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Ruling party’s disregard for dissent leaves little room for optimism

By M. Alkhazashvili
Tuesday, July 22
Over the weekend, a group of civil society figures criticized parliament in an open letter for its dismissive treatment of the country’s human rights ombudsman, Sozar Subari. Parliament brushed off his lengthy 2007 report of human rights abuses in Georgia last week as just so much noise from a gadfly. The open letter indignantly labeled this a “cynical attitude to democracy,” and it is right.

The report, a nearly 1 400-page tome, catalogues a huge number of substantiated crimes and worrisome human rights violations in Georgia. Subari is misleading when he says the report contains only facts, not evaluations: it does, in fact, contain prescriptive passages and is not shy in apportioning blame for November 7, the sorry state of the judicial system and other areas where Georgia still comes up short. Yet the violations it lists are largely unaddressed, and to simply ignore them while casting aspersions at the ombudsman reeks of irresponsibility and ill will.

There are still pockets of well-warranted optimism about the direction Georgia is headed. But on many civil society issues—rule of law, unchecked executive power, human rights and freedom of the press—there are few results, only continued promises from top officials that things will improve.

The trends, however, are worrisome. Particularly so when the country’s legislature shows more interest in fending off possible political damage, years away from its next elections, than in ensuring an adequate response to even some of the many accusations against state officials.

Ruling party MPs said Subari’s report was incompetent and biased. If that is the case, the authorities have nothing to fear from a fair and competent investigation into the complaints he brought to parliament.

But their disregard for dissent makes it clear there will be no reaction to his report and others. And that only shrinks Georgia’s remaining pockets of optimism.