It is, of course, entirely possible that the Georgian authorities are engaged in a “witch hunt” against their political rivals. It is, however, also entirely possible that they are engaged in the legitimate pursuit of justice. How do I know this? Because Saakashvili’s government really was responsible for some pretty serious legal and civil rights violations [bold mine-DL].
Predictably, the last remaining members of Saakashvili’s Western fan club (e.g., the WSJ, John McCain, etc.) aren’t happy with these developments. They have been deeply invested in promoting the myth of Saakashvili the great Westernizing democrat, and won’t admit even now that Saakashvili seriously abused his power while in office. Saakashvili’s Western boosters were willfully blind to his abuses and those of his ministers, which is why they were caught unawares when Georgians repudiated the ruling party in the 2012 election. The funny thing is that many Georgians don’t think that the authorities are being too hard on members of the old government. On the contrary, they complain that far too little has been done to hold abusive officials accountable. And there were a great many abuses:
Yet the UNM’s complaints of political persecution do not tell the whole story. As Mr Hammarberg, whose formal role ended with the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU on June 27th, pointed out in his final report, the public prosecutor has received numerous complaints of abuse from the UNM’s time in office. They include allegations of coerced transfer of property, torture or ill-treatment, and misuse of the plea bargain system [bold mine-DL]. Such accusations deserve a clearer response from the government, including compensation for victims, Mr Hammarberg suggests.
I suppose one could try to make a short-term political argument that prosecuting Saakashvili and his allies will end up doing too much harm to Georgia’s political stability, but as Adomanis notes this requires doing away with any pretense of establishing the rule of law in that country. Western governments can’t very well tell Georgia that it must have the rule of law on the one hand, but then turn around and insist that it must not hold accountable certain abusive politicians because Western nations have chosen to treat them as favorites. If top officials can abuse their power while in office with impunity, it seems very likely that Georgia will continue to suffer from such abuses and its political development will be stunted.