Senior lawmakers from the UNM party said during a parliamentary sitting on June 26 that they and their party, which was in power for nine years, bear “political responsibility” for crimes that are depicted in recently emerged videos showing torture of detainees by the law enforcement officers.
They asked the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority group to establish a parliamentary investigative commission, which, as they said, would allow them to be part of a probe into these heinous crimes, which “cast a shadow” over positive achievements made over the past nine years.
Parliamentary Chairman, Davit Usupashvili, said that a closed hearing of parliamentary committee for defense and security would be held on July 1 during which an Interior Ministry officials would brief lawmakers about investigation into the torture videos, as well as into ‘jihad threat’ video. Usupashvili said that it would be discussed whether to launch a parliamentary ad hoc investigative commission after that hearing.
“When such crimes take place, of course it means that the authorities were not efficient enough to fully eradicate such crimes,” said UNM MP Pavle Kublashvili, who was chairman of the parliamentary committee for legal affairs in the previous Parliament. “In this chamber the United National Movement is the most interested in identifying of all those persons, who were involved in this [crime] and in punishing of all those who were in any form involved in it.”
“If there is anyone who is interested in full investigation of the case, that’s me because I too feel my share of responsibility because such thing was happening in the law enforcement agencies at the time when I was the chairman of the parliamentary committee for legal affairs,” MP Kublashvili said, adding that he would like to wish the current parliamentary committee for legal affairs to be more efficient in overseeing the law enforcement agencies.
“I do not want to have a static role in the investigation of this case and if there is any form through which our participation can contribute to the investigation we are ready for being involved. That’s the reason why we are offering you – without any political confrontation – to set up a [parliamentary] investigative commission,” MP Kublashvili said. “[Such crimes] cast a shadow over the state for which me and many of my friends have done much throughout these recent years and I am not really going to turn a blind eye that while we were doing it, some were torturing people; neither me nor any of my colleague from the parliamentary minority group is going to turn a blind eye on this or to cover up someone.”
UNM MP Giorgi Gabashvili said that “all the others issues are irrelevant against the background of those terrible crimes, which were revealed to the society last week.”
“It should be said that it is such terrible crime, such horrible crime – torture and inhuman treatment, that it should be stated clearly without any political insinuations, political speculations that all those persons, who participated in such crimes, all those persons, who allegedly were organizing such crimes and all those persons, if revealed that there were any who knew about it but were covering it up, should be identified and punished. This is beyond any discussion,” MP Gabashvili said.
“Therefore, we give a full political guarantee to the Georgian government that we will participate in identifying and punishing perpetrators,” he said. “We, the representatives of the previous authorities, will not avoid political responsibility because when you are in power, it is your obligation to ensure that no such crimes take place. It was our mistake when we believed that we eradicated the crimes, which were totally typical for Georgia during previous decades [pre-Rose Revolution period] and this is really our political responsibility; that’s obvious, that’s beyond any doubt.”
“At the same time, it should be noted that it is my personal interest that each and every perpetrator to be punished not just because of their inhuman behavior, but also because these persons, who had a state mandate and obligation to protect citizens, not only have committed brutalities, but they have also cast a shadow to what many of us believed in and what was the foundation of our struggle and political belief. They have cast a shadow to our struggle for reformed police, modern state, modernized European state; therefore, we definitely have personal motivation that all the perpetrators, regardless of their posts and regardless of who they are, be punished with the full extent of law.”
UNM MP Sergo Ratiani, who joined the former ruling party ahead of the October, 2012 parliamentary elections, said that this “appalling” crime “is a tragedy for the Georgian society”; he also said that lack of proper oversight over the law enforcement agencies under the previous authorities was partly to blame for such cases.
“It is a tragedy not only because this crime in itself is shocking, but because during nine years the state was being built where such crime should not have happened,” MP Ratiani said.
“Of course the political responsibility for this tragedy and for what has been happening lies with the National Movement; this responsibility is before the society as well as before those people, who were victims; but also before those people, who were sincerely involved in building of the state during nine years and also before those policemen, who were building police, which should have been exemplary; before the soldiers; before public servants, who made corruption and other terrible things impossible in this country. We, and personally me, are responsible before these people to make this crime investigated. Just because of this reason, I think that it is necessary to set up a parliamentary commission, which will enjoy a high level of trust and which will establish all the facts. And finally, in order for such cases not to reoccur in the future, I think, it is necessary to create high level of parliamentary oversight over the Interior Ministry, because if the system operates, this system needs control and if there were and still are any problems, these problems occurred because we trusted someone [referring to previous leadership of the law enforcement agencies],” MP Ratiani said.
UNM MP Giorgi Vashadze said: “It is obvious that the National Movement cannot shun away from political responsibility over this issue, because as it seems no due attention was paid towards these issues when we were in the government.”
“But I think now we all have common goal and that’s keeping stability and for that reason I think that investigation should be carried out as fast as possible and those involved should be revealed as soon as possible regardless of what official posts they held whether in a political party or in the government.”
“I do not think that political speculation will be helpful in this situation. Establishing the truth is what should matter the most; mechanisms should also be created, which will help in preventing reoccurrence of such things in Georgia in the future,” MP Vashadze said.
There has been speculation recently that MP Vashadze, who was deputy justice minister before becoming a lawmaker, was going to quit UNM following emergence of the torture videos. He, however, denied it on June 26 and said: “I am not going to leave the National Movement because I am not shunning away from the responsibility and secondly because the United National Movement is not only Mikheil Saakashvili’s or some other individual leader’s party; this is the party in which hundreds and thousands of people are united around a common vision.”
In response to these speeches by UNM lawmakers, MPs from the Georgian Dream (GD) parliamentary majority group called on them to publicly distance themselves from the UNM leadership, including President Saakashvili.
“Listening to [UNM lawmakers’] speeches, quite frankly, unfortunately I do not have an impression that someone [from UNM] has a sense of regret,” GD MP Zurab Abashidze said. “When you speak about the United National Movement, yes this party is of Mikheil Saakashvili, Vano Merabishvili, [former justice minister] Zurab Adeishvili [who fled the country after October, 2012 parliamentary elections]; Giga Bokeria [Secretary of the National Security Council] and if you want to distance yourself from this do it soon; this is their party and their ideology which brought Georgia to these cases [referring to torture videos].”
“It is probably little bit cynical when our colleagues from [UNM] say that they did not know what was happening,” said GD MP Manana Kobakhidze, who is a vice speaker of the parliament. “[They] say they are ready to assume political responsibility. Only the murder case of Sandro Girgvliani should have been enough for you to realize what kind of system you were building. Why have not you raised the political and legal responsibility of Vano Merabishvili [who at the time of Girgvliani murder in 2006 was Interior Minister]?.. [ex-president Eduard Shevardnadze’s] Citizens Union party, as it turned out, had more responsibility because they left [the political scene after the 2003 Rose Revolution] and you are now going to name a presidential candidate and hold an election campaign; campaign and tell voters how you were torturing people. Give Vano Merabishvili a TV set in his [prison] cell and let him watch round the clock how people were being tortured.” Merabishvili was on hunger strike for couple of days last week demanding a TV set in his cell.
“You say you did not know – take [and read human rights] reports by public defenders… but you never reacted to any cases [reported by human rights ombudsmen] and now you say that you did not know that people were tortured; that’s shame. Tell people that the National Movement was providing political cover up to systemic crimes and go away from the politics – that would be the political responsibility,” MP Kobakhidze said.