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Case of Archil Tatunashvili


Lado Bitchashvili, Shida Kartli

On March 24, a month after his disappearance in the occupied Tskhinvali region, Archil Tatunashvili was laid to rest in Tbilisi with full military honor. For the past one month Georgian side was requesting estimation of his death causes and timely delivery to the Georgian-controlled territory. 

Tskhinvali de-facto authority kept not saying exact date of his transfer claiming that they were waiting for the medical expertise conclusion. Tbilisi was doubting that the transfer of the body was purposefully dragged out in order to hinder identification of injuries on his body, which allegedly caused Tatunashvili’s death. The body was delivered to the territory of Ergneti village on March 20.

Representatives of the Government of Georgia – State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, deputy director of the Information-Analytic Department of the State Security Service Kakhaber Kemoklidze, the Minister for IDPs, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia Sozar Subari and the Public Defender of Georgia Nino Lomjaria, were waiting for the delivery of the body for several hours on March 20.

“This tragic fact will be investigated properly. Naturally, the purpose of the expertise is estimation of the truth,” the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Ketevan Tsikhelashvili said in Ergneti on March 20.

After Archil Tatunashvili’s body was delivered to the Georgia-controlled territory, the representatives of the Government made first comments and stated that Georgian investigative bodies shall conduct real investigation and the expertise shall determine whether Tatunashvili was tortured and inhumanly treated or not, which may cause his death.

“Georgian investigative bodies have commenced real investigation, however it was not comprehensive process because it was impossible to carry out expertize on the body and now we will be able to do that. As for the investigation conducted in the occupied territory and the conclusion of their expertise, our state institutions received their case materials and will study them. As for the question about the causes of Archil Tatunashvili’s death, the Georgian investigation will answer that question,” Minister Sozar Subari said.

“Our purpose is to conduct comprehensive investigation, determine the group of perpetrators and punish them,” representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Aleksandre Khojevanishvili said in Ergneti.

The representatives of the Red Cross delivered Tatunashvili’s body to the occupation line. So-called prosecutor’s office of the occupied Tskhinvali handed the conclusion of the forensic expertise issued by the Russian Expertise Bureau to the Red Cross representatives. The expertise conclusion reads that Archil Tatunashvili died of acute heart failure that was caused by ischemia. Besides that, the conclusion reads that Tatunashvili had cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis,” the statement of the Tskhinvali so-called investigative bodies reads.

The conclusion of the Russian Forensic Expertise Bureau also states that the dead person had injuries and bruises on the upper and lower limbs, which are qualified as minor injury of the health. 

Head of the Empathy, Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims, Mariam Jishkariani said the conclusion of the Russian expertise bureau is incomplete. She said the conclusion does not mention different circumstances in which Archil Tatunashvili received injuries and what caused his death. 

The mother of the dead person said her son wa tortured to death and verifies her allegation by the injuries on his body. 

“His fingers were broken, there was a nail hole in his wrists; we saw metals in his fingers. He was shot in the head, which went through the ear,” the mother Rusudan Tatunashvili told Imedi’s Kvira. 

On March 20, Tatunashvili’s body was taken directly to the Levan Samkharauli Forensic Bureau in Tbilisi, where the expertise lasted more than seven hours. The independent expert of the family also attended the expertise. Medical expert of the Empathy Irakli Toidze also attended the expertise, and he, based on the discovered injuries and bruises on the body, doubts that Tatunashvili was tortured. 

“He had multiple injuries almost all over the body. Suspiciously he had the bones of the right wrist broken,” Irakli Toidze said.

Concrete causes of Archil Tatunashvili’s death and whether he was tortured in the occupied territory will become clear after the Samkharauli forensic bureau publishes the conclusion in about one month time.

Tskhinvali de-facto state security ministry reported about the arrest of Archil Tatunashvili on February 22 under the charge of genocide.

On February 23, Tskhinvali based TV-company IR reported about Archil Tatunashvili’s death and mentioned the information disseminated by the de-facto security committee as the official version of his death. 

“When transporting him to the pretrial detention setting the detainee tried to grab a gun from the security guard. His action was reacted immediately and police used power and special tools against him. Archil Tatunashvili lost balance and slipped on the stairs. He received serious injuries and was taken to hospital, where he passed away,” the statement of the Tskhinvali de-facto authority reads. 

Chairperson of the Information and Press State Committee of the Tskhinvali de-facto authority Maria Kotoeva imposed a new charge on Tatunashvili and blamed him in the plotting of diverse acts. Kotoeva said he was planning diverse acts in connection with the presidential elections in Russian Federation, which aimed to destabilize public and political order [in South Ossetia]. 

Representatives of the Government of Georgia do not agree with the statements and the positions of the Tskhinvali de-facto authority. They said the expertise conclusion will answer all questions. 

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