Formal charges were brought against the former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, and several of his associates two days ago. According to the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office the charges relate to:
“Illegal actions of then Georgian government and its head Mikheil Saakashvili resulted in: infringement of property right of the Patarkatsishvili family; right of assembly and demonstration was infringed and many people suffered injuries [as a result of dispersal of the rally on November 7, 2007]; illegal interference in and obstruction to the work of independent media.”
This followed a story several days earlier that the Prosecutor’s Office had asked for help from foreign experts “in handling high-profile cases”. The implication at the time was that charges against Saakashvili were forthcoming.
Legally, the next step is for the Georgian government to lodge a formal request to Interpol for the detention of Saakashvili, as he is not currently residing in Georgia. However, given the statements from the European Union, and the United States, it appears doubtful that Interpol will cooperate or take any action.
The statement from US Senators McCain, Risch, Shaheen, Cardin reflected disappointment with the Georgian government’s current trajectory:
“Georgia’s leaders need to think long and hard about the direction they are taking their country. Today’s action, and others like it, imposes unnecessary challenges in moving our relationship forward.”
The US State Department also released a statement expressing ‘concern’ about the process in its current form, saying:
“Commitment to the rule of law means both that everyone must comply with the law in a democratic society and that the legal system should not be used as a tool of political retribution.”
Georgia’s Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, denied that the process was politicized, and said that the government was only fulfilling the promises that had been made at the time of the 2012 elections.
“Without being stirred by political motives, the chief prosecutor took an important step and filed charges against those individuals, who have allegedly violated the law.”
But how can the process be anything but politicized? People here have been complaining to me for months that their nightly news programs are mostly filled with stories casting blame on the previous administration for society’s ills. Even if the process were not politicized, it still gives the impression of a partisan witch-hunt. And that is what the statements from the US Senators, and the US State Department show.
“The State party [Georgia] should pursue the investigation into past abuses while, given that such violations were committed before the 2012 elections, avoiding the appearance of political retribution.”
If the Georgian government wants to bring the alleged abuses of the Saakashvili regime out into the open, there are better ways to do so. A dialog needs to be established in which each side can have a say. But finger pointing and accusatory statements are not helpful. Nobody in Georgia benefits from the process in its current form. The people of Georgia deserve better.