifestation and gathering.
Unification of the country, returning IDPs to their homes, reconciliation of our Abkhazian and Ossetian brothers who no longer wish to be considered as Georgian citizens – all this is possible not through war but through establishment of freedom and justice in the country, through establishment of free society. Only democracy is the road to prosperity and to the establishment of a country, which will be attractive for Abkhazians and Ossetians to live in.
I am appealing to citizens of Georgia:
Authoritarian rule is threatening to ruin Georgia. The only way to save the country from the peril, to avoid new catastrophes, to unify the country and obtain prosperity is the establishment of genuine and irreversible democracy. This is our right and at the same time our obligation, as only democracy can save our country. To accomplish this, we should use all means of persuading the authorities and all forms of peaceful protest.
I am appealing to all of you, for whom all these problems are painful, let’s unify and do not spare our efforts for establishing democracy. We will win by all means, we do not have right not to win, because present and future of our country is requesting this from us.
I am appealing to friendly countries and international organizations:
The only way to achieve prosperity in the country is establishing free society and protecting democratic values;
People of Georgia do not deserve authoritarian regime, Georgia is in utmost need of democracy. Georgia knows what democracy is, Georgia is ready for democracy, Georgia can become worthy partner of democratic countries. Finding its place within Europe is Georgia’s important task. At the same time, we strongly believe, that the only way towards integration with Europe and towards becoming undisputed part of Europe is establishment of European democracy in Georgia.
Georgian people highly appreciate the political and financial support of international community to Georgia, but today Georgia, as never before, needs your help in the process of establishing democracy.
Help us in democracy! Help us in persuading the authorities, that declaration of attributes and principles of democracy only on paper, while establishing authoritarian system in reality, will lead the country towards the catastrophe.
I am appealing to the Georgian authorities:
Authoritarian rule hampers Georgia’s development and blocks the perspective of finding its worthy place in world community. Authorities are obliged, at least in these difficult times for the country, to put interests of country and its people above their personal interests. We will not be able to unify the country and will not have prosperity if first of all, will not be able to establish a free and fair environment. Democracy represents vitally important and inevitable historical necessity for Georgia. We don’t need “sketches of democracy”, which the authorities are promising us for swindling the West; rather, Georgian people must receive urgently and completely what we deserve and have right to posses – complete, undisputable and irreversible democracy.
Present extremely difficult situation leaves us no turning back, so we cannot compromise on protecting human rights and democratic values. At the same time, we underline once more, readiness for cooperation and open dialogue, so that the authoritarian rule in the country can be changed by democratic governance and rule of law be established.
We strongly believe, that unifying around the above mentioned principles, their implementation and constant protection is the only way, which will give each citizen of Georgia possibility to life and work as a free and honorable individual.