US Ambassador to Georgia on sanctions against judges: No matter what term you use, the result is the same
Degnan on sanctions
US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan told Netgazeti that no matter what term is used to punish Georgian judges, the result is the same — these individuals and their family members cannot cross any US border.
“US law is very clear [in stating] what these sanctions mean and why they are needed in US law, when we have sufficient and credible evidence of the involvement of individuals in corruption. It doesn’t matter which term is used. The result is the same: these individuals are not allowed to enter the United States,” Degnan said.
She went on to say that most of the information about the activities of judges was public, and if the Georgian authorities wanted, then “any reliable and independent” investigation would yield the same findings:
“This decision was is based on information obtained from various, including publicly available, sources. If the Georgian authorities want to conduct their own investigation, much of the information has been widely known for many years. I’m sure any credible and independent investigation would come to the same conclusion.”
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On April 8, the chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Irakli Kobakhidze, said that the US did not have the necessary evidence to impose sanctions on several members of the so-called. “judicial clan”, and after their request, “the US ambassador had to step back” and say that these are not sanctions, but a necessary visa restriction.
The speaker of the Georgian Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, repeats almost the same thing and claims that Kelly Degnani is using the wrong term and that this is not about sanctions, but about visa restrictions.
On April 10, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili also expressed support for the Georgian judges and said he was “proud” of the courts and judges. As the Prime Minister explained, under the current government, the court has become free and independent from any interference.
In addition, the Prime Minister met with the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Georgia and the High Council of Justice Nino Kadagidze and judges. After the meeting, Nino Kadagidze thanked Garibashvili for her support and stated that the government needed to intervene in a number of issues.
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On April 5, the US State Department imposed sanctions on judges Mikhail Chinchaladze, Levan Murusidze, Irakli Shengelia, and Valerian Tsertsvadze, as well as their family members, and banned them from entering the US “due to significant corrupt activities.” They are said to have abused their position. This is stated in a statement by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Independent experts and human rights activists have been saying for years that Levan Murusidze and Mikhail Chinchaladze lead a so-called “clan” of judges that is blocking reforms needed to strengthen ties between Georgia and the European Union.
Both judges are affiliated with the High Council of Justice, the main supervisory body of the country’s judiciary. It is also believed that they have a secret relationship with Bidzina Ivanishvili, the richest man in Georgia, the founder of the Georgian Dream and the informal ruler of the country.
Murusidze was also distinguished by his loyalty to the previous government – the United National Movement party.
A clause on improving the judicial system in Georgia was also included in the Charles Michel agreement of April 19, 2021. Later, the US Ambassador also made such statements several times. However, the government continued to appoint life-long judges to the Supreme Court.