In a letter sent to four U.S. Senators in response to their concerns over prosecution of ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili invited them to follow the process closely and said that looking into alleged wrongdoings of former officials is part of “efforts to end impunity” that will make Georgia “a stronger nation and ally.”
Garibashvili, who in recent parliamentary hearings slammed UNM opposition as “unconstructive” and “unhealthy”, writes in the letter that he’s committed to working with “any in Georgia who is willing to be a constructive partner” and says that “many of our recent policies and law have been improved by the input of the opposition.”
In August 1 letter to PM Garibashvili, Senators John McCain, Jim Risch, Jeanne Shaheen and Marco Rubio said that Georgian government’s “efforts to prosecute members of the former government in a way that seems more connected to politics than independent judicial decision-making” has been “troubling.”
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“I… agree with you that the legal process surrounding the prosecution of former government officials must be above all reproach, and all cases must be dealt with in a fair, transparent, and impartial manner,” reads PM Garibashvili’s August 6 response letter sent to the U.S. Senators. “I understand and sympathize with the concern that these prosecutions could be seen as political in nature and that this could impact Georgia’s internal political stability and foreign relations.”
“Since our independence, there has been little consequence for government officials breaking the law – that sentiment must end and we must be held to a higher standard,” he writes and adds: “I expect to go to jail myself if I commit criminal acts while in office.”
Investigating human rights abuses of the past, Garibashvili says, was one of the issues on which his government was elected and “while we are not involved in the decision about what cases to pursue, our autonomous prosecutor was given a mandate to pursue cases of past and current government officials who committed grave crimes.”
“As the autonomous prosecutor decides what cases to pursue, for me to exert political interference in the case of former government officials would be to completely undermine the lesson we are trying to teach the Georgian people: that no one is above the law and our blossoming judicial system will not be perverted for the sake of a few,” reads PM’s letter, which was released on August 11.
“I urge you to watch these trials carefully and invite you to come to Georgia to see the process first hand. I urge you to examine the trial process, which has so far received high marks from international observers, to confirm that these defendants received a fair trial. If the prosecutor lives up to his mandate, he will ensure a fair trial and present convincing evidence. If he does not meet this standard, the defendants should be acquitted.”
“We are accountable to the Georgian people to ensure the advancement of the Georgian state on an irreversible path toward building a consolidated democracy, which is not achievable without acknowledging that no one is above the law. We are confident that time will show that our efforts to end impunity will make Georgia a stronger nation and ally,” reads the letter.
In the letter the PM also reiterates Georgia’s pro-Western foreign policy course and says that Georgia is “committed to taking no actions that jeopardize our aspiration.”
“We have taken a great risk for our country in pursuing this path – a portion of our country remains under illegal military occupation and Russia recently terminated our free trade agreement in retaliation for our signing the EU Association Agreement,” he writes, referring to Russia’s plan to suspend its bilateral free trade agreement with Georgia, which has yet to be enforced.
“We believe that a successful judicial process will further our progress down the road of democracy and European and Euro-Atlantic integration,” reads the letter. “Through our cooperation with you and our other Western partners, we have been building a modern state, with strong democratic institutions and a dynamic economy. The help of our Western allies is crucial to ensure the transparency and fairness of the judicial process.”