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Right Turn
Posted at 05:15 PM ET, 11/29/2012

Georgia, another human rights test

The administration has insisted in response to bipartisan criticism of its (nonexistent) human rights policy that it really does take the issue seriously. Well, now after a sorry record -- that includes its silence on the Green Revolution, its refusal to criticize Vladimir Putin's wave of repression and its inertness on Syria -- the administration has the chance to prove its critics wrong. Unfortunately, the State Department has been, well, subdued:

That response seems, just as critics claim, to be an effort to sweep human rights abuses under the rug for the sake of stability.

As The Post's editorial board pointed out yesterday, the behavior of the opposition party, which triumphed in the recent election, is, to put it mildly, problematic: "Unfortunately, it didn't take long for the new regime, headed by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, to provide a preliminary answer. Within weeks of taking office, the new government has brought criminal charges against more than 20 senior officials of the previous administration, including the former ministers of defense and interior and the armed forces chief of staff."

The editorial elicted a rant from Georgian Prime Minister Ivaishvilli, absurdly accusing The Post of in working in cahoots with his opponent, Mikheil Saakashvili. (According to Post Editorial Editor Fred Hiatt, no one has yet contacted The Post directly.)

But the latest reports suggest the new Georgian government has in fact taken a decidedly anti-democratic turn. Eli Lake of the Daily Beast reports: "Before dawn on Nov. 7, the highest-ranking officer in Georgia's military, Giorgi Kalandadze, was on his way to what he thought was a ceremony to welcome home troops from the war in Afghanistan. He was expecting a podium and television cameras at the airport for a flight that was scheduled to land at 5 a.m. Instead, his lawyer says, he was taken to the defense ministry, charged with three counts of physically abusing soldiers, and arrested. He spent the next two days in jail."

And a Georgia observer points Right Turn to a foreign report in which Tedo Japaridze, the chair of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, responded to the EU's Lady Catherine Ashton's statements during her visit to Georgia that "there should be no selective justice; no retribution against political rivals. Investigations into past wrongdoings must be, and must be seen, impartial, transparent and in compliance with due process." He sounded like an old-style Soviet apparatchik in accusing Ashton of "not adequately comprehending what is happening in Georgia" and Saakashvili of harboring "some sort of illusions." He went on to declare:

"In addition, Baroness Ashton's visit to Tbilisi and her remarks afterwards confirm that neither a three hour visit, nor one meeting with the Prime Minister is enough to understand the developments taking place in Georgia; is there any prospect for cohabitation and cooperation, which they are repeating so persistently, or not." He continued:

I would also say that remarks about conducting judicial process in an open and transparent way are a bit early. At this stage, defendants' cases are being investigated and no other country's judicial practice provides for an open and transparent investigation."

I have recently given an interview to New York Times (they have published only one paragraph, as it is usually done by journalists), which made our American colleagues unhappy. I was saying that it is difficult for our American partners to criticize those former government officials who have now turned out to be criminals. It appears that they have been supporting some sort of criminal gang in the power. Those individuals, although not all of them, who our friends were proud of as avant-garde of democracy, may be sent to jail as criminals. Thus, what happened in Georgia also affected their self-esteem. It seems they are surprised how they were being deceived to present such a country with its President as a beacon of democracy."

So there you have it: A formerly friendly, pro-American and democratic country becoming a thugocracy. And what will the administration say? Not much, I bet.

By  |  05:15 PM ET, 11/29/2012

 
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