Speaker Papuashvili Complains to PACE Chair about Saakashvili Reference

Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili addressed the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Tiny Kox, in an October 24 letter that elaborated on Georgian Dream MPs’ refusal to vote on the recent resolution regarding Russia and criticized the Assembly for including imprisoned ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili in the text.

The PACE resolution titled “Further escalation in the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine” condemned the fresh annexation of the Ukrainian regions by Moscow and declared the Russian regime “a terrorist one.”

Amendment on Saakashvili

The Georgian Dream MPs who attended the PACE session and had the ability to vote refused to do so after taking issue with Amendment 4, which stated: “The Assembly calls on the Russian authorities for the immediate release of Vladimir Kara-Murza. The Assembly also calls for a review of cases of other political prisoners opposed to Putin, in the Russian Federation and other countries, and for their release (including Mikheil Saakashvili, a Ukrainian citizen and former President of Georgia).”

Significantly, the ruling party maintains that Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia’s former president and one of the founders of the United National Movement has been imprisoned following a fair trial. The UNM and most of the opposition disagree, while others in the opposition and the Public Defenders’ office point to Saakashvili’s deteriorating health condition that may serve as a precondition for his provisional release.

Speaker Papuashvili emphasized that Saakashvili’s inclusion in the text prevented the delegation from supporting the resolution. He underscored that the addition, “changes the essence and spirit of the resolution, […] undermines the fundamental values of PACE, and the credibility of the organization in upholding human rights, democracy, and the rule of law across Europe.”

In his argumentation, the Parliament Speaker raises the issue of Saakashvili’s human rights record, pointing to critical human rights reports written about his tenure, judgments passed by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) during that time, as well as Saakashvili’s involvement in Aleksandre Girgvliani’s murder. He further pointed out Saakashvili’s other convictions and the ongoing criminal cases against the former President.

Building on his argument, Speaker Papuashvili also noted that the ECtHR “refused to accept Mr. Saakashvili’s case regarding his treatment by Georgia’s penitentiary” and by doing so, “confirmed that the rights and interests of Mikheil Saakashvili were fully protected by the penitentiary system per the standards of the ECHR.”

Adding that Georgia has had a “clear track record of protecting human rights, democracy, and rule of law since 2012” and that the country has had fewer cases in the ECtHR in the time since Saakashvili’s rule, Speaker Papuashvili underscored “having this in mind, we believe there is no evidence of political motivations in the charges against Mr. Saakashvili other than politically-driven speculations.”

In that vein, Speaker Papuashvili claimed that the language in Amendment 4 represents an “unsubstantiated challenge to the Georgian legal system, invites unjustified suspicion against our country in international fora, and undermines Georgia’s reform progress in human rights and the rule of law since 2012.”

“More importantly, the unfounded provisions on Mr. Saakashvili jeopardize the credibility of PACE within the wider Georgian public and erode our efforts to solidify support for the ambitious reform agenda aligned with recommendations of the relevant PACE resolutions,” he said.

The Speaker concluded by expressing hope that in the future, PACE members will “be guided only by the best interests of the organization and its fundamental values.”

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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