State Department: We Hold Tools at Our Purview to Hold Anyone Accountable
The U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price held his regular briefing on March 7, where he fielded several questions concerning the law “On Transparency of Foreign Funding” that was passed in its first reading today by the Georgian parliament, as well as about the suppression of protest triggered by that decision.
Below is our unofficial transcript of his statements.
Q: What is your feeling about the law on foreign agents?
Ned Price: You asked about the feeling here. The feeling here is one of deep concern. You have heard us express that sentiment consistently in recent days. It is a feeling of deep concern because of the potential implications of this draft law. This draft law would strike at some of the very rights that are central to the aspirations of the people of Georgia for a consolidated democracy, for Euro Atlantic integration and for a brighter future.
It would stigmatise, silence, independent voices and citizens is Georgia who wish to do nothing more than work together to build a brighter future, a future that is integrated with Europe, future that is democratic and free, where Georgia is an independent and sovereign country. We’re so deeply concerned, troubled in fact, for what this could mean for the people of Georgia, but also because the United States has been a partner to Georgia over the course of recent decades.
Ever since Georgia declared its independence in the United States have been right there with it, supporting the aspirations of the Georgian people. And in the earliest days of independence those aspirations were notions. They were nothing more than an idea, in some cases. Over the course of ensuing decades, the people of Georgia have worked to realise those aspirations. They have made tremendous progress in becoming the democracy that they sought from the earliest days in integrating Georgia into the Euro Atlantic community and ensuring that Georgia stays on that path.
Now, however, we see a draft piece of legislation that would be a tremendous setback. This would be a setback to the aspirations of the people of Georgia. It would be a set back to the ability of the United States to continue to be a partner for the people of Georgia.
I made this point yesterday, I think it was, that anyone who is voting for this draft legislation would be responsible in part, for jeopardising those very Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the Georgian people.
We don’t wish to see that happen – beyond the United States it is [also] the EU, UN of course, and most importantly the Georgian people, Georgian civil society groups, all of have issued strong statements of concern about this draft legislation.
Question about the example of holding someone responsible.
Ned Price: I think really the best example is the counter example. It is the example of the type of partnership that the United States government can have with people and countries that aspire to continue down that path of democracy, of democratic reform. Integration with Europe and the broader Euro Atlantic region. I think the best counter example is the United States’ partnership with Georgia. If you want to look at what that partnership can look like, what that partnership can feel like. And now we are concerned, that partnership could be at least in part jeopardised, should a law like this move forward.
Ultimately, these are going to be the decisions of the Georgian people and the Georgian Government. It is our strong hope that the Georgian Government listens to the Georgian people. The Georgian people are speaking with a clear voice. Right now we’re seeing some of those clear voices, those loud voices shut out by tear gas, by efforts to suppress that peaceful exercise of freedom of assembly.
That’s of concern to us, but ultimately we think it’s important that governments around the world, including of course the government in Tbilisi, listens to its people.
Question about the possibility of sanctioning Ivanishvili and people behind the law
Ned Price: So as you know, I don’t speak to specific individuals or entities who may be subject to US or other sanctions, but we have a number of tools within our purview that would allow us to hold accountable anyone in any country around the world who is responsible for the suppression of what would otherwise be a universal human right.
There are authorities that are written into various laws, into executive orders that we will look at closely in this context, as we do in any other context to hold to account those who may run afoul of what the Georgian people want and, most importantly, what the Georgian people expect and deserve in terms of their universal rights.
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