The US Embassy in Georgia made a statement
The US Embassy in Georgia made a statement, which we offer without change: "The United States is deeply disturbed and exasperated by the unilateral decision of the Georgian Dream party to withdraw from the April 19th Agreement, a document established through six months of difficult but collaborative negotiations, and one that gives an urgently-needed way forward for the Georgian people and their democracy. One hundred fifteen MPs from at least six of nine elected parties signed the Agreement and pledged to work together in good faith to reduce the deep polarization that is impeding Georgia’s democratic progress. Washington is growing increasingly alarmed about repeated setbacks to Georgia’s democratic future.
U.S. Embassy Statement on Supreme Court Appointments
The U.S. Embassy is disappointed that, once again, Parliament is moving forward with Supreme Court appointments before it has completed an independent assessment of the previous waves of judicial reform, as Parliament’s leaders agreed to do. We are also concerned that judicial appointments are proceeding without the participation of non-judge members of the High Council of Justice. While the High Council and Parliament have rushed through appointment of judges over the past year, there has been no action on non-judge appointments despite the positions being vacant for months. The people of Georgia, through the non-judge High Council members, are supposed to have a voice in the selection of these influential and important judges, who are being appointed to lifetime positions on the Supreme Court. The exclusion of independent voices from this process adds to the impression that Supreme Court judicial appointments are being made without meaningful transparency, accountability, or impartiality.
Before any further Supreme Court judges are appointed, we strongly encourage Parliament to prioritize the appointment of impartial, independent, non-judge members to the High Council of Justice, and complete an independent assessment of the previous waves of reform by Spring 2022. Important work has been done since independence to strengthen Georgia’s judicial branch, with the assistance of the United States and others. Georgia’s closest partners and supporters, as well as Georgia’s political leaders, are united in agreeing that judicial reform needs to continue. The goal now must be to build an impartial, transparent, merit-based judicial system that the people of Georgia can have full confidence in and that allows the full participation of the many qualified, ethical judges and lawyers who work with integrity to promote the rule of law.
US Embassy in Tbilisi
Statement by President Salome Zourabichvili
I welcome the plan to transfer the former President to the Gori Military Hospital as a place that meets all medical and security standards.
This decision fully responds to the request of the European Court of Human Rights, to which the former President agreed to end his hunger strike if transferred to a multidisciplinary clinic.
I also welcome Elene Khoshtaria's decision to end her hunger strike.
The readiness of the opposition to not hold protests in the vicinity of the clinic is important and the right thing to do, as is the decision of some parties to end their parliamentary boycott.
Today's decisions are steps forward that will ensure the peace of society and the stability of the country.
USS Mount Whitney and USS Porter Arrive in Batumi, Georgia
By U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa / U.S. Sixth Fleet Public AffairsBATUMI, Georgia – The Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) and Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) arrived in Batumi, Georgia for a scheduled port visit, Nov. 8, 2021.
The port visit highlights an important relationship between NATO allies and vital Black Sea partner Georgia. Georgia has been a consistent and steadfast partner in promoting peace and stability in the region.
Previously, USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) conducted a port visit in Batumi in February 2021. Legend-class Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton (WMSL-753) similarly stopped in Batumi in May 2021, after completing interoperability exercises with the Georgian Coast Guard.
“Georgia plays a critical role in maintaining security and stability in the Black Sea and is a valuable NATO partner,” said Rear Adm. James Morley, Deputy Commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO). “We look forward to further enhancing the relationship between NATO and our Georgian counterparts here in Batumi.”
U.S. Sixth Fleet (SIXTHFLT) and STRIKFORNATO personnel are embarked aboard Mount Whitney, operating as an integrated team. The interoperability between the commands, and their presence in the region, demonstrates the U.S. and NATO’s commitment to the Black Sea and to working with allies and partners to advance peace and prosperity in the region.
While in Batumi, the ships’ crews will experience Georgian culture and traditions, while taking in the country’s rich history and interacting with local citizens.
“This is my first ship and first deployment with the Navy and being able to visit Georgia is exciting,” said Cryptological Technician (Technical) 2nd Class Melissa Mitchell, a Sailor assigned to Mount Whitney. “I have always wanted to go to Georgia and experience the culture and cuisine.”
While steaming to Batumi, Mount Whitney and Porter showed the power of joint operations by participating in the U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA) led Operation Castle Forge. Castle Forge provides a dynamic, partnership-focused training opportunity in the Black Sea and demonstrates the joint force’s combined ability to respond in times of crisis with a flexible, reassuring presence.
Additionally, both ships partook in bilateral ship maneuvering drills, communication testing, and simulated exercises with ships from the Bulgarian Navy and Turkish Navies and were escorted into Batumi by the Georgian Coast Guard. These maneuvers, executed in accordance with international law, highlight the professionalism and skillful seamanship of all nations involved.
USS Mount Whitney, forward deployed to Gaeta, Italy, operates with a combined crew of Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners in the SIXTHFLT area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
STRIKFORNATO, headquartered on Oeiras, Portugal, is Supreme Allied Commander Europe’s (SACEUR) premier, rapidly deployable and flexible, maritime power projection Headquarters, capable of planning and executing full spectrum joint maritime operations, primarily through the integration of U.S. naval and amphibious forces, in order to provide assurance, deterrence, and collective defence for the Alliance.
SIXTHFLT headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.
Vice Admiral Gene Black: Good Afternoon! I’m Vice Admiral Gene Black, Commander of the Sixth Fleet, Commander of Striking and Support Forces NATO. I’m absolutely thrilled to be here on behalf of the U.S. Navy, the Sixth Fleet, and my NATO team for Striking and Support Forces NATO. What an amazingly warm welcome here in Georgia. I’d like to introduce Captain Prochazka, the Captain of my flagship, USS Mount Whitney.
Captain Prochazka: Good Afternoon and thank you for this warm welcome, the amazing ceremony, and the warm reception to your country and this amazing city.
Captain Dan Prochazka: My name is Captain Dan Prochazka, I’m the commanding officer of USS Mount Whitney. The service members and civilian mariners from Mount Whitney are excited to explore the rich culture and history of Georgia to interact with the local civilians and to work with our military partners.
Question about Georgia’s role in the Black Sea region and relationship with the country
Vice Admiral Black: I think the importance of Georgia is clear when you consider that Secretary of Defense Austin recently visited I’m here representing the Sixth Fleet and the U.S Navy and NATO. You are a very important ally and partner in the Black Sea Region and we very much look forward to operating with you and visiting with you. And thank you, again for the wonderful, warm welcome.
U.S. Embassy Statement on Conference of Judges
On October 31, while the country was focused on the municipal elections, the Judiciary selected two new members to the High Council of Justice, replacing the previously unannounced early resignation of two sitting members. The process was neither competitive nor transparent. A single candidate was offered for each vacancy. There was little advance notice of the intent to fill the seats left open by the pre-term resignations. There was no opportunity for consultations or participation by a broad range of qualified candidates, nor for meaningful engagement by relevant interlocutors and civil society. It is disappointing that the Judiciary missed the opportunity to show transparency and failed again to elect its representatives through a competitive and democratic election process.
The United States has long sought to build the capacity of qualified and dedicated judges while calling for reforms that would allow for accountability for judges who undermine the legitimacy of the judicial system. This includes seeking legislative amendments to avoid corporatism and to safeguard the principles of democracy, equality, and adherence to the Rule of Law. Judiciary leaders maintain the judiciary is unfairly criticized for the lack of transparent and merit-based appointments, promotions, and transfers. Yet when the Conference of Judges rushes through important decisions without competition or transparency, it demonstrates unwillingness to embrace reforms that would increase transparency, accountability and public trust in the appointment process, the candidates, and in the High Council of Justice. The many qualified, professional members of the judiciary who are shut out by such a closed system deserve better.
An ethical Judiciary is the backbone of a country’s adherence to Rule of Law. An independent and professional judicial system that is trusted by and serves the people is essential to promoting equitable growth and attracting investment by Georgian and foreign businesses. The United States will continue to advocate for and support reforms that will increase accountability, professionalism, and transparency to help Georgia attain the system of justice its people deserve and that is fundamental for Georgia’s chosen path of Euro-Atlantic integration.
U.S. Embassy Statement Following the Second Round of Georgian Municipal Elections
After a long and divisive campaign, the people of Georgia cast their votes in the second round of municipal elections on October 30. We commend the voters, and dedicated election workers, representatives of Georgia’s professional domestic election observation organizations and NGOs, and international monitors who participated despite the COVID pandemic and a tense election environment.
We share ODIHR’s assessment that the elections were generally calm and well-administered but allegations of intimidation and pressure on voters persisted and continued polarization, coupled with the escalation of negative rhetoric, adversely affected the process. Sharp imbalances of resources and an undue advantage of incumbency further tilted the playing field. ODIHR also noted concerns with the persistent practice of representatives of observer organizations acting as party supporters, at times interfering with the process, and groups of individuals potentially influencing voters outside some polling stations. While ODIHR found that the CEC organized the second round in a professional and transparent manner, concerns over the impartiality of the lower-level election commissions persisted. U.S. Embassy election observation teams witnessed similar interference and bias at several precincts.
As these elections have shown, democracy is a work in progress. It requires dedication to the highest international standards and vigilance to ensure citizens’ rights and freedoms are protected. Some of the reforms enacted by Georgia’s political leaders through an inclusive, multiparty process earlier this year, such as automatic recounts and electronic vote counting, largely succeeded in increasing the transparency of the voting process.
These positive steps forward were undermined, unfortunately, by wide-spread violations in the pre-election period and on both election days that adversely affected the ability of citizens to vote freely. Rather than improving the atmosphere by addressing problems identified by election observers in the first round, intimidation, offensive rhetoric, misuse of administrative resources, and reports of blatant vote-buying and other violations continued, and a politicized media further inflamed the polarized atmosphere.
We are particularly troubled by credible reports of violence against election observers and the media during both rounds of the election. These groups are the cornerstone of any democracy, and attacks against members of the media and election observers must be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Their reports should be viewed as providing valuable information that can improve the electoral process.
The election process now continues with random recounts of at least 140 precincts and the adjudication of hundreds of complaints. This phase is both a test and an opportunity for the Central Election Commission and the courts, and it will be critical for these institutions to perform their duties transparently and impartially. We call on the parties to use the legal mechanisms available and pursue peaceful means to adjudicate election disputes. Democracy in Georgia will not be strengthened by resorting to violence or pursuing solutions outside the law.
Each election – even imperfect ones – offers lessons learned and an opportunity to address persistent abuses that have degraded recent elections and eroded the public’s trust in their democratic institutions. As a start, we urge Georgia’s leaders to enact and implement all the remaining reforms recommended by ODIHR, the Venice Commission, and other international experts. These recommendations were provided at Parliament’s request and would be a significant step toward ensuring the next elections are an improvement over the last.
The American people have supported Georgia’s efforts throughout the long, challenging process of building strong institutions, a robust civil society, a professional, pluralistic media, and a government that is responsive to the people. The recent elections and Georgia’s deeply divisive political environment show much more work is urgently needed. The United States has offered our friendship as an honest partner to the people and government of Georgia because we believe in Georgia’s future as a stable, prosperous democracy that respects the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms. We remain committed to helping Georgia achieve those goals.
U.S. Embassy Statement