Akhra Bzhania on Civil Liberties and the Controversial Foreign Agents Law

Akhra Bzhania, Abkhazian public figure and co-founder of the public movement

Akhra Bzhania, Abkhazian public figure and co-founder of the public movement "Akhyatsa".

SUKHUM / AQW'A ―   In a recent post on his Facebook page, Akhra Bzhania, a public figure and co-founder of the public movement "Akhyatsa," expressed his concerns about the controversial "foreign agents law" being proposed in both Georgia and Abkhazia. This legislation, which targets independent civil society groups, media, and NGOs, has sparked significant protests in Georgia and drawn criticism for its potential to infringe on fundamental democratic freedoms.

Bzhania's commentary highlights the broader geopolitical and societal implications of such laws. It is important to note that Abkhazia has not adopted the draft law on 'foreign agents'; there is significant opposition to it, and it is still pending discussion.

"No free society would tolerate the enactment of the 'Foreign Agents Law' in the form currently being advanced in Georgia and Abkhazia. Firstly, it would enable the government to arbitrarily interpret the activities of organisations and public activists as undesirable, without the need for judicial decisions. Secondly, it restricts constitutional rights and freedoms, including the right to work, free will, and the freedom to organise public events. Thirdly, due to its overtly authoritarian and isolationist orientation, it significantly narrows the spectrum of international relations for any state adopting this law. In other words, if your plans involve developing your country based on the active and creative potential of its citizens, curbing the government's powers, and remaining open and friendly to the wider world, this law would hinder those plans.

However, in our specific case, there is an additional nuance. Interpreted by the Georgian opposition as intended to stifle resistance to Russian-Georgian geopolitical convergence, the adoption of the 'Foreign Agents Law' by the Parliament in Tbilisi could significantly shape new realities in the South Caucasus. These new realities might see the economic and regional partnership between Russia and Georgia overshadowing the notion of European integration for our neighbours. And then, who knows what compromises might be reached and who might be the subject of these compromises. Abkhazia? It cannot be ruled out. At least, the Georgian side will certainly insist on this, and some Russian experts do not conceal the likelihood and justification for such a scenario. Paradoxically, things were relatively stable under the "anti-Russian" leadership of Saakashvili, but now, under the "pro-Russian" government of Ivanishvili, especially if the aforementioned law is passed, the situation is likely to become much more complicated!

But the strangeness of the situation does not end there. If there is a chance, albeit a distant one, for an Abkhazian-Georgian settlement, such a process will only be possible with the mutual recognition of certain basic values. Your freedom of choice can only be respected by someone who values their own freedom of choice! In this context, the Georgian Dream with its aspirations to limit the rights and freedoms of its citizens may not be the most promising negotiator when it comes to the free choice of the people of Abkhazia. The Abkhazians have repeatedly demonstrated their valuation of freedom by resisting the suicidal initiatives of the current government. Two years of protests in Sukhum have effectively paralysed the enactment of odious laws on 'apartments', 'foreign agents', defamation, and more.

Now, the ball is over the Ingur River... Can Georgian society defend its civil liberties and will this serve as a fragile yet vital foundation for a future Abkhazian-Georgian settlement? We shall see."

Akhra Bzhania




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