Tolerance and Diversity Institute

The Persecution of the Third President and Threat of Authoritarianism

The situation in Georgia has been deteriorating daily and an already fragile democracy has been losing ground: in the past few months, and particularly after the July 5 violence when media and civil society organizations were assaulted and the EU flag removed and burnt demonstratively, the situation has reached a critical lower limit and a delicate balance between the democracy and autocracy has been increasingly tipping towards authoritarianism.

The recent events revealed an open and blunt refusal of the Prime Minister to protect the rights of minorities, impunity of organizers of the assault, illegal wide-scale surveillance of civilians, extremely violent election environment, continuous incitement of hatred and hostility against any different group and political opponents, complete neglect by the government of opportunities to engage in dialogue and the absolute fiasco of the judiciary reform. All the above-mentioned showed us that retreat from democracy and western integration have become characteristic features and the agenda of the Georgian Dream administration.

Against this backdrop, the incarceration of the third President Mikheil Saakashvili adds to already heightened tensions, making the situation even more explosive. It is obvious to us that Mikheil Saakashvili has been subjected to politically motivated persecution, retaliation, degrading, and inhumane treatment. The open statements and decisions made by leaders of the ruling party indicate such political retaliation. The Public Defender (Ombudsperson) of Georgia also speaks about it in the critical context

Deliberate aggravation of the situation by the government and its refusal to transfer Saakashvili to a city hospital, the initiative voiced by the Justice Minister to conduct a trial of the third president of Georgia in the jail, and the grave violations of Saakashvili’s rights in the prison - appalling psychological pressure and alleged violence committed against him, all this builds formidable barriers to any attempt to achieve a quiet political environment, destroys any opportunity to establish a dialogue between the government and the opposition and nudges the society towards civil confrontation. Such conditions pose a danger to the freedom, life, and health of every citizen in the country. 

It is absolutely necessary today to protect the life and health of Mikheil Saakashvili, to stop politically motivated persecution against him, and to save the country from authoritarianism and burying the democracy.