The Daily Beat: 14 March
The case of Saakashvili and other political prisoners, such as Vladimir Kara-Murza and Alexei Gorinov in Russia, was discussed at an event at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The event was hosted by MEP Petras Auštrevičius and co-hosted by William Browder, lawyer and human rights activist behind the Magnitsky Act. MEPs and the wider public were allowed to hear from family members and lawyers of Mr. Kara-Murza, Mr. Gorinov, and Mr. Saakashvili to reassess the actions taken so far to support these political prisoners and to agree on other effective ways to campaign for their release. MEPs noted the need to keep up the pressure to release those political prisoners.
One of the major political groups in the European Parliament – the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) rejected the Georgian prime minister’s claim aired in a Sunday interview about European Parliament’s attempts to drag Georgia into the Russian war, calling it false and harmful. S&D requested the parliament in Strasbourg to hold debates on the situation in Georgia. At the same time, its vice-president in charge of foreign affairs, Pedro Marques, described Garibashvili’s remarks as misleading, expressing support for Georgian people who protested against the Russian-style draft legislation and encouraging all political parties to concentrate on the EU-related reforms necessary to obtain EU candidate status.
In a lengthy press conference today on last week’s protests in Tbilisi, Georgian Dream leader Irakli Kobakhidze accused the opposition, the former Ombudsman, critical media, and youth groups of organizing the ‘liberal fascist campaign.’ He said the revolution in 2003 was done “through the NGOs” and caused the country’s democratic backsliding, torture, business racketeering, media grab, and the loss of 20% of Georgian territory. This continued the series of verbal onslaughts on civil society and specific civic groups, which the ruling party unleashed after it had to withdraw the law “on transparency of foreign funding” from the legislation.
Georgia has received mostly negative assessments of the bills on judicial reform and de-oligarchization from the Venice Commission, the legal expert body of the Council of Europe. Both bills are part of the legislative measures the EU deems necessary for advancing Georgia’s candidacy and further accession. Proposed amendments to judiciary reforms are of “limited scope” and do not “provide for a holistic reform of the judiciary,” the Venice Commission said in its assessment, also outlining issues of “judicial corporatism and self-interest in the High Council of Justice.” While the bill on de-oligarchization is considered stigmatizing based on unclear criteria, highly risky leading to human rights violations, and, once adopted, targeting the opposition, according to the interim opinion of the Venice Commission.
While the country’s European future is hotly contested at home, President Salome Zurabishvili continues her foreign trip, holding meetings with European Council President Charles Michel and French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna in Brussels. Both Charles Michel and Catherine Colonna reaffirmed their support for the European aspirations of the Georgian people in the face of destabilization attempts by Russia. However, the European Council President stressed the crucial importance of the reforms.
The Flag of the Day
In response to recent pro-European and anti-Russian law protests in Tbilisi, the representatives of homophobic and pro-Russian Conservative Movement gathered in front of the parliament building, tore down the EU flag, shouting that only the Georgian flag should fly in Georgia, and burned it. The police, present at the parliament building, failed to prevent that act of vandalism, and the footage did not show the servants of the law giving it a serious try.
Later, the police reinstated the EU flag. The Interior Ministry assured the public that the administrative proceedings had already been launched and those responsible for desecration would be identified and fined. One of the leaders taunted the police saying, “send me the bill with the fine at home.”
Since January 2022, burning the symbols of the European Union, NATO, and countries with diplomatic relations with Georgia qualifies as an administrative offense, which would set you back GEL 1,000-2,000 in fine or a jail term of up to 15 days in aggravating circumstances.