US imposes visa restrictions on dozens of Georgia officials over controversial ‘foreign agent’ law News
Kober, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
US imposes visa restrictions on dozens of Georgia officials over controversial ‘foreign agent’ law

The US imposed visa restrictions on dozens of Georgian officials on Thursday, just three days after Georgia’s parliament enacted its controversial “foreign agent” law.

The restrictions apply to between “two and three dozen” unnamed members of the Georgian Dream party, members of parliament, law enforcement officials, and private citizens. US Department of State Spokesperson Matthew Miller stated:

We are taking steps to impose visa restrictions on dozens of Georgian individuals. This includes individuals responsible for or complicit in and immediate family members of those responsible for or complicit in undermining democracy in Georgia, such as by undermining freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, violently attacking peaceful protestors, intimidating civil society representatives, and deliberately spreading disinformation at the direction of the Georgian Government. 

Miller emphasized that the sanctions are the first step in a series of actions intended to redefine the relationship between the two countries. He noted that the US is “deeply concerned” with the Georgian Dream Party’s “anti-democratic” statements and actions, claiming the party is impeding Georgia’s chance to join the European Union and working against Georgia’s constitution and citizens.

Miller added, “It remains our hope that Georgia’s leaders will reconsider their actions and take steps to move forward with their nations long-stated democratic and Euro-Atlantic aspirations. But if they do not, the United States is prepared to take additional actions.”

The sanctions come under the new visa restriction policy announced by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month. The policy falls under Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Georgia’s “foreign agent” law requires media and nongovernmental organizations that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from foreign countries to officially register as foreign agents. The country’s parliament approved the bill in May despite mass protests that involved hundreds of protesters being arrested.

UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk criticized the bill for suppressing civil society and undermining the freedoms of expression and association. Human Rights Watch further warned of the bill’s potential dangers, urging Georgia to abandon the legislation. In addition, various rights groups claimed the bill “threatens to equip the government with tools to suppress civil society and independent media, derailing Georgia from its democratic path towards EU integration.”

President Salome Zourabichvili vetoed the bill last month, agreeing with critics and asserting that the bill was similar to the Russian “foreign agent” law. The Georgian Dream Party, however, argued that the law protects the country from foreign meddling, and lawmakers overrode the president’s veto to enact the law on Monday.