Washington, D.C. – Today, the McCain Institute calls on Georgian authorities to promptly release former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and transfer him to a medical facility abroad to receive proper medical treatment. Saakashvili has been imprisoned by Georgian authorities since October 2021 on a charge that has been called politically motivated. There are reports Saakashvili is being poisoned with heavy metals and is in declining health.
“The McCain Institute stands with Saakashvili, the leader of a once freer and more democratic Georgia, and friend of our namesake Senator McCain. We stress the need for his immediate release and transfer for medical care and wish him a strong and speedy recovery,” said Dr. Evelyn Farkas, the Executive Director of the McCain Institute.
Mikheil Saakashvili led Georgia’s Rose Revolution in 2003—storming the parliament with a long-stemmed red rose in his hand and ushering in a more democratic and open Georgia. He went to lead Georgia from 2004-2013.
The courts that sentenced Saakashvili to a six-year sentence in absentia, will hold a hearing on his fate: whether to release him or postpone the execution of the sentence, according to media reports. Saakashvili currently lies in a hospital, under surveillance of Georgia’s penitentiary service.
Even President Zelensky of Ukraine called for his transfer: “Please make a decision that can save his life. Transfer Mikheil Saakashvili to one of the clinics in Ukraine, another European country, America. It’s time to take this good step.”
Amnesty International called Saakashvili’s detention: “apparent political revenge.”
The U.S. Ambassador to Georgia reiterated that the government of Georgia is responsible for his “mental and physical medical care” with “particular urgency,” and Ned Price, the State Department’s spokesperson, put out a statement last year calling for a fair trial.
“International Human Rights Principles and Law require that prisoners are provided with adequate treatment when their health deteriorates,” said international human rights lawyer, Pedro Pizano, manager of the human rights and democracy program at the McCain Institute. “Furthermore, arresting authorities are ‘compelled to provide for the most appropriate treatment in accordance with professional medical standards.’ It seems that Georgia is not willing or able to meet professional medical standards and should suspend his sentence for him to seek medical treatment abroad with the promise and guarantee to return to face what seem like arbitrary charges, or just release him.”
McCain and Saakashvili:
Senator McCain considered Saakashvili an old friend.
“I’ve met with President Saakashvili many times, including during several trips to Georgia. What the people of Georgia have accomplished in terms of democratic governance, a Western orientation, and domestic reform is nothing short of remarkable. That makes Russia’s recent actions against the Georgians all the more alarming . . . Russia is using violence against Georgia, in part, to intimidate other neighbors such as Ukraine . . . The international response to this crisis will determine how Russia manages its relationships with other neighbors.”
The McCain Institute impresses upon Georgia’s government that Saakashvili’s physical and mental health is their responsibility, and that they’re required to provide adequate health treatment, as well as a fair trial.
About the McCain Institute at Arizona State University
Inspired by Senator John McCain and his family’s legacy, the McCain Institute at Arizona State University is non-partisan and fights to secure democracy and alliances, defend human rights, protect the vulnerable and advance character-driven leadership in all communities around the world.
About Arizona State University
Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American research university, creating an institution that is committed to access, excellence and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes. As the prototype for a New American University, ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.