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The Dispatch

Dispatch | October 6-11: Walk of Shame

Yes, democratic politics are sometimes messy – we know the system is designed for the circus to never leave the town. Yet, you would agree, that the boundary between the shambolic and the shameful is still a sensibly important one. That boundary was severely infringed upon during the last week.

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LIAR, LIAR Some signs last week that the bacchanalia of anti-U.S. paranoia, unchained by the Georgian Dream leaders and their spin-off party People Power has started to irritate Washington. Visiting US Undersecretary of State Bonnie Jenkins spoke in Tbilisi to hail the bilateral cooperation in handling the Covid-19 pandemic, and pointed to the pivotal role that the Lugar Public Health Research Center, often a target of Russia’s bio-warfare allegations, has played in handling the crisis. But the US official also ripped into those who try to discredit the U.S. Ambassador saying the allegations fit “a bigger pattern of disinformation aimed at obscuring the truth and the realities of the current crisis in Europe that one man has created.” GD Chair Kobakhidze emerged cowed but defiant like a schoolboy that was caught stealing jam: he said other boys did it. Seriously. He said he ‘could not remember’ any such attacks on the U.S. officials from the ruling party, but recalled the opposition-minded figures, Nika Melia and Nika Gvaramia, doing so. Such buffoonery from the ruling party leader is a disgrace and an affront to democratic values, as we don’t tire to say.

FORGOTTEN Mikheil Saakashvili has been in prison for more than a year now. The officials respond to concerns about his deteriorating health with ill-concealed sneers, while Saakashvili’s lawyers, as well as medical experts hired by the defense, say his vital functions are a cause of concern. The private clinic where he was brought for checkups by the penitentiary confirms some concerns but says the condition is stable. In the meantime, a Kiyv court requested Saakashvili be remanded to Ukraine to testify in a case concerning his expulsion from Ukraine by then-President Petro Poroshenko. At least on Georgian Dream MPs had the cynicism to remark that the transfer is impossible as his life would be in danger in Ukraine.

DEFENDER WHO?! The outgoing public defender Nino Lomjaria submitted her last annual report on the human rights situation to the Parliament. It is a damning piece, recording deterioration in various areas. Yet, the MPs did not consider it important enough to review in Spring, when it was ready, and pushed the review to Autumn, so that it tied nicely into the politicized campaign to elect the new Public Defender. As expected, the ruling party MPs discarded the content and went to the mediatized “jugular” – Lomjaria was accused of protecting only the nemesis – United National Movement; of disrespecting the church (for questioning its wholesale landgrabs) and of overstepping legal mandate by speaking for EU-related reforms. The Georgian Parliament’s standard of debate is usually quite low, and the reviews of Public Defender’s reports have been a mud-slinging competition for years, if not decades. But the MPs have outdone themselves this time.

Lomjaria handled the interminable session with some brio, and she has the paperwork to back it up: 5 thousand individual cases, 11 thousand phone requests handled, and over 100 fact-finding visits to the places of detention. Not bad, against the background of administrative reticence: the report says 63% of the offices’ recommendations to various authorities remained unaddressed. All of this somewhat dampens our satisfaction from the news that Georgia was re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council.

FEMICIDE The women’s rights Union Sapari announced on October 7 that the Tbilisi City Court ordered the state to pay a GEL 100,000 (USD 35,783) compensation to the children of Khanum Jeiranova, an ethnic Azeri woman who died in 2014 shortly after enduring public humiliation and violence in her community. Khanum Jeiranova was a victim of the so-called ‘’honor crime.’’ Unfortunately, she is one of the many victims of one or another kind of gender-based violence. In just three days, three cases of apparent femicide were recorded in Georgia, including one case of a repeat offender who was released on parole. There is some serious catching up to do, both by society and by the legal system to educate the public, deter violence, punish offenders and eradicate this shameful crime.

NOT MY PROBLEM As rockets rained down on Ukraine, the Georgian President and Parliamentary Spokesperson took to Twitter to condemn the violence – don’t worry, Russia was never mentioned by name. President Salome Zurabishvili repeated the message of condemnation and solidarity from Romania. Depressingly, the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister remained silent. Another proof, if one needed it, of Georgia’s official foreign policy detaching itself from the partners and taking a somewhat ill-advised, let alone ethically questionable, trip in the wilderness. Add to that silence about Belarus, where protesters were jailed and civilian flights forced to land, the lack of even token recognition of the Belorussian opposition, unwillingness to join – even if symbolically – the full list of sanctions against Russia by the European Union, and the picture is complete. Gracefully, some Georgians and a few Russian exiles have joined the Ukrainian-led protest in front of the Georgian Parliament.

This was all we had for you this week! We will be back with more news from Georgia next Wednesday.


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