Statement of Public Defender on Archil Tatunashvili’s Death

On February 23, 2018,the de facto authorities of the Tskhinvali region released information about the death of Georgian citizen Archil Tatunashvili in the Tskhinvali prison. According to the information provided to the Public Defender, Archil Tatunashvili was already dead when he was brought to the Tskhinvali hospital, where the medical personnel said he seemed to have been beaten according to his injuries.

The Public Defender urges the occupation force to immediately transfer Tatunashvili’s body to the Georgian authoritiesfor conducting forensic examination to establish the cause and time of death, as well as to cooperate with Georgia for the effective investigation of the case.

The Public Defender also urges the de facto authorities to immediately release two other residents of Kanchaveti village of the Akhalgori municipality, who were detained along with Archil Tatunashvili.

It is important to emphasize that the Russian Federation is responsible for the alleged violation of the right to life, as it isthe country exercising effective control in so-called South Ossetia.

The Public Defender notes that detention of young people, including minors, has become a common practice in Akhalgori in the last few months. The detainees are taken to alcohol and drug inspections, where they are physically abused.

Tatunashvili'scase indicates that people living along the occupation line are completely vulnerable and daily arrested by the Russian border guards. According to the data of January-November 2017, 121 people were detained at the dividing line of so-called South Ossetia and violence occurred during the arrest of several of them.

The Public Defender calls on all international human rights and observation organizations not to spare efforts to ensure effective investigation into the death of Archil Tutunashvili and punishment of offenders, as well as to raise the issue of responsibility of the Russian Federation. This is especially important under the conditions when no international organization is allowed to enter so-called South Ossetia and study human rights situation there. In addition, the case of Akhalgori resident Davit Basharuli, who went missing in 2014 is still uninvestigated and the murderer of Giga Otxozoria, who was killed in the breakaway region of Abkhazia in 2016, has not been punished yet.

The Public Defender expresses deep sorrow and offers sympathy to Archil Tatunashvili’sfamily members.

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