The messenger logo

Parliament recognizes existence of political prisoners in Georgia

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, December 7
The Georgian Parliament has confirmed a list of political prisoners and those persecuted on political grounds. 190 individuals have received the status of political inmates and 25 were named as politically persecuted on December 5th.

77 voted to approve the list, while 14 voted against it. The issue of political prisoners is a hugely divisive issue in Georgia today.

“The decision granting the status of political prisoners or politically persecuted, does not automatically mean that someone is innocent or guilty. We will not discuss this issue as it is the court’s prerogative. The committee should study all of these cases to determine whether there were politically motivated reasons behind the arrests." Eka Beselia, chair of Parliament’s Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee stated. The list was prepared by the committee.

After drafting the list Parliament is obliged to specify how the political prisoners will be released from their sentences.

Georgian Dream representatives are confident that recognizing the existence of political prisoners was the right choice and an obligation for the new government. However, even among Georgian Dream representatives there is debate as to how Parliament will ensure fair trials when the court system has yet to be reformed.

“After 9 years of political repression we were obliged to restore justice in Georgia. It is necessary for a country to recognize the existence of political prisoners when it really has them,” Georgian Dream representative Ani Mirotadze said.

United National Movement (UNM) members claim that the government has made "a fatal mistake” by recognizing political prisoners. They claim that the list of political prisoners is full of “criminals and dangerous individuals.”

UNM representatives stressed that the document might seriously hinder Georgia’s European integration path and damage the country’s international image.

“There are people on the list who had committed serious crimes either against the country or towards individuals. There are people who were imprisoned for spying, intent to murder, participation in rebellion and so on. The fact that those people are now perceived as heroes is a step back for the country and might encourage criminals." UNM MP Goka Gabashvili said.

UNM MP Giorgi Kandelaki said that the recognition of political prisoners would “irreparably damage” Georgia’s international image and that the years of hard work for integration into the Euro-Atlantic sphere will have been in vain.

The Democratic Movement-United Georgia welcomed the decision and stated that it was the first step in the process of restoring justice in the country.

The National Democrats did not respond favorably to Parliament's decision. According to the chair of the party Bachuki Kargadava, the existence of political prisoners in the country might damage the country's image.

“The cases of those named as political prisoners or politically persecuted should have been studied more deeply,” Kardava stated.

Executive head of the NGO Transparency International Georgia Eka Gigauri told The Messenger that some questions concerning the issue still exist.

“Our organization was not a participant of the process. However, I know from our sister organizations that some questions concerning certain cases still exist. If such questions exist it would be better if more time were given to the issue.” Gigauri stated.

Gigauri does not share the view that recognition of political prisoners might damage Georgia’s international image.

“It's not news that there were individuals in Georgia who were persecuted or imprisoned on political grounds. Our organization, as well as other local and foreign organizations have been talking about it… if some individuals were persecuted unfairly the matter should be looked into. Georgia’s international image will only be affected if someone is granted the status of political prisoner undeservedly,” Gigauri said.