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Georgian teenagers still detained in Tskhinvali

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, November 10
The de facto South Ossetian authorities have brought a criminal case against four Georgian teenagers detained at the administrative border on November 4, Ossetian information agency RES reported on Monday. The de facto authorities have charged the detainees with illegal possession of explosives and illegal “border” crossing. “An investigation has revealed that one of the detainees is suspected of thieving in the village of Kheiti, in the Tskhinvali region,” the agency reported.

On November 8 the de facto authorities said that the court hearing would be held on Monday. However later they denied this, saying that the court session will not be held so promptly.

Georgian officials have demanded “the urgent and unconditional release” of these underage detainees. The Foreign Ministry has called the detentions “immoral” and “shameful”. “I think the kids will soon be released,” Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze said. “Kidnapping 14-year old children, forcing them to ‘admit’ their ‘guilt’ and finding TNT and grenades on them is beyond moral limits,” Vashadze noted on Monday.

Tbilisi has also called on the international community to get more involved in this case. “We urge all international organisations and everyone who can contribute to the release of these youngsters to get more involved in this issue,” Nino Kalandadze, the Deputy Foreign Minister, said at the traditional Monday press briefing. “We have no information as to what conditions the teenagers are being held in and how the court hearing will be held,” she told journalists.

Meanwhile a group from the Parliamentary opposition Christian Democrats has visited the village of Tirdznisi, where the detainees live. The group members met the families and teachers of the teenagers. Leader of the Christian Democrats Giorgi Targamadze said releasing the teenagers is very urgent. “The family members of those children told us that one of them had tuberculosis and two others pneumonia. Every minute in jail negatively affects their health and psychological condition.” He said that the relatives are hoping for help from international organisations. Parliament Speaker David Bakradze hailed the Christian Democrats’ efforts and offered them the opportunity to give the Georgian President their report about the situation in Tirdznisi personally. “Despite the political differences between us, it is impossible to have different assessments of kidnapping children,” Bakradze said.

Representatives of the media and the Red Cross International Committee also visited the detainees on November 9, de facto South Ossetian news agencies have reported. The detainees are in normal conditions and no physical or psychological pressure is being imposed on them, RES wrote. The detainees deny the charges against them, saying that they had no explosives in their bag, only food, RES reported.

The EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia has called on the de facto authorities to “find common ground with the relevant Georgian structures in order to bring the present situation to a satisfactory resolution in a prompt manner.” The EUMM told the de facto South Ossetian administration that “the appropriate treatment of underaged detainees must be ensured at all times.”

“Children taken into custody during pre-trial detention must not be placed in penitentiary facilities used by ordinary criminals; the Social Services department or its equivalent is the only body in charge of holding underaged people in detention; underaged detainees have the right of immediate access to legal counsel and the right to receive a visit from parents or a next of kin, and the de facto authorities are obliged to inform the parents or legal guardians of underaged detainees of the charges levelled against them,” a statement posted on the EUMM website reads.