Truth v Vengeance
04 August, 2014
How do we think about the indictment of Misha? When most current officials talk about justice they tend to say it with a clenched fist. They seem a little too excited about jail time for former officials. They talk more about punishment than truth. When questioned they are quick to bring up Sarkozy being questioned to show that this is normal. But even though the Socialists control the French government now, they are not constantly talking about putting Sarkozy and
all his associates behind bars as a major state priority. His questioning was simply the result of a small group of independent and enthusiastic prosecutors gathering evidence. And prosecutors in Georgia have never spent much time and effort gathering evidence, not under Shevardnadze or under Misha, they had a different job. Both in the international community and in Georgia, most people believe that the motive is mainly vengeance. And in Georgia plenty of people are happy about that.

But more important than punishment is the truth. In the end punishment creates cycles. Shevardnade and his team were corrupt. When Misha came in with his team and punished those corrupt people, but largely ignored the rule of law. In the end they found their obedient judicial system so convenient that they threw anybody they wanted in jail with no evidence. This was terrible and made most people fear and hate them. Now most people in Georgia want them punished for it and are happy many are in jail or self imposed exile. But the jail time seems to be a higher priority than the truth about what they did.

For the current leadership to be taken seriously when it says nobody is above the rule of law, they would need to prosecute criminals with equal enthusiasm. But those who committed crimes in Shevardnadze's Interior Ministry are not investigated. Those few recent crimes committed by allies of the current leadership seem to inspire less investigative enthusiasm and jail time.

The international community is almost united in hoping the Georgian government will simply move forward and stop obsessing on this. Of course some of that is embarrassment at their own silence about what was happening during Misha's time. But mostly it is simply hope that Georgia can spend its time on more rewarding activities than vengeance. The international community understands that jailing the former leadership can become a cyclical habit and can be lethal to a new and delicate democracy.

And yet the National Movement has not helped matters by refusing to apologize for what they did, or even acknowledge the crimes they committed. Everybody knows that they built a system of state power based on throwing people in jail with no evidence and at times for no reason. There is consensus about this in Georgian society and yet still they refuse to acknowledge this and the many other wrongs they committed. But still it is difficult to apologize when those in power are clearly enthusiastic about finding any pretext to throw you in jail. Those who should apologize may be thinking that if they do it will be used against them. But that still doesn't mean that they don't owe Georgia an apology for what they did.

What happens first, that the current leaders stop threatening the former leadership or the former leadership apologize for what they did? In the end, the current leadership should make the move because they have the power and because they should be better than the former government. That's why they were elected. Rather than threatening the former leaders in jail and keeping them in pre trial detention, they conduct their investigations and publish what was done in that time. Publish it in excruciating detail. In the end if the leadership of the National Movement refuses to be honest about what they did, they will remain as politically irrelevant as they are now.

For international examples, look at Richard Nixon. In the early seventies the newspapers were full of his crimes, the entire nation watched and he was hated. Finally after two years, he resigned before he could be impeached. Vice President Ford took office and soon pardoned him. Everybody knew what he had done and he remained hated by many. Some people hated him so much that they were very angry that he was pardoned. But in the end, it was good that he was pardoned and everybody could move on to more important things. Certainly by that time everybody had understood the details of his crime, he left office disgraced and that was punishment enough. The vengeance enthusiasts lost that battle. Let's hope they loose this one too.