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Human rights to get their due in Saakashvili’s second term?

By M. Alkhazashvili (Translated by Diana Dundua)
Thursday, January 17
Mikheil Saakashvili, once the young democratic reformer, stands accused of allowing the quest for a strong state to trample roughshod over the rights of his fellow citizens.

In an open letter to the president-elect, Human Rights Ombudsman Sozar Subari first delivers a perfunctory congratulations on his former ally’s reelection, then details all that he sees wrong with Georgia, including a climate of fearfulness and repression which represents a ruefully backward step for human rights.

The mass anti-government protests of early November, which ended with riot police clubbing and gassing peaceful demonstrators, came about only after repeated offenses against the Georgian people and their dignity, Subari wrote.

The litany of crimes, he continued, includes murders, insults, beatings, property appropriation and more. Callow bureaucrats competed for who could make Georgians the most miserable, he railed with just a hint of hyperbole.

This is in disagreement with observers who saw persistent poverty as the root of the November protests. In truth, there is no single abbreviated list of grievances with the government.

Saakashvili’s administration has maligned the poor and the persecuted alike in a variety of circumstances, leaving a variety of amends to be made in his second term. The root problem is not a twisted disregard for human rights and the plight of the poor, but the arrogance of a small elite who believes only they are deserving of power.

Saakashvili, if he has the strength, will have to cast out some of the state figures perceived by voters to be criminally dismissive of the rule of law. A tepid reelection is not nearly enough to declare the ongoing political crisis, and its causes, gone for good.