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Prime Minister sends a letter to U.S. Senators

11.08.14 17:20

The Prime Minister of Georgia has sent a responding letter to the fourt American Senators, whose letter was released by the newspaper Tabula few days ago. Prime Minister`s office has published the letter on Irakli Gharibashvili`s official page on Facebook.
`Dear Senator McCain, Dear Senator Risch, Dear Senator Rubio, Dear Senator Shaheen, Thank you very much for your letter of August 1, 2014. I am glad you are willing to raise these important issues with me, and I deeply value your friendship and your support of the Georgian people and our country’s security and development. I agree wholeheartedly with you about the importance of a vibrant and constructive political opposition. I am committed to working with any in Georgia who is willing to be a constructive partner for the good of all people. While more needs to be done to continue such cooperation, many of our recent policies and law have been improved by the input of the opposition. I also agree with you that the legal process surrounding the prosecution of former government officials must be above all reproach, and all cases must be dealt with in a fair, transparent, and impartial manner. I understand and sympathize with the concern that these prosecutions could be seen as political in nature and that this could impact Georgia’s internal political stability and foreign relations. From a dangerous neighborhood to needing to strengthen our economy, Georgia has many challenges. My government came to office seeking to unlock the true potential of Georgia’s economy and execute our European and Euro-Atlantic integration, but both of those aspirations, as well as the fundamental safety and security of the Georgian people, require a working democracy. We were elected to build this modern democracy, protect human rights, put our people on a permanent path of development, and ensure that none of these advances could be reversed by the next government, no matter the party. We have pursued this agenda in several ways. We have committed to the rigorous reforms agenda required by our EU Association Agreement. We have devolved more power to the people, raised the threshold to be elected, and given more authority to local governments. We are implementing a Human Rights Action Plan designed in cooperation with the EU. We are cleaning up our Constitution, which was inconsistently amended hundreds of times in eight years to serve short-term political needs. Most important to the issues you raised in your letter, we have taken major steps to restore the rule of law and end government impunity. The Georgian legal system today is vastly different from when you last visited Georgia. We dismantled the system of extortive plea-bargaining and prison torture. Judges are now independent, the prosecutor is autonomous from government control, and defendants have been provided many new rights. In a sign of progress, our prosecutors now regularly lose cases. We must also ensure that this new system applies to all people equally, including government officials. We are seeking to raise the standard by which future political leaders will be judged and create a fair system by which to judge them. Since our independence, there has been little consequence for government officials breaking the law –
 that sentiment must end and we must be held to a higher standard. Along these lines, the UN Human Rights Committee issued a report on July 23, 2014 calling on our government to investigate the myriad number of potential human rights abuses by the previous government that to date have been ignored. My government was elected on this issue and while we are not involved in the decision about what cases to pursue, our autonomous prosecutor was given a mandate to pursue cases of past and current government officials who committed grave crimes. This is not just one sided: my government’s Minister of Agriculture was removed from the office and the Deputy Minister of Interior was given a one-year conditional sentence for breaching privacy rights. Several other lower level appointees and officials have also been prosecuted. I have stated publically that I expect to go to jail myself if I commit criminal acts while in office. As the autonomous prosecutor decides what cases to pursue, for me to exert political interference in the case of former government officials would be to completely undermine the lesson we are trying to teach the Georgian people: that no one is above the law and our blossoming judicial system will not be perverted for the sake of a few. I urge you to watch these trials carefully and invite you to come to Georgia to see the process first hand. I urge you to examine the trial process, which has so far received high marks from international observers, to confirm that these defendants received a fair trial. If the prosecutor lives up to his mandate, he will ensure a fair trial and present convincing evidence. If he does not meet this standard, the defendants should be acquitted. My country sees its future firmly in the West. We have taken a great risk for our country in pursuing this path –  a portion of our country remains under illegal military occupation and Russia recently terminated our free trade agreement in retaliation for our signing the EU Association agreement. However, my government and the Georgian people remain dedicated to this goal. We are committed to taking no actions that jeopardize our aspiration. We believe that a successful judicial process will further our progress down the road of democracy and European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Let me underline, the United States

solid and unwavering support is deeply cherished by the whole Georgian nation. Through our cooperation with you and our other Western partners, we have been building a modern state, with strong democratic institutions and a dynamic economy. The help of our Western allies is crucial to ensure the transparency and fairness of the judicial process. We are accountable to the Georgian people to ensure the advancement of the Georgian state on an irreversible path toward building a consolidated democracy, which is not achievable without acknowledging that no one is above the law. We are confident that time will show that our efforts to end impunity will make Georgia a stronger nation and ally. I thank you again for your advice and your consistent and long-standing support for my government and the people of Georgia, no matter who is in office. I hope you will continue to raise your concerns with me and will be willing to work with me to address them,` Prime Minister wrote.

 

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