Q-n about the event
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: This is a very important meeting to raise awareness about the crime of sexual violence and rape against women and children and girls, and to raise awareness about the grave widespread human rights violation that this represents around the world, including in Georgia. The goal is to harmonize George’s legislation with international standards around the world and to improve victim’s access to justice and support because they have been the victims of a violent crime – also to combat the occurrence these crimes through political will committed to eradicating it. It is something that affects one out of three women around the world. It is a very serious problem, and that’s true here in Georgia, as in other places. And we are very pleased that there was this kind of attention being brought to something that touches so many lives, so many families around the world, including here in Georgia. Thank you.
Q-n about Mr. Saakashvili’s court case and the recent developments around him
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: I do think it’s positive that Mr. Saakashvili was able to attend his court hearing in person a second time. The police have done a good job of organizing it so that he can get there safely so that the media can cover the event in person and the public can observe the event. So, I do think that there’s an effort being made to try and ensure that his right to a fair trial is being observed. Obviously it’s the beginning of a process. It’s very important that, as I’ve mentioned before, the supporters exercise their right to peaceful assembly in a peaceful and orderly way. And it’s also very important for a fair trial to occur, and for there to be proper decorum in the courtroom itself. All these elements contribute to there being a fair trial or not. And I think, while the case is underway, the effort needs to continue to be made by all the parties involved to protect the rights that are at stake here.
Q-n about the ruling party’s reluctance adopt constitutional changes to lower the election threshold to 2%
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: Well, some don’t seem to understand that a democracy requires a plurality of views, one party ruling, everything works against that. In fact, that risks the tyranny of the majority. All of Georgia’s political leaders agreed that a lower threshold was a positive thing during the negotiations for electoral reform. And also, it was agreed in the April 19th agreement. It was also one of the positive outcomes of the October, 2020 parliamentary elections, that the lower threshold allowed nine very diverse parties to enter parliament. If the current 5% threshold is retained, it’s likely that two, maybe three political parties would make it across the threshold in the next elections. That’s not the trajectory that would allow greater diversity, greater plurality in the parliament that would allow more Georgian views perspectives to be represented in parliament, which is what I think, what I know, all Georgia’s political leaders agreed was a positive thing. It is also what international experts have recommended for Georgia. So, I think it would be unfortunate if something that all the political parties, including the ruling party, agreed was a positive for Georgia, is not followed through on.
Q-n about the appointment of Supreme Court Judges
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: As you saw from our statement, we were very disappointed that parliament went through with this. I have to say it is hard to understand why there was such a need to rush through these appointments, despite the commitment to undertake meaningful and comprehensive judicial reform, especially when so many other challenges facing this country have been neglected. Why did this issue, these appointments, need to go forward ahead of many of the other priorities that this country is facing? It’s still puzzling and very, very disappointing. Now we have four more judges who have been appointed through a process that was not transparent, that was not accountable. The people of Georgia don’t have information about the quality qualifications of these judges that are now on the Supreme court for lifetime appointments. And the purpose of the judicial reform that has been discussed including by Georgia’s political leaders was to bring greater transparency and accountability, so that Georgian citizens have confidence that the judges in their courts are qualified, ethical, and impartial. And I hope that that will soon be the case, and that there will soon be the kind of comprehensive judicial reform that political leaders agreed to undertake. Thank you!