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Amnesty International: Georgian Law Enforcers Still Unpunished for Their Offences

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, February 23
(LONDON)--The Amnesty International, a London-based NGO for human rights with more than seven million members and supporters worldwide, has released its annual report, saying impunity for human rights abuses committed by Georgian law enforcement officers persisted, while the government continued to promise, but failed to deliver an independent investigation mechanism.

“In June, instead of an independent investigation mechanism, the government proposed a new department within the Prosecutor’s Office with a mandate to investigate alleged abuses by law enforcement officers,” the report reads.

Reporting about the issue the NGO wrote in June, 2017, two members of the rap group Birja Mafia were arrested for alleged drug possession, and demonstrations erupted in their support.

The report quotes the arrested musicians saying police had planted drugs on them in revenge for a YouTube video satirizing a police officer, and cited earlier threats from police demanding that they remove the video.

The protests resulted in their release on bail pending trial. An investigation was launched into the musicians’ allegations of police abuse and was ongoing till the end of the year, the Amnesty International stated.

The report also dedicated a section to the high-profile Demur Sturia case, writing that in June 2017, the first instance court in Georgia’s western Kutaisi city acquitted the police officer charged with “exceeding official capacity”.

The alleged victim, Demur Sturua, a 22-year-old resident of Dapnari, western Georgia, committed suicide on 8 August 2016.

The prosecution’s evidence included Sturua’s note blaming the police officer for his suicide, a postmortem examination confirming signs of ill-treatment, video footage showing the officer picking up Demur Sturua with his car on the day of the suicide, and phone call logs.

“NGOs criticized the court’s decision, calling it unsubstantiated in light of the evidence. The prosecution appealed against the Court’s decision,” the report reads.

The Amnesty International mentioned the case of Azerbaijani investigative journalist Afghan Mukhtarli in its report. Mukhtarli vanished from Tbilisi on May 29, 2017 and emerged in Baku in custody, “falsely accused of illegal border crossing and money smuggling.”

“He told his lawyer that he had been abducted by Georgian-speaking men, some wearing Georgian criminal police uniforms, and trafficked across the border,” the report stated.

The NGO wrote that the Georgian authorities denied the involvement of Georgian forces, and started an investigation into Mukhtarli’s allegations.

“The investigation was not known to have produced substantial results; he remained in detention in Azerbaijan until the end of the year,” the report added.

The report touched upon the ownership issue of the opposition-minded Rustavi 2 private broadcaster, as local NGOs raised their concern over the alleged governmental interference in the issue.

“In March [2017] the European Court of Human Rights requested that enforcement of the Supreme Court’s decision [to hand over the Rustavi 2 to its former owners] be suspended until it had considered the case,” the report reads.

The Amnesty International emphasized that the Russian forces and de facto authorities in the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Tskhinvali) continued to restrict movement across the de facto border, briefly detaining and fining dozens of people for “illegal” border crossing.

“The increased fencing along the administrative boundary lines continued to adversely affect the rights of local residents, including the rights to work, food and an adequate standard of living, owing to the loss of access to their orchards, pasture and farm land,” the NGO stated.

The report also wrote about the violation of the LGBT and workers’ rights in Georgia and highlighted the case of Mustafa Emre Cabuk, whose extradition is being demanded by Turkey for terrorism charges.

“Cabuk was at real risk of torture and other ill-treatment if returned to Turkey,” the report reads.

“We appeal to the government of Georgia not to extradite Cabuk to Turkey,” the Amnesty International’s representative to the South Caucasus Levan Asatiani stated after the release of the repot.

Eke Beselia from the Georgian Dream ruling party stated that the country has already launched works to create an independent investigative mechanism to look into alleged offences by law enforcers.

The lawmaker stated that Georgia still maintained the position of the regional leader for human rights.

The opposition stated they had been speaking on the issues the report wrote about and criticized the government for all the issues the report read.

They appealed to the government to address the issues the Amnesty International pushed forward.