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Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Chairman
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
March 2, 2004


Attacks on Minority Religious Communities of Particular Concern

(Washington) - The United States Helsinki Commission today released the text of a letter signed by seven House and Senate Commissioners addressed to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in conjunction with his first official visit to Washington since his election.


Begin text.


February 13, 2004


His Excellency Mikheil Saakashvili


Republic of Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia


Dear Mr. President:


We are delighted to welcome you on your first official visit to Washington as the newly elected President of Georgia.  Needless to say, we followed with fascination and admiration your leadership of last November=s ARevolution of the Roses,@ the only popular movement in the former USSR to succeed in peacefully overturning the results of a fraudulent election.


We also congratulate you on your landslide victory on January 4.  Ordinarily, election tallies such as yours would evoke suspicion, but in the case of Georgia , the results demonstrate the longing of Georgians for change and their confidence in your leadership.  Secretary of State Powell=s attendance at your inauguration was indicative of Washington =s commitment to help your country stand on its own feet and defend its sovereignty.  We pledge to continue to press for implementation of commitments made at the Istanbul OSCE Summit concerning Georgia ’s territorial integrity and security.


As you have said publicly, your country=s failure to pursue structural reforms has tarnished Georgia =s reputation.  The pervasiveness of corruption and the former leadership=s lax attitude toward this problem have been particularly damaging to U.S.-Georgian relations.  We applaud your initiatives to bring to justice officials who misused their positions to enrich themselves.


In that connection, we want to raise an issue which you, as Minister of Justice, have discussed with the Helsinki Commission -- the longstanding campaign of organized violence against members of minority faiths, especially the Jehovah=s Witnesses.  Representatives of these confessions have indicated they have great hopes that you will not tolerate such violence.  We share their expectations and look to you for justice against criminals whom Georgia =s law enforcement has refused to prosecute seriously.  As you know, the court case against Basil Mkalavishvili has been delayed and postponed many times since January 2003.  He is currently reported to be in hiding, yet media outlets never seem to have any difficulty finding him.


Violence against minority faiths has diminished somewhat recently.  But legal proceedings against those who defied Georgian law and international norms, not to mention the basics of civilized behavior, would show Georgians, their neighbors and distant partners that Tbilisi is committed to fulfilling its OSCE commitments.  A leader with your level of popular support can easily explain the importance of such a step to the people of Georgia .



We look forward to the establishment of the rule of law in Georgia and are eager to assist in this endeavor.








BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL , U.S.S.                             CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, M.C.


Co-Chairman                                                                           Chairman





CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, U.S.S.                                          BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, M.C.


Ranking Member                                                                      Ranking Member





ROBERT B. ADERHOLT, M.C.                                             FRANK R. WOLF, M.C.


Commissioner                                                                           Commissioner









End text.




The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

Media Contact: Dorothy Douglas Taft
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