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Georgian Dies after Detained by Occupant Forces

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, February 26
(TBILISI)--The Government of Georgia and the EU representation in the South Caucasus have strongly condemned the death of the Georgian citizen Archil Tatunashvili, who, with his two friends, was detained by occupant forces on February 22 in the Akhalgori region and died the next day in obscure circumstances.

Prime Minister Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili and all relevant bodies shifted the whole responsibility for Tatunashvili’s death onto Russia, which fully controls Tskhinvali breakaway area of Georgia since the Russia-Georgia 2008 war.

The government also demanded the handing over the body to carry out expertise.

The local media of Tskhinvali reported that Tatunashvili was detained in Akhalgori, in the territory controlled by Russians, for his participation in the 2008 Russia-Georgia war. The media claimed that after being interrogated, Tatunashvili resisted guards and tried to escape, failed to keep balance on the staircase and fell down.

The RESS media confirmed that guards used force against Tatunashvili and wrote that he died in a hospital later.

The so-called security service of Tskhinvali stated that they had carried out expertise on the body which revealed Tatunashvili, 35, died from heart failure.

“Everyone involved in the fatal incident must be held accountable,” Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili stated.

The European Union (EU) Special Representative for the South Caucasus Toivo Klaar tweeted that he was concerned by Tatunashvili’s death and believed that the upcoming Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meeting, scheduled on March 1, is the right format to clear up important facts. IPRM is a format elaborated to discuss conflict issues in Georgia.

Local Governor of Akhalgori Nugzar Tinikashvili told the media that Archil Tatunashvili, Levan Kutashvili and Ioseb Pavliashvili had been travelling without any negative incidents along the occupation line in the past couple of years to sell fruits and vegetables.

Pavliashvili and Kutashvili have already been released from the Tskhinvali detention facility. However, occupants took away their identification and transport documents and now they are forced to stay within the occupied area, with no access to other parts of Georgia.

The governor also told the local media that Tatunashvili did not participate in the Russia-Georgia war as that time he was participating in protection of international peace in Iraq.

Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria wrote that Tatunashvili was already dead when he was transported to the hospital.

Lomjaria called on all international, human rights organizations, to show close attention to the issue and raise the responsibility of Russia for the tragedy.

The Ombudsman announced that only in January-November 2017, 121 Georgian citizens were illegally detained by occupant forces in or near Tskhinvali.

“The biggest portion of the detainees was youngsters. The young people were detained either for alleged alcohol or drug use and were physically assaulted during checking,” Lomjaria said.

Sergi Kapanadze from the European Georgia parliamentary opposition has initiated the creation of the “Otkhozoria list, “same in its content as the “Magnitsky list,” where all those involved in crimes against the Georgian citizens in the occupied territories would be enlisted.

“Those in the list won’t be able to use health and other social benefits the government of Georgia offers its people in the occupied territories. The people will face sanctions in Georgia and on the territory of Europe,” Kapanadze said and appealed to the government to support the initiative.

Giga Otkhozoria was brutally killed by the Russian-controlled border guard in 2016 with six gunshots. The offender still walks free despite the fact that he is infamous among public for a video footage confirming his guilt.

Prior to Otkhozoria, a Georgian citizen David Basharuli went missing in the occupied Tskhinvali and the case is also beyond any investigation.

The government of Georgia has long demanded the international mission on the Georgian occupied territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, which is strongly refused by Russia and the de facto leaderships.

Moscow recognized Abkhazia and Tskhinvali as independent republics after the 2008 war. Russia was followed only by Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru.