CDA Ambassador Ross Wilson’s Remarks to Press after his meeting with Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze (March 15)
Q-n about the 2018 Human Rights Report
CDA Wilson: So first to answer your question on the Human Rights Report, as I think everybody knows, the annual human rights reports for all countries around the world were released yesterday in Washington. They aim to provide a snapshot of developments over the last year or so. They attempt to be not big generalities, but critical assessments on the observance and protection of fundamental human rights all around the world. And I think Georgia’s report fits that pattern. It is critical; it notes what progress has been made, and depicts the relationship that we have between our two countries. I have been in and out of this world long enough to know Georgia has made tremendous progress in building the institutions of a democratic and free society, and a recent example of that is the passage here of parliamentary rules of procedure that provide for strengthened parliamentary oversight of Government, and that’s a good thing. There are areas where our report notes there has been progress and other areas where we note that there have been difficulties. Democracy isn’t a destination, it is not a place you get to and then you’re done. It’s a process for all of our countries. All of our countries have ups and we have downs. The intention of these reports is to shine light on the downs and try to minimize those, recognize where there is progress, and then work together as we work together in Georgia on further strengthening democratic values and institutions here. That relates to the purpose of my meeting with Speaker Kobakhidze, which was to talk about several different pieces of legislation, but maybe the one that is most on everybody’s mind is judicial reform and specifically procedures for Supreme Court nominations. We continue to provide our views on what we think would be the most constructive steps for Georgia to take, and we have a good conversation about that and we will continue to advocate for those things that we think will be important for Georgia going forward.
Q-n about what the most critical segments of the report might be
CDA Wilson: I don’t want to try to interpret the whole of the human rights report. It’s very long and it touches on all kinds of issues, from things like domestic violence and labor rights to much more topical concerns for at least some people: elections, judiciary, rule of law, and so forth. All of those matters are important and the reports are specifically written that way to be comprehensive and to provide a common set of indicators and issues from country to country to country that people can see and look at them.
Q-n about the general situation in Khurvaleti and specifically about the Kvaratskhelia case
CDA Wilson: I think the specific case you’re referring to is this individual, he was apparently kidnapped and either committed suicide or certainly died under suspicious circumstances in custody. It’s outrageous, it certainly looks like a gross violation of human rights. It reflects a pattern of behavior by the Russian and occupation authorities that is repugnant to us, and obviously we understand it exists to undermine and weaken Georgia, and we don’t accept that either. The specifics of the case, I think, remain to be determined of course. The Foreign Ministry provided a briefing to my deputy and other diplomats yesterday. I know a little bit about that but it is fair to say that the information there is sketchy. We have noticed—I talked with my staff this morning—an apparent increase just in the last few days of these kinds of incidents, a whole spate of them, that give rise to concern of what actually is going on. Certainly, we want to see calm, we also want to see these kind of incidents stopped and to see them properly investigated.