GD lawmaker, Tedo Japaridze, chairman of parliamentary committee for foreign affairs, released a written statement on July 30 laying out the Georgian authorities’ “objections” to a joint statement of four U.S. Senators who said they “are extremely disappointed and concerned” over bringing criminal charges against ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili.
Senators John McCain, Jim Risch, Jeanne Shaheen and Ben Cardin said in their statement that “the pursuit of justice should not become a tool of political retribution” and that filing of criminal charges against Saakashvili “imposes unnecessary challenges in moving our relationship forward.”
MP Tedo Japaridze, who describes the four Senators as “long standing friends of Georgia” whose personal contribution to U.S.-Georgia relationship is “indisputable”, says that “bilateral cleavage emerging through [their] joint statement is both uncalled for and regrettable.”
“In line with the principle of the autonomy of justice, I will refrain from commenting upon the substance of the case made by the Chief Prosecutor’s Office [against the ex-president],” MP Tedo Japaridze said in his statement. “The very same principle should also constrain our friends in the U.S. Senate, unless there are grounds to suggest that the legal process violates the due process (a regrettably common practice during the nine years of the previous regime), in which case the rule of law as such is being challenged.”
“Should this be the case, this joint statement must urgently be accompanied by concrete evidence,” senior GD lawmaker says.
“As the State Department [which has also expressed concern over bringing criminal charges against Saakashvili] notes, ‘rule of law means both that everyone must comply with the law in a democratic society and that the legal system should not be used as a tool of political retribution.’ Therefore, those challenging the rule of law in Georgia must substantiate the claim that either certain individuals are beyond the reach of justice or that due process is being violated to achieve political retribution,” reads the statement of MP Japaridze.
“Both are very serious accusations against an allied nation, especially when they emanate from Washington D.C. This is an important point to make because the U.S. is not merely ‘an ally,’ but the most significant champion of Georgian independence, democratization and liberalization for nearly a generation,” he said. “Democratic consolidation is not achieved merely by meeting a set of benchmarks. Consolidation, ultimately, requires confidence in due process, that is, a deep conviction that no one is above or beyond the law. Such confidence requires first and foremost the due and full investigation into all human rights abuse claims, and timely prosecution of past, present and future authorities who may have abused the power of their office, in a system that both checks and balances power.”
Prosecutors charged Saakashvili with “exceeding official powers” while serving as president in 2007 in case stemming from break up of the November 7, 2007 anti-government protests, as well as raid on and “seizure” of Imedi TV station and other assets owned at the time by tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, who died in February, 2008. Charges have been filed under part three of article 333 of the criminal code, involving exceeding official powers, committed with use of violence and insult of victim’s dignity, which carries imprisonment from 5 to 8 years as punishment.
MP Tedo Japaridze said in his statement that by investigating these cases, the prosecutor’s office “is merely pursuing cases that were simply ignored in the past due to widespread impunity”, and by doing so it is “embarking on a process of restoring public confidence in the rule of law.”
“I feel strongly that the bilateral cleavage emerging through this joint statement is both uncalled for and regrettable. This statement calls into question a process of democratization and institution-building which, ultimately, owes much to our joint work. I deeply regret this development. Both the Georgian Government and I hold each of the signatories to this joint statement in the highest esteem. We have worked together to put in place the norms and build the framework for rule of law in Georgia. We trust that, further to a review of the case at hand, they along with all our friends in the U.S., will provide the continued support and oversight to help ensure that justice and the rule of law in Georgia now move from theory to practice,” MP Japaridze said.