Georgian diplomat responds to US Senators regarding Saakashvili’s case

Tedo Japaridze, a seasoned 68-year-old Georgian diplomat. Photo by Parliament's facebook page, 30 Jul 2014 - 19:45, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian diplomat and lawmaker Tedo Japaridze believes a response from four United States (US) Senators’ to the charges against Georgia’s former president is unhelpful and says the "bilateral cleavage emerging through the statement was both uncalled for and regrettable”.

On Tuesday, four US Senators and the US State Department expressed disappointment over the criminal charges filed against Georgia’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili.

The statement of four US Senators: John McCain, Ben Cardin, Jeanne Shaheen, and Jim Risch

The statement of the US State Department

Japaridze, a seasoned 68-year-old diplomat who has chaired the Foreign Relations Committee since 2012 and has served Georgia as an Ambassador in Washington and as a National Security Adviser, said today he was the first Foreign Minister following the Rose Revolution when the foundations of US-Georgia’s transatlantic partnership were being laid.

"[This statement] calls into question a process of democratization institution-building which ultimately owes much to our joint work. I deeply regret this development,” Japaridze said in his statement. He stated the US and the authors of the Senators’ statement were "long standing friends of Georgia” and their "personal contribution to our bilateral relationship was indisputable”.

"Both the Georgian Government and I hold each of the signatories to this joint statement in the highest esteem. We have worked together to put in place the norms and build the framework for rule of law in Georgia. We trust that, further to a review of the case at hand, they along with all our friends in the US, will provide continued support and oversight to help ensure that justice and the rule of law in Georgia now moves from theory to practice,” Japaridze said.

He said: "unless there were grounds to suggest Georgia’s legal process violated the due process where the rule of law was being challenged, which was regrettably a common practice during nine years of the previous regime, this joint statement must urgently be accompanied by concrete evidence.”

The US State Department noted in a statement that the "commitment to the rule of law means that everyone must comply with the law in a democratic society and that the legal system should not be used as a tool of political retribution.”

Japaridze believed this was a serious accusations against "an allied nation, especially when they emanate from Washington DC.”

"This is an important point to make because the US is not merely an ally, but the most significant champion of Georgian independence, democratization and liberalization for nearly a generation,” he said.

Japaridze believed the importance of the principle of rule of law and accountability for past human rights violations was only last week recalled by the UN Human Rights Committee in its concluding observations of Georgia.

An advanced unedited version of the document called on the Georgian state to pursue prosecutions for a number of incidents of abuse under the former regime, specifically including the "violent dispersal of peaceful demonstrations on November 7, 2007 – the case at hand.

On another note, Japaridze commented on the question of "retributive justice” raised in the US joint statement and believed it was "quite beyond” the scope of these cases. "Retribution is a process that implies retrospective application of norms that have been adopted after the fact.

The dilemma is often raised in cases of regime change, often by evoking international law,” Japaridze said.

"In this case, the Chief Prosecutor is merely pursuing cases that were simply ignored in the past due to widespread impunity on the basis of established norms, thereby embarking on a process of restoring public confidence in the rule of law. It should be recalled that one of the main factors contributing to the first change of government by means of legislative elections in 2012 were testimonies of politically motivated and systemic torture, verified by video footage that has not as yet been discredited. Such allegations can be rebuked but not ignored.”

Read the full statement below.