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Cardin, Shaheen, Risch, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Hold Georgian Officials Accountable for Corruption, Human Rights Abuses, and Anti-Democratic Efforts

WASHINGTON – In response to the foreign agents bill that recently passed out of the Georgia Parliament to restrict the ability of civil society and independent media to operate in the country, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), introduced bipartisan legislation to hold Georgian government officials and individuals responsible for corruption, human rights abuses, and efforts to advance the foreign agents law or facilitate its passage. The bill would enshrine the United States’ enduring support to the Georgian people, who overwhelmingly support a more democratic, Euro-Atlantic future.

“As the government of Georgia continues to blatantly ignore the will of the people by advancing this Russian-style foreign agents law, our bill sends a strong and unwavering signal of support for the Georgian people and their democratic aspirations,” said Chair Cardin. “Georgians deserve the ability to determine their future, including a path towards membership in institutions like the European Union and NATO. The small circle of officials pulling Georgia away from the democratic world must listen to their calls.”

“As a longtime supporter of Georgia and it’s Euro-Atlantic integration, I’m deeply concerned and disappointed by the passage of the foreign agents bill and the rapid political shift taking place in the country, which is at odds with the wishes of the Georgian people,” said Senator Shaheen. “The legislation Senator Risch and I are proposing would impose serious penalties on those in Georgia responsible for this political shift and re-evaluate U.S. assistance to the country, while also clearly stating our steadfast commitment to the Georgian people, civil society and efforts towards democracy.”

“The United States has long-supported Georgia’s democratic aspirations. However, I am very concerned about the chilling effect the foreign agents law will have on Georgia’s civic life. If the Georgian government chooses to step away from building a free and democratic society, it should not expect our support to continue,” said Senator Risch. “It is clear the vast majority of Georgian citizens want to move the country towards EU membership. Overriding the president’s veto and forcing the foreign agents law through would reorient Georgia toward Russia.”

“The United States has long supported Georgia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and Euro-Atlantic ambitions. Now, the Georgian Government has a clear choice – abandon its undemocratic efforts or threaten Georgia’s Western integration and relations with its strongest partners. The Georgian people have made their desires loud and clear. This bill reinforces their aspirations while holding accountable those that want to throw Georgia’s democratic future away,” said Senator Ricketts.

“The Georgian people are taking to the streets to demand a pro-European, pro-Democratic future, and the government in Tbilisi needs to listen to them. Georgian Dream’s efforts to pass this disturbing new foreign agent law is a clear attempt to undermine Georgia’s democratic institutions, crack down on any opposition to the ruling party, and promote Russian-style interference of civil society. I’m proud to support this bipartisan legislation to demonstrate that the United States stands alongside Georgians in their fight for democracy and the rule of law in the country,” said Senator Coons.

“This is a defining moment for the future of Georgia’s democracy,” said Senator Graham. “I appreciate Senator Shaheen’s leadership on this issue. I hope Georgia will march forward, not backward, when it comes to civil liberties, transparency, and democracy.”

The Georgian People’s Act (GPA) has two primary sections. The first would:

  1. Outline the consequences that will be imposed on the Georgian government officials and individuals responsible for obstructing Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration, including:
    1. Department of State requirements to impose travel restrictions on Georgian individuals and their family members for involvement in facilitation and support of foreign agents law;
    2. New sanctions authorities to impose upon individuals responsible for undermining the stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of Georgia; and
    3. Department of State requirements to impose existing sanctions authorities on Georgian individuals responsible for human rights abuses and corruption.
  2. Require the Department of State to develop a long-term strategy toward Georgia, including review of military assistance and requiring the United States government to pause all funding that provides support to the government of Georgia.
  3. Call for a permanent suspension of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Dialogue.

The second would:

  1. Underscore the U.S. Senate’s commitment to support Georgian civil society in light of recent events.
  2. Authorizes no less than $50 million to support democracy and rule of law projects in Georgia.
  3. Require the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to determine how best to continue support for Georgian civil society in light of recent events.
  4. Include two reporting requirements to (1) assess the extent of foreign malign influence in Georgia and (2) efforts to support Georgian political prisoners.