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Helsinki Commission Hearing Examines Democracy, Human Rights & Security in Georgia

Washington – The United States Helsinki Commission will hold a hearing to examine democracy, human rights and security developments in the Republic of Georgia.

The Republic of Georgia: Democracy, Human Rights and Security

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

334 Cannon House Office Building

Testifying:

B. Lynn Pascoe, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs

Levan Mikeladze, Georgian Ambassador to the United States

Bishop Malkhaz Songulashvili, Baptist Union, Georgia

Genadi Gudadze, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Tbilisi

Dr. Ghia Nodia, Director, Caucasus Institute for Peace, Development and Democracy, Tbilisi

Professor Stephen Jones, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts

This hearing will examine Georgia’s prospects for democratization, its security situation and how Washington can best promote the complementary goals of advancing democracy, human rights and economic liberty while leading the battle against international terrorism.

Georgia was seemingly headed toward domestic stability and democratic governance in the mid-1990s, but recent trends have been disappointing. The official results of elections have not inspired confidence, undermining the public’s faith in democracy and the right of the people to choose their government. While civil society has grown substantially, the media and non-governmental organizations remain at risk. The savage attack on the human rights organization, Liberty Institute, like the campaign of violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses and other minority faiths, as well as efforts to silence Rustavi-2 Television, testify to the lingering influence of forces bent on preventing Georgia from consolidating democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Meanwhile, Georgia has been under intensifying pressure from Russia, with Moscow accusing Georgia of failing to cooperate in the war on terrorism. Russian planes have invaded Georgian airspace and bombed Georgian territory, killing Georgian citizens. Russian officials frequently threaten to launch unilateral military actions within Georgia against Chechens.

Most recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked the United Nations to support Russia’s threat to launch military strikes inside Georgia. Moscow’s threats place at risk Georgia’s sovereignty and stability, moving Washington to consider how best to help Georgia defend itself and maintain control of its territory, while moving decisively against criminal elements and terrorists.

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