TBILISI, DFWatch–After an exchange of open letters between Georgian government officials and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from the European People’s Party, the Georgian government has now published a long memorandum to argue its case against criticism that the country is sliding backwards in terms of democracy.
Government officials claim that the latest declaration by the EPP MEPs contains ‘harsh criticism without any examples and justification and reflects the political position of the opposition party the United National Movement.’
In its memorandum, the government responds to each accusation from the EPP MEPs, starting with restrictions on opposition parties and disrespect for the president’s constitutional rights. According to the memorandum, parliament didn’t prohibit the president from addressing the nation in parliament, because there wasn’t even agreed a date and it is the prerogative of parliament to invite the president to the legislative body. The state of the nation address is held on a different date each year. The memorandum gives a detailed explanation for why parliamentarians decided to postpone the president’s address.
Instead of agreeing with parliament on the date for the address, the president said he would hold the speech at the National Library, where about 200 citizens came to express protest against him, the letter continues. Most of the demonstrators were political prisoners. Outside the library there arrived a column of UNM members and supporters, and the situation turned into a scuffle.
“The government acknowledges its obligation to maintain order and freedom of speech,” the government members write. They point out that the speaker of parliament and the prime minister both condemned the violence, and those who committed violent acts were detained. But the government also admits that the level of police readiness wasn’t enough considering the level of dissatisfaction towards the former government, but steps have been made not to let such incidents repeat themselves.
Another accusation the government responds to is political harassment of and violence against local governments.
“The government remains committed to the rule of law and is not involved in any sort of political persecution,” the letter says, arguing the case that many members of the Georgian Dream coalition were persecuted and detained during Saakashvili’s government and that’s why the new government remains faithful to human rights and the rule of law.
According to the memorandum, ongoing processes at the local governments are unrelated to the government’s state policy, but it is part of changes taking place in the country, which the government and the parliament do not interrupt.
“Within three months after the change of government, 18 000 complaints were filed at the Prosecutor’s Office, describing possible crimes committed by former officials.”
Government officials write that despite this, the government plans political amnesty for all except the most serious crimes, to precipitate reconciliation.
Another point in the memorandum is a response to the accusation that it has interfered in the freedom of speech and information, the independence of the media and particularly in ongoing developments at the public broadcaster.
The government’s response is that many non-governmental organizations can confirm that the level of media freedom has increased after the change of government, as media outlets are less biased now, and there haven’t been any reports of government interrupting the activity of the media, or physical abuse against journalists, harassment, threats or detentions, while such crimes against journalists committed before October, 2012 are being investigated.
The memorandum also discusses the situation in the justice system and also problems with the current constitution.