“Saakashvili has established theocratic regime”

Fraudulent elections, human rights violations, the economic downturn and president’s ‘political will’ at the core - this is how Georgian human rights activist, Sozar Subari, describes the situation in his country to RT.

RT: What would you say are the main human rights concerns in Georgia?

S. Subari: The main problem is the political will, that is, the situation that has been created in human rights. So there’s the political will, and there are aspects which it will take time to put right.

If you compare the situation before and after the Rose Revolution, you will see two different approaches. Since the Revolution, human rights have been systematically violated. This violation has been conscious and systematic. I won’t say there were no violations before, but they used to be arguable and not purposeful before, like the abductions – when a person was abducted in order to get a ransom.

But when we started speaking about the courts, and how the judges were not independent, nothing has changed, and it will never change. It will also be dependent on the government, since the independence of the judiciary is the end of any regime. We said that the media were not free, that they were controlled, especially TV and radio, but it’s something that’s obvious. We can name millions of reasons, and we can tell you how the leadership of TV channels change. One channel effectively starts controlling another channel – this means the freedom of speech is controlled, too.

RT: Do you think this is the ‘political will’ of president Saakashvili?

S. Subari: Yes, this is his political will, it’s his policy, and it’s quite determined. When we speak about the independence of political opposition, and about persecution – this is his political will. After the elections on May 21, several dozen people were severely beaten up during a rally. They were only attacked because they supported the opposition. Not a single case was investigated. Things that happened before and after November 7, when a large number of people were attacked, were investigated, and that’s a fact. I have the materials from the emergency meeting in the Georgian interior ministry which took place on November 4, 2007. That’s when they decided to beat up all who took part in the rally. The Prosecutor General was also present at the meeting, as well as the Interior Minister and the Security Minister.

RT: Are there any trends in the country, and in human rights in particular, which have changed since November 7, 2007?

S. Subari: Human rights… the president was forced to retire and set up an election. He won this election because it was rigged. 53% – it’s a victory which virtually isn’t a victory in this country, just as in other post-Soviet states, which have a rich tradition of vote rigging. Saakashvili saw that he had lost trust, after which he came to our office and claimed he could see his mistakes perfectly well and will try to change his policy, but this never happened. I expected things would really change, but they didn’t. This was followed by the parliamentary election, which was rigged even more than the presidential election. This was the first election in Georgia run by the police. Before, they used to rig the results after the voting was over, when the election commissions would get together and make up the needed figures. This election, however, was rigged beforehand, when police got inside people’s homes to scare them, when 1.5 billion lari from the country’s budget was spent on getting the most votes. Political will means that no businessman can finance the opposition party. In our country, the political process is dead. If you give money to the opposition, you will find yourself in prison the next day, or they will stop your business, or slap an incredibly heavy fine on you. Here, there are different ways to control businesses and the economy.

RT: People heading the government at the moment came to power during the Rose Revolution to bring democracy to Georgia. You, too, were one of the people who directed these processes? Why did you need this kind of policy in ‘building’ Georgia?

S. Subari: For a long time, I have watched it and couldn’t believe what was happening in the country. There were one-off cases, but they were not systematic. When the Rose Revolution happened, I was ready to accept any position where I could be a rank-and-file employee fighting corruption in a real environment – even within a range of 100 meters, if it would help prevent smuggling. I quickly realized that things were not going right, and the country was on the wrong way of development. I started paying more attention to the duties of a human rights activist, and that’s who I am now. Georgia’s main problem today is justice, human rights and the measures to prevent the violation of justice. Saakashvili, in one of his speeches, said there could be tolerance for those who break laws, and he came under fire for saying this. But, as a human rights activist, I blame him for other things – in any democratic country, tolerance concerns everyone, but under Saakashvili’s regime tolerance only applies to a small percentage of people in the state’s power structures. This means that punishment is very liberal for a certain group of people, and Georgia’s criminal code cannot actually accuse them of breaking a law. I think that the rule of law and the criminal code must be the top priority, but in today’s Georgia this principle has been lost and trampled upon.

RT: Why did the country take this way? What was the reason? Why are laws broken? Why is there no justice? Georgia has everything necessary to prevent this and take a different path.

S. Subari: There are several reasons:

(1) The president himself, who has established an authoritarian and theocratic regime and who wants the entire country to be centered around him, around what he says, who wants his words to have absolute authority. This is the main reason.

(2) Violations of law. This is similar to a machine which keeps working and which requires many sacrifices. Sacrifices mount, but the machine cannot stop. This is a serious problem that every revolution has. The results are deplorable. In addition to Saakashvili and his authoritarian policy, there is a group of people around him. They have been turning a blind eye to many illegal, unjust things, hoping that they may have a positive effect on Georgia in the future. But eventually they began to turn a blind eye to their own misconducts, and this was the only way for them to preserve their position at this stage.

RT: How did the situation in Georgia change after the South Ossetian war?

S. Subari: The saddest thing to me is that young people used to have hope for the future, and now this hope is gone. Nobody knows what the final outcome will be, and it is difficult for me to say something here. If we consider the popularity of politicians, both those in power and those in opposition, it has dropped drastically. People don’t trust anybody. This has a very negative effect on Georgia.

There is an economic aspect, which has to do not only with the war in South Ossetia but also with the global economic crisis. The crisis is getting worse, and it will negatively affect the situation.

While there remains the possibility to have dialogue with Ossetians and Abkhazians, it has become very difficult to do so. It makes no sense to talk about bringing the territories back unless the government brings people back first. It is very difficult for us to maintain this dialogue.

Our ties with Russia and our ties with the Russian people are two different things. Relations between states are different from relations between people. Historically, our people have always had close cultural ties, while relations at the state level were not so warm and close. Eventually, these relations caused the downfall of our state. The Georgian people remember this well. That’s why we always look for intermediaries in our relations, and Russia doesn’t like this. That’s why Russia is aggressive towards Georgia. We need start re-building our relations anew based on our earlier history, on our cultural ties. Russia should take into account that Georgia is an independent sovereign state and that it has legitimate claims with respect to its territorial integrity. On the other hand, Russia is not simply a neighbor who has certain geopolitical interests here and around the world. Georgia should take Russia’s interests into account as well.