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

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), chair of the Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, along with Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), yesterday introduced bipartisan legislation to hold accountable Georgian government officials and individuals responsible for corruption, human rights abuses, and efforts to advance the foreign agent’s law or facilitate its passage. The bill would also enshrine the United States’ enduring support to the Georgian people, who overwhelmingly support a more democratic, Euro-Atlantic future.

“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 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.”

“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 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.”

“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 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.”

“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 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 Coons.

“This is a defining moment for the future of Georgia’s democracy,” said 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.”

Last week, Risch and Shaheen issued a joint statement condemning passage of the foreign agents bill. Prior to the votes in Georgian Parliament, the senators sent a bipartisan letter to the prime minister of Georgia urging the government to reconsider the bill.