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Ambassador Degnan Brushes Away PM’s Criticism of State Department’s Human Rights Report

On March 23 US Ambassador Kelly Degnan in conversation with journalists spoke about the Human Rights report released this week by the State Department, the role of civil society and other issues. She was attending the opening of American Shelf in a public school, in Akhalkalaki, a town in southern Georgia with a large Armenian minority.

Asked about the Prime Minister’s comment on the Human Rights Report, who called the report “not fair”, “biased” and based on unfair conclusions, Ambassador said that US has been producing Human Rights reports for decades and “they report on issues, not political parties or individuals.” She also spoke about the inclusive process of sourcing information for the report and double-checking to ensure that the information is credible and reliable. She said: “I would encourage people to go back and read previous reports because they are a chronicle of both areas where improvements are needed, but they also often show where real progress has been made.”

Asked why Georgia was being represented at the upcoming Democracy Summit by President Zurabishvili rather than Prime Minister Garibashvili, the Ambassador said that the President was a “fantastic representative of Georgia” and that she had attended last year’s Summit where all participating countries made certain commitments. She stressed that in Georgia’s case those were “whole-of-government commitments” therefore “there is also government participation in fulfilling the agenda that Georgia set for itself in terms of improving its democracy and fighting corruption.”

Asked why she thought there were no protests in the regions of Georgia during the recent protests in Tbilisi, Degnan said she had heard that people in other cities had taken to the streets to demonstrate their European aspirations. She said:” I think there was a very clear demonstration by the people of Georgia that they have made a clear, determined choice that their path is Europe, and anything that takes them off that path, anything that distracts from that path is not welcomed by the people of Georgia.”  

Kelly Degnan also stressed the importance of the regions, due to the “rich contribution that the regions can make to the policy of the government as a whole”. She stressed: “We want to support civil society because these are Georgian citizens helping other Georgian citizens improve conditions in their communities. It’s as simple as that. This is Georgians helping Georgians, and if the United States can support that with some financial assistance for any other kind of assistance, we are very proud and happy to do that” adding that she has been impressed seeing, in her experience travelling around Georgia, “some very active, very strong, very effective civil society organizations working all over this country.”

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