Alleged crimes should be investigated, but it’s important “to avoid any perception or reality of selective prosecutions” of political opponents, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Philip H. Gordon, said after meeting with PM Bidzina Ivanishvili in Tbilisi on November 16.
“If it looks like or it is designed solely to go after political adversaries or it’s not done in a transparent way, then the whole country will pay the price,” he said.
Gordon said that the U.S. was “impressed” with Georgia’s democratic development involving “free and fair” elections and “democratic and peaceful transfer of power.” He said it was “in some ways a model for the region and beyond.”
“I also stressed how important it is and will continue to be for the two sides [the government and the presidency] to work together,” Gordon said. “We know it’s not easy after bitter election campaign. It’s not always easy to work with your political opponents, but it’s essential for a democracy to thrive.”
He said that in that context he discussed with the PM recent arrests of officials from the previous government.
“I stressed how critically important it is for the process to be absolutely transparent,” Gordon said. “Everybody wants to see rule of law implemented and anybody who has committed a crime to be held accountable. But at the same time it is essential to avoid any perception or reality of selective prosecutions and that was the point that I stressed, because I think that it’s important for Georgia’s reputation in the world and its path towards the Euro-Atlantic institutions.”
He said that tensions between the two sides after the hard-fought election campaign were inevitable, but it’s important “not to let those tensions stand in a way of rule of law.”
Gordon said that it was not in Georgia’s interest to turn these tensions “into a real fight and acts of political retributions and accusations.”
“I was pretty clear with the Prime Minister that nobody wants to see an absence of rule of law and if people are guilty of crimes those crimes should be investigated and people should be held accountable,” he said. “But I was equally clear that in that context it is absolutely critical to be scrupulous in both the reality and perception of how this process is working. If it looks like or it is designed solely to go after political adversaries or it’s not done in a transparent way, then the whole country will pay the price. That was my message to the Prime Minister. Everybody wants to see criminals to be prosecuted, but it needs to be done in a way that fully acknowledges the needs of due process and transparency and that’s we hope to see from Georgia moving forward.”
In remarks made after the meeting with the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State PM Ivanishvili said that he fully shared calls for maximum transparency in legal proceedings ongoing against officials from the previous government.
“I share their concerns and I understand that when new [political] force comes in and arrests are carried out many question marks emerge especially for democratic countries for whom it is unusual when new government arrests ministers from previous government and I fully understand their concerns in this respect. We try and will continue trying to make clarifications and to maximally explain our friendly states – first and foremost the United States, that each and every action undertaken by us in this regard is in compliance with democracy and is not in any way a political persecution or selective justice,” PM Ivanishvili said.
The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State said that the PM made it clear that he “wants to see the United States-Georgia relationship remain very strong, which it is.”
“The Prime Minister stressed Georgia’s interest and his interest in continued good relations with the United States, which is certainly a priority that we share,” Gordon said, adding that the U.S. remained committed to helping Georgia.
“He reiterated his interest in continuing to pursue NATO membership and integration into the West and to sustaining Georgia’s free market economy. And we will look forward to welcoming him in Washington to continue the dialogue. Our relations are strong with this government,” Gordon said.
“We will do our best to make relations with us convenient for the United States,” PM Ivanishvili said.