Int’l Reactions: Georgian Dream Under Fire Over UNM Raid, Melia Detention

The Georgian Dream Government came under fire in the wake of United National Movement Chair Nika Melia’s detention, after storming the party headquarters on February 23.

The Estonian Foreign Ministry condemned “the violent storming of the opposition party office and escalation of the political situation in Tbilisi.” It called on the Georgian Government and the opposition to “exercise restraint and return to political dialogue.”

Foreign Minister of Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis said “violence is not the way to resolve political disagreements. I hope our Georgian friends can avoid plunging into a deeper crisis. Restraint and commitment to democracy must prevail.”

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) said he is troubled with Nika Melia’s “wrongful detention.” “Georgia’s leaders should heed international calls to deescalate their harmful rhetoric and pursue an end to this destabilizing political crisis. Democratic institutions must prevail,” the U.S. lawmaker asserted.

Co-Chair of the Georgia Caucus at the U.S. House of Representatives Adam Kinzinger said Melia’s detention was an “incredibly dumb move by Georgian Government against a legitimate political party.” “Sad day for democracy in the Country of Georgia,” he added.

“I am deeply concerned about the Georgian government’s decision to detain the leader of the main opposition party. Instead of using force to resolve disagreements, there needs to be proper dialogue to end the political polarization,” MEP Urmas Paet (Estonia, RE) said.

MEP Markéta Gregorová (the Czech Republic, Greens/EFA) called Melia’s detention an “absolutely disappointing development.” “Arresting opposition leader Nika Melia is a tip of the iceberg of its democracy backsliding. Adding more political prisoners on the list is not the way to progress towards Europe,” she stressed. 

Hans van Baalen, President of the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) said: “…Resorting to force, inflaming political tensions and suppressing dissenting voices is absolutely not the solution that Georgian citizens deserve.

We urgently call for restraint, calm, and for political differences to be resolved in parliament and not through heavy-handed and arbitrary arrests of opposition figures.

We call on the governing Georgian Dream party to engage with the opposition and work together towards setting a date for new free, fair, and transparent elections, and we urge the EU leaders meeting later this week to send the same strong message.”

European People’s Party dubbed the “detention of Nika Melia and storming of the largest opposition party’s headquarters” as an “attack on the democracy of Georgia.” “The persecution of opponents must stop, urgent de-escalation is needed and political dialogue must resume. New democratic elections can be the way out,” it added.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia Denis Krivosheev pointed out that Melia’s defense had lodged an appeal against the Court ruling for detention. “Arresting [Melia] let alone violently, before the appeal has been considered shows the Georgian authorities’ flagrant disregard for the rule of law and authority and integrity of the judiciary, and suggests the arrest is politically motivated,” he asserted.

Former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated Melia’s detention is “very worrying.” “I urge restraint and for Georgia not to backtrack. We stand with those defending the rule of law and democracy in Georgia,” he added.

Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Carpenter said: “Very unfortunate developments in the Republic of Georgia with the storming of the opposition party’s HQ. Hoping cooler heads will prevail and the situation can still be de-escalated.”  Meanwhile, former U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly dubbed the developments as a “very sad day in Georgia.”

Michael McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow said the U.S. has “real leverage in Georgia,” unlike Russia, China, or Belarus. “Now is the moment to use it, before it’s too late,” he asserted. McFaul noted Melia’s detention was the third foreign policy test of the new U.S. Administration, following Navalny’s arrest in Russia and the Myanmar coup. “Biden knows Georgia. I traveled there with him in 2009. He can have an impact there,” he added.

Former Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said he is very concerned about tension in Georgia, warning that it would “be irresponsible to waste,” the country’s achievements in Euro-Atlantic integration. “All leaders must show restraint and be guided primarily by the interests of the State,” he added.

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