Senator Risch Proposes to Make U.S. Aid Conditional on State of Democracy in Georgia

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair James Risch has proposed to add a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2021, making U.S. support to Georgia conditional on the state of democracy in the partner country.

The amendment, introduced by Risch (R-Idaho) on June 26, reaffirms “the desire for continued cooperation between the United States and Georgia,” should the Georgian government exhibit a good faith effort” to implement governance, economic, and anti-corruption reforms.

As stated in the proposed change, the U.S. Senate “urges the Government of Georgia to further strengthen the country’s democracy by improving judicial independence, including by implementing more transparent procedures to appoint judges for all courts and ending the practice of appointing judges who are unduly influenced by or loyal to the ruling party.”

The amendment mentions detentions of prominent Georgian figures, including former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, and Giorgi Rurua, the founder of opposition-minded Mtavari Arkhi TV  – all of whom are considered “political prisoners” by the Georgian opposition.

“Independent observers and Georgia’s political opposition maintain that these arrests were politically motivated,” reads the amendment.

The proposed bill says “U.S Senate recognizes the importance of the upcoming elections for the Parliament of Georgia, and calls on officials of the Government of Georgia to ensure that such elections are free, fair, peaceful, and conducted according to the rules agreed to on March 8.”

The amendment must be endorsed by the U.S. Senate to become the law.

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