A CHANCE TO PROVE IT
05 September, 2013
A CHANCE TO PROVE IT
“Georgia is not Ukraine and it must be given the chance to prove it”. “The superficial similarities between the arrests of former Georgian and Ukrainian PM’s Vano Merabishvili and Yulia Tymoshenko should not be used to undermine attempts to support the rule of law in Georgia”, - argues Columbia University’s Lincoln Mitchell.
A few months ago Georgia’s new Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani delivered a speech at Columbia University where I teach. This was the first speech by a member of
the Georgian Government since the October 2012 election, which saw the defeat of Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) at the hands of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream.
As I chatted with Tsulukiani in my office before her speech, I was a little nervous. During recent years events about Georgia have often been tumultuous at Columbia, with disagreements between speakers, accusations of being a Russian spy hurled at any critic of the Georgian Government and Georgian students being harassed by representatives of their government all very common.
I also did not know what to expect from the event because Tsulukiani, as Justice Minister, had been the person most identified with the spate of arrests of high ranking members of the previous regime in the early months of the new government. These arrests had led to loud criticism from many in the US and Europe - a problem for the new government seeking to strengthen their international image.
However, Tsulukiani, a prominent human rights lawyer with over a decade of experience working at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) investigating the abuses of the Saakashvili regime, was a far cry from Georgia’s former Justice Minister - an enforcer of the previous government’s non-democratic rule who fled the country as soon as his party was defeated.
Guided by her experience at the ECHR, Tsulukiani explained that these arrests were not a political revenge, as critics of the new government maintained, but efforts by a new government to restore the rule of law to a country where the previous government had become increasingly corrupt and abusive towards its citizens.
My concerns were heightened when Tsulukiani and I walked into the room before her address with only a few faculty members and students in the crowd. The rest of the audiences were Georgians from around New York. After the talk, we opened the floor up to questions. The Georgians in the room were angry and wanted to ask Tsulukiani about the arrests. However, they were mostly angry because they felt the new government had not arrested enough people and was too concerned with judicial niceties.
Therein lays the conflict over rule of law in Georgia today. Leaders in the US and Europe, largely out of embarrassment for their solid support of Georgia’s previous regime long after the Georgian people, international human rights groups and Georgian NGOs became aware of the degree of criminality and brutality in parts of that government, have expressed disappointment to see their friends arrested.
The new Georgian government, for its part, has a large constituency who are angry at a defeated government whose leaders are believed to have engaged in high level corruption, abused state resources for political gain, violently broken up demonstrations and tortured prisoners.
For countries like Georgia which do not rank among the most important foreign policy questions facing the US or Europe, narrative and heuristics are particularly important in Washington DC and other western capitals. Policymakers, pundits and kibitzers see these countries through brief but straightforward stories and analogies rather than by seeking nuanced understandings.
The current frame for Georgia is that of a popular western leader being defeated by pro-Russian forces seeking to move the country away from democracy. This frame fits another former Soviet country, Ukraine, quite well, so the temptation to apply it to Georgia is understandable. However, to understand Georgia this way is not only reductive but wildly inaccurate and requires ignoring the empirical reality in favour of the propaganda of a failed and defeated regime.
Currently, the application of the Ukraine frame to Georgia is expressed most overtly by viewing the recent arrest of former Georgian PM Vano Merabishvili as the equivalent of the imprisonment of former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko. The superficiality of the comparisun is clear; both are former PM’s who shortly after a change in power found themselves in jail. These similarities should not obscure the differences. Just because Tymoshenko is imprisoned under largely trumped up charges, does not mean that all former prime ministers who have been arrested are in a similar plight.
Merabishvili is not well known in the west, which is probably one of the major reasons his arrest has raised so much concern. As interior minister from late 2004 to mid 2012, Merabishvili, more than any other individual, was associated with the authoritarian excesses of the previous Georgian government. Violently dispersing rallies, bugging opposition phone lines, using police for political purposes and even involvement in unresolved murders, such as the head of the united Georgian bank’s foreign department Sandra Virgilian in 2006 are all linked to Merabishvili’s interior ministry.
As prime minister, Merabishvili was involved in efforts to use government resources to illegally support his political party which was on its way to being defeated in the 2012 parliamentary elections.
None of these allegations mean Merabishvili is guilty; and the need for a fair and transparent trial remains. However, these allegations suggest that the reason he was arrested was not because Merabishvili was a political opponent but because he was extensively involved in wrongdoing and illegality.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is leading his country away from democracy and towards a closer relationship with Russia. His presidency has been marked by limiting freedoms of media and assembly, continued corruption and abuses of power. Yanukovych won the 2010 election because of the weakness of the previous regime and the economic downturn of 2008.
Despite the fact that they both defeated people who were, at one time, very popular in the west, Yanukovych and Ivanishvili have little in common. Ivanishvili defeated a regime that had already descended into corruption, incompetence, torture and violence. Governing after the defeat of a regime like that requires reinstating the rule of law, but also, one way or another, reconciling the past. In that context, arresting leaders of the previous government is very different.
Efforts to restore the rule of law are not likely to be successful if no wrongdoers are punished. However, the new government needs to find a way to punish those who commanded the illegal acts and set up the system of violence and corruption, while allowing the state to continue to function. In this regard, it is significant that to date, Ivanishvili’s government has succeeded in limiting arrests to only the senior most culpable figures.
US and European calls for a fair trial for Merabishvili and others are important but statements of concern over the arrest are misplaced. To miss this point because of the superficial similarities between the Merabishvili and Tymoshenko cases to seriously misunderstand the current political situation and undermines attempts to support the rule of law in Georgia.
Georgia is not Ukraine, and it must be given the chance to prove it, as those former officials charged will be given the chance to prove their innocence.
Print
Other Stories
Donald Tusk: "The collapse of the Soviet Union was very positive"
I want to say loudly from this tribune - the collapse of the Soviet Union was very positive, - Donald Tusk,
Donald Tusk reads a quote from Vazha Pshavela’s letter in Georgian
President of the Council of Europe Donald Tusk read a quote from Georgian writer
Economist: “An unwelcome Russian visitor has helped to revive an old antagonism”
Economist has recently published an article reviewing the recent events taking place in Georgia.
Russian Duma supports sanctions against Georgia, President Putin opposes
The Russian Duma supported sanctions against Georgia.
Prosecutor: Individuals planned to overthrow the state government
On the night of 20th of June, 2019, individuals were planned to violently overthrow the state government through uprising,
Court releases Nika Melia on GEL 30, 000 bail
The Tbilisi City Court sentenced Nika Melia to GEL 30, 000 bail at today’s court hearing.
Parliament suspends Nika Melia's MP's immunity
Nika Melia, the member of the opposition “United National Movement” party, has arrived at Tbilisi City Court.
"Russian Church blackmails Georgian Patriarchate" - Claims Ukraine's Rada member
Victor Yelenskyj was the head of the Ukrainian delegation at that fateful Interparliamentary Ortho­dox Assembly in Tbilisi that sparked the protests still ongoing to this day.
What the Protests in Tbilisi Mean for Relations with Russia
The protests in the center of Tbilisi over the Russian MP’s presence in Georgian parliament caused a nation-wide outburst against the ruling Georgian Dream party and Russia.
Government agrees to one of the protesters demands: Proportional Elections in 2020
The government has agreed to hold proportional parliamentary elections in Georgia in 2020.
Russia bans flights to Georgia from July 8
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree yesterday prohibiting Russian airlines from carrying Russian citizens to Georgia from July 8.
Zakaria Kutsnashvili renounces his MP mandate
Zakaria Kutsnashvili, who was the head of the Georgian delegation in the Inter-parliamentary Session on Orthodoxy, has renounced his MP mandate.
Police use teargas, rubber bullets against protesters, says Human Rights Watch
Riot police in Tbilisi fired rubber bullets and used teargas without warning against thousands of nonviolent protesters
Russian lawmaker demands “official apology” from Tbilisi
Tbilisi should give its formal apology to Russia for the provocations against Russian delegates in the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy,
Georgian police used teargas, rubber Bullets and water cannon against protesters
Police in Georgia used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to stop protesters entering the country’s parliament on Friday.
Gavrilov: "Russia and Georgia are united by the brotherly orthodox union"
The citizens of Georgia are protesting against the conduct of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy in Georgia, which was led by Russian Deputy Sergey Gavrilov.
Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy canceled following public outrage
The session of Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy held at Parliament of Georgia has been canceled after the protest.
The Russian deputy in the Chairman’s chair of the Parliament of Georgia
The Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy is taking place between the 19th and 22nd of June in Tbilisi.
Michael Carpenter about Georgia's open policy with Russia
Michael Carpenter has recently tweeted about Georgia's open policy with Russia.
Another Georgian David Arakhamia to work with President Zelensky
Georgian businessman David Arakhamia also known as David Brown is another Georgian to join President Zelensky’s team in Ukraine.
What Do the EP Elections Mean for Georgia?
The European Parliament elections are over, with the liberal wing sighing with relief, while the right wingers can smugly point to the increase to 25% of representation in the world 's second largest democratically elected parliament.
PM Mamuka Bakhtadze met with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo
Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze met with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on the 11th of June.
Zourabichvili talks about Russian occupation at Labour Conference
President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili took part in the 108th Session of the International Labour Conference,
UN General Assembly passes Georgia IDP Resolution
The UN General Assembly has adopted the Resolution on „Status of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Georgia”
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko offers Mikheil Saakashvili to chair the Udar Party
After arrival of ex-president of Georgia and ex-Governor of Ukraine's Odesa region Mikheil Saakashvili in Ukraine there were speculations about whether he would be offered political positions.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
15.07.2019
16.07.2019
USD
1
USD
2.8513
2.8555
EUR
1
EUR
3.2094
3.2210
GBP
1
GBP
3.5727
3.5862
RUB
100
RUB
4.5215
4.5596
Other Stories
On 26 May, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, joined celebrations in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi
Violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Assad regime has been strictly criticized
Exactly one year ago, Georgia was granted visa-free travel with the European Union.
Georgia’s ex-president president Mikheil Saakashvili's supporters managed to free detained Mikheil Saakashvili in the center of Kiev.
The US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly congratulates Georgia on Independence Day.
The regulations on the introduction of visa-free travel for citizens of Georgia have been officially signed in Brussels.
The entire Georgia is involved in Secret Santa game, which means that people are sending gifts to each other secretly
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia is taking part in NATO Ministerial underway in Brussels, Belgium.
A special squad has been mobilized at the 48th polling station in Marneuli, Kvemo Kartli region.
Two politicians in Georgia have come to blows during a live TV debate ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections, Euronews reports.
GEL Exchange
USD
1
USD
2.8555
EUR
1
EUR
3.2210
GBP
1
GBP
3.5862
RUB
100
RUB
4.5596
July 2019
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31